All about the Pac-12: Stanford hits road
Stanford hits the road this weekend for the first time since Dec. 1, and how the Cardinal fare in the Pacific Northwest should be a good gauge as to how they’ll fare in the Pac-12 race.
Stanford is 12-2 overall and has opened 2-0 in Pac-12 play, and the Cardinal play at Oregon tonight and Oregon State on Saturday. Stanford is 2-0 on the road this season, but the victories have come against UC Davis and Seattle, two of the worst teams in Division I.
Stanford hasn’t had much fun on conference road trips the past few seasons; the Cardinal is only 6-21 in league road games since the start of the 2008-09 season. Two of those wins, though, have come against Oregon.
While Stanford was sweeping the league’s Los Angeles schools last weekend, edging UCLA 60-59 and stifling USC 51-43, Oregon split road games with Washington (a loss) and Washington State (a win). Oregon was expected to contend for the Pac-12 crown this season; not so for Stanford.
USC coach Kevin O’Neill was impressed with the Cardinal.
“I like their tenacity,” O’Neill said after his team’s loss to Stanford. “I like how they execute. To me, I think they’re a legitimate contender in the league. … To win the league championship, it depends upon how you play away from home. That’s always a test for everybody.”
Stanford gets its first tests this weekend.
Here’s the first of our weekly breakdowns on the Pac-12 this season. Next week, we’ll start our full-fledged league breakdown schedule, with the ACC on Mondays, the Big East on Tuesdays, the Big Ten on Wednesdays, the Big 12 on Thursdays, the Pac-12 on Fridays and the SEC on Saturdays.
3 to watch
Stanford at Oregon, Thursday, 9 p.m., Comcast Sports Net Bay Area/Comcast Sports Net Northwest: We talked about the importance of this game in the opening section. Oregon is 8-1 at home this season.
Arizona at UCLA, Thursday, 11 p.m., Fox Sports Net: UCLA was the preseason pick by the Pac-12 media to win the league, but the Bruins have started 0-2 in league play. Is there any reason to believe the Bruins can right themselves? If they’re going to get on track, it would behoove them to do it quickly.
California at Oregon, Sunday, 7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net: The second big game of the week for the Ducks. Cal, meanwhile, has a game at Oregon State on Thursday, then gets Colorado and lowly Utah next weekend.
Colorado G Spencer Dinwiddie: Dinwiddie, a freshman who was a three-star recruit from the L.A. area, has scored in double digits in eight consecutive games, averaging 15.6 points in that stretch. He was 35-of-63 (.556) from the field, 16-of-29 (.552) from 3-point range and 39-of-47 (.830) from the free throw line in the eight games.
USC’s defense: It’s no surprise that O’Neill is getting a great defensive effort from his squad. In its past two games, USC held Stanford to a season-low 51 points and California to 53 points, which ties a season low for the Golden Bears. The Trojans are allowing just 55.5 points per game and haven’t allowed more than 66 this season.
Oregon F E.J. Singler: Singler, a junior who is the younger brother of former Duke star Kyle Singler, is 40-of-44 from the line this season (91.7 percent). He has missed just one free throw in the past seven games (24-of-25) and is at 86.5 percent from the line for his career.
[Off-court trouble: Video of UCLA fan’s marriage proposal gone wrong]
Utah: The Utes are the worst major-conference team in the nation. Their offense is atrocious and their defense mediocre. They also shoot just 27.4 percent from 3-point range, which is 326th nationally.
USC’s offense: It’s good the Trojans can play defense because their offense reeks. They’re averaging just 56.4 points per game and have been held under 50 in three consecutive games. USC is shooting just 40.8 percent from the field.
Good win last week
Washington 76, Oregon 60. The Huskies had struggled in non-conference play, but this dominating victory restored some luster. Washington was 12-of-22 from 3-point range, led by Josh Wilcox’s 6-of-8 performance. The Huskies are 2-0 in conference play and get the league’s easiest road trip this weekend when they play at Colorado and at Utah.
Bad loss last week
Colorado 73, Utah 33. Thirty-three points? Seriously? The Utes are bad.
California over Oregon. Really, is any outcome an upset in this league unless it involves a Utah win? Oregon is at home and almost certainly will be favored, but Cal’s backcourt should have a big game.
Oregon State junior G Jared Cunningham leads the league in scoring at 17.0 points per game. The last time the Pac-12 had a leading scorer average fewer than 17.0 points per game was in 1948-49, when USC’s Bill Sharman averaged 16.9 points. Each of the other “Big Six” conference scoring leaders this season averages at least 18.6 points per game, and three of those leading scorers average at least 20.0 points.
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