Player of the Week
Justin Cobbs, pg California Bears
No team in the Pac 12 is hotter right now than Mike Montgomery's California Bears who have won 5 in a row and 7 of their last 8 with solid resume builders over conference leaders Arizona, UCLA and Oregon twice in that span. The Bears have crawled back into the tournament at large discussion and have 3 straight home games to finish the year coming up. I've already pointed out dynamic starting SG Allen Crabbe in the last blog as Player of the Week and now it's his backcourt mate Justin Cobbs turn to get some due recognition. Cobbs got off to a sizzling start on the year but then came back to earth for the majority of the conference slate where his scoring and shooting numbers dropped. But during this recent 5 game winning streak, Justin has posted 17.4ppg, 6.2apg and 3.6rpg reestablishing the fact that opponents have not one, but two top notch talents to account for when they play the Bears. Cobbs also hit the game winning shot in a recent two point victory over Oregon.
Jordan Adams, sg UCLA Bruins
Adams has scored 20 in each of his last 2 games, both victories, over Stanford and USC on 14 of 20 field goal attempts helping to keep the Bruins in the conference championship race. Not only has Adams shot well recently, but he has started to really turn the corner defensively where he is showcasing some solid one on one shutdown ability, the first of the Bruin freshman to show those signs thus far. His improved play will be especially crucial as Travis Wear continues to nurse an ankle injury and Shabazz Muhammad's play remains up and down. Adams is natural scorer with an excellent mid range game.
EJ Singler, Oregon Ducks
Over the past week, Singler has shot 5 for 22 from the field in two games against the Bay Area schools including just 2 of 9 from three point range. And for being a guy who is widely considered a versatile and well rounded player, he has managed as many turnovers (3) as assists, steals and blocks combined this past week. The Ducks don't have to rely on any one given player from an offensive standpoint, but they do need the senior forward to be a leader down the stretch in what is now do or die time with the conference tourney right around the corner.
Upcoming Game of the Week
Arizona at UCLA, March 2nd
The College Game Day crew will be on hand to watch this showdown between two of the Pac 12's power programs fighting in a game that will have implications on the PAC 12 crown. Arizona lost to UCLA at home back on January 24th in a game where the Bruins jumped out to a huge double digit lead to start the game leading 18-4 at one point and then held on as the Wildcats made their customary late push pulling to within 4 at one point in the second half. UCLA was led by Muhammad's 23 points and did a sound job pushing the ball up court all night vs the press. Arizona will seek revenge and with both teams tied in the loss column, the winner could have a shot at the regular season conference crown assuming neither team falls up short in games leading into the weekend vs Arizona State and USC respectively.
Top 5 Sixth Men
1-Carlos Emory, Oregon Ducks
Emory is a very talented offensive minded wing who comes off the bench to score 11 per game on a deep Ducks squad where no one averages more then 12 a night. Emory can shoot it from deep but is at his best attacking the paint and playing in transition where the Ducks like to full court press opponents and create havoc on the defensive end. Emory is a big part of that and a guy who could potentially lead the team in scoring any time out.
2-Kevin Parrom, Arizona Wildcats
Parrom is a fearless 6-6 wing player who is a terrific athlete and defender who, for good or bad, goes all out every time he is on the court. In fact it's not unusual he finishes games for Wildcats thanks in large part to his outside shooting where he is around 40% from deep on the season and can make teams pay who forget about him like he did in Arizona's recent win over Washington State where he hit 5 threes on his way to scoring 19 points.
3-Xavier Johnson, Colorado Buffaloes
Johnson is a 6-6 freshman forward who can get physical inside and finish plays above the rim or stretch the defense with his outside shooting. Johnson is not asked to create much on offense but he does an admirable job finishing plays set up by his teammates as he scores 8 per game on 51% shooting. He has a very bright future for the Buffaloes.
4-Andrew Andrews, Washington Huskies
Another freshman on this list, Andrews is a point guard who will most likely take over for the soon to be graduating Abdul Gaddy. But in the meantime, he is often found on the court at the same time as the more experienced Gaddy where Andrews plays the point allowing Abdul to run free off screens. Andrews has not shot well on the year, but he is a true pass first pg who is getting valuable experience this year to the tune of 25 minutes a night.
5-David Wear, UCLA Bruins
David has taken some steps backwards in this his junior season where he has seen his scoring drop from 10 points a night a year ago to just 7 this season. He has not shot well and does not make up for off shooting nights with defense or rebounding so it's crucial for the Bruins that he find an offensive rhythm to remain productive. There have been some solid flashes from time to time, but consistency needs to improve coming down the homestretch.
-Looking at the league race, Arizona, UCLA, Oregon and California all have a shot at taking it home. The Ducks, Arizona and UCLA are all tied in the loss column with 4 apiece and the Bears are right behind with 5 losses. But the Bears have the distinct advantage of playing the final three games at home while the other teams all have to go on the road. The Ducks do hold tie breakers with Arizona and UCLA, but will be tested mightily on the road against Colorado. There should be some great intense games over these next couple weeks leading into the conference tournament.
-Once again, as was the case last season when Cal's Jorge Gutierrez won the conference player of the year award, there does not appear to be a Pac 12 player who is getting serious national recognition for All-American status. It's still up in the air as to who is the front runner for the conference player of the year award with Cal's duo of Crabbe and Cobbs going against Arizona State's duo of Carson and Felix with a handful of other nominees including Colorado's Spencer Dinwiddie, UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad and Arizona's Mark Lyons all capable of getting hot down the stretch and rising up in the discussion.
-Herb Sendek's Arizona State Sun Devils are desperately riding on the bubble at the moment. They are a decent 20-8 overall and have solid conference victories over UCLA, Cal and swept Colorado in 2 games. But they played nobody of any merit in the non conference slate outside of a lopsided double digit loss to Creighton. The numbers will not be kind, so a few more victories would be nice if they even want a chance to be considered come selection Sunday.
-UCLA's struggles against quality big men has been a sore spot all season long. In a recent loss to Cal, both Richard Solomon and David Kravish went off for 17 and 18 points respectively. They also got torched by ASU's Jordan Bachynski earlier in the year when he scored 23 to go with 15 boards. The inside play has been soft all year and it puts a lot of pressure on the offense of the wing players.
-At just 3-12 in conference play in what should have been a successful year for the Oregon State Beavers where even head coach Craig Robinson said it was the most talented team he's ever had, it might be a tumultuous off season for the head coach. While losing star big man Angus Brandt in the first month of the season certainly did not help things, it will be hard to justify this type of season for a coach some already felt was on the hot seat coming into the year.