Pac-12 rewind: UCLA sweeps, Utah stumbles, ASU keeps pace and Oregon’s wild ride rolls on

Arizona State guard Frankie Collins, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

Recapping the weekend action in Pac-12 basketball …

Theme of the week: UCLA’s dominance

The Bruins whacked Utah and Colorado to stay undefeated in conference play and remain in the hunt for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Four different players scored in double figures, and freshman Adem Bona continued to develop as an athletic, frontcourt force. So sound were the Bruins with their execution that they won by a combined 33 points despite shooting 29.7 percent from 3-point range.

Theme of the week II: Mountain slide

A visit to Los Angeles provided Utah and Colorado premium opportunities to bolster their NCAA resumes with quality road wins and plant themselves squarely in the conference race. Instead, they went 0-4 against USC and UCLA, with three losses by double digits. As a result of the winless weekend, the Utes have fallen into fourth place while the Buffaloes are closer to last than to first.

Theme of the season: NCAA Tournament outlook

The Pac-12 looks more like a three-bid league (at most) with each passing week. UCLA and Arizona are locks for at-large spots, but the second tier is rapidly thinning as Colorado, Utah, USC, Oregon and Washington State struggle for traction. At this point, the best bet to snag a third bid is Arizona State, which has climbed to No. 41 in the NET rankings — a placement indicative of bubble teams.

Team of the week: Arizona State

The Sun Devils rallied from a 16-point first-half deficit to edge Oregon State on Saturday and complete a weekend sweep. They have won four in a row and are one game back of UCLA with a showdown in Tempe upcoming. Picked seventh in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, ASU is 6-1 in conference play for the first time since 1980-81.

Escapes of the week: Washington schools

The Huskies and Cougars dodged what would have been embarrassing home losses on Saturday. UW trailed Cal by double digits in the second half but won in overtime and WSU repelled Stanford’s upset bid in the final seconds. Neither Bay Area team has won a road game all season.

Game of the week: Washington 81, Cal 78 (OT)

Drama was in short supply with eight of the 12 games decided by double digits, and this Saturday evening affair in Seattle carried no implications for the conference race. But it was taut nonetheless as the Huskies rallied from 10 points down with nine minutes remaining. UW forward Keion Brooks scored late in regulation to force overtime, then made two free throws with four seconds left in the extra period to secure the victory.

Player of the week: ASU’s Desmond Cambridge Jr.

The transfer from Nevada scored 21 points in each game in Oregon, leading the Sun Devils on both occasions. (No other player scored more than 15 points.) Cambridge’s efficiency was superb: He tallied 42 total points on just 30 field goal attempts. Add a handful of steals and blocks, and he was an easy call for Player of the Week.

Singular performance of the week: Oregon’s N’Faly Dante

The oft-injured big man is healthy and playing to the potential that made him a five-star prospect in high school. Saturday, he scored 22 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, made 9-of-11 field goals and outplayed Arizona’s elite frontcourt tandem of Oumar Ballo and Azuolas Tubelis, who combined for 24 points and 13 rebounds.

Stat of the week: Home rule

Pac-12 home teams won nine of 12 games over the weekend and, after a rough start to league play, are 17-5 the past two weeks.

Recovery of the week: Oregon

The Ducks are setting a standard for inconsistency that will be difficult for anyone in the conference to match. Their latest submission took the form of a 17-point home loss to Arizona State followed by a 19-point home victory over Arizona. The 48-hour roller coaster came one week after a wild Mountain trip in which the Ducks were blown out at Colorado but beat Utah handily.

Fortuitous timing of the month: Washington State

The Cougars were without leading scorer TJ Bamba (hand injury) but were fortunate that his absence came at home against the Bay Area schools. WSU managed a sweep to keep pace with the group of teams competing for an opening-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament.

Struggle of the century: Stanford

The Cardinal is 0-7 in league play after getting swept in Washington and hurtling toward its worst season since the early-90s. (All five non-conference wins are all of the Quadrant IV variety.) Hired in 2016, coach Jerod Haase has yet to make the NCAA Tournament or seriously contend for the Pac-12 title. His future looks more perilous by the game.

Game of the new week: UCLA at Arizona State (Thursday)

In a twist, UCLA’s visit to Tempe, not Tucson, is the more significant game of the desert swing. Arizona State is just one game back, while Arizona is a full three games behind. (Tipoff at Desert Financial Arena is 7:30 p.m. on FS1.) If they sweep, the Bruins will return home with a commanding lead in the conference race.