In the end, the Pac-12 Conference regular season champion is likely to be the team that produces the greatest level of consistency between now and early March.
So far in league play, that sort of consistency has been an elusive concept. Case in point this week: Stanford.
The Cardinal was on the brink of picking up a solid road win and taking an early two-game lead in the standings on Saturday, leading by 20 at USC and holding a 21-point lead early in the second half. Instead, the Trojans put together a furious rally for an overtime win. Stanford would have been unbeaten with every other Pac-12 team boasting at least two losses, but instead the Cardinal dropped to 4-1 and is battling at the top of the heap alongside USC (4-1), Oregon (4-2), Arizona (3-2), and Colorado (3-2).
“The teams in mid-January that don’t get better, people are going to quit talking about them,” CU coach Tad Boyle said. “To me, you’re either getting better or you’re getting worse. So if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse or you’re maybe plateau-ing. Teams like that fade into the sunset in March. Teams that continue to get better in mid-January and the month of February, those are the teams people are talking about in March. That’s the team we need to be.”
While the Washington schools visit Utah and CU this week, the Los Angeles schools visit the Oregon schools, with a particularly intriguing matchup on tap Thursday night as USC visits No. 12 Oregon (9 p.m. MT, ESPNU). Two one-game rivalry matchups on the docket this week includes Arizona State hosting No. 22 Arizona on Saturday (7:30 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks) and Stanford visiting Cal on Sunday (4 p.m. MT, ESPNU).
Washington State enjoyed one of the most impressive weekends within the league, and sophomore guard CJ Elleby was rewarded with the Pac-12 Conference’s Player of the Week award.
Elleby was one of the catalysts of the Cougars’ upset of then-No. 8 Oregon on Thursday, posting 25 points alongside a career-high 14 rebounds. Elleby added 22 points, nine rebounds and five assists in a win against Oregon State. Overall, Elleby shot 16-for-35 while going 6-for-13 on 3-pointers and 9-for-9 at the free throw line.
The victory against Oregon was WSU’s first against a top-10 team since 2007.
For the third time this season, Arizona forward Zeke Nnaji was named the Pac-12’s Freshman of the Week. Although the CU Buffs were just the third team to hold Nnaji to under 50 percent from the floor during the Wildcats’ 21-point win on Saturday, Nnaji nonetheless enjoyed two stellar outings, averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds in UA’s wins against Utah and CU.
Nnaji went 4-for-10 against the Buffs but went 9-for-12 in the win against the Utes.
Jonah Mathews posted the unique stat line of the week. The USC senior tallied exactly 19 points, five rebounds and three assists in each of the Trojans’ home wins against Cal and Stanford…Oregon’s 16-point rally in an overtime win against Washington was its second 16-point comeback of the season. The Ducks also did it Nov. 27 against Seton Hall…Utah began Pac-12 play with a home win against Oregon State and then took Oregon to the wire, but the Utes have lost their past three games by an average of 24.7 points…Oregon State senior Tres Tinkle became just the 16th Pac-12 player to compile 2,000 points in his career.