Player of the Week
TJ Leaf, Forward (UCLA)
UCLA fell out of the limelight to a degree after a slight midseason slide, but it appears that the Bruins are beginning to get back on track. UCLA earned a pair of big wins this week against Washington and Washington State, and Leaf was tremendous. Against Washington State, Leaf scored a career-high 32 points on a highly efficient 14-18 shooting. He followed that performance up on Saturday with a 20-point game on 9-13 from the field. Leaf also added 14 and 10 rebounds, respectively to add to an efficient couple of scoring games. Leaf is continuing to have a tremendous freshman season for UCLA, leading his team in scoring and 4th in the conference. He’s also a guy that Steve Alford and company needs to prioritize getting the ball more often. Not only is he a versatile scorer, but is also an excellent passer from both the high post area and the low block. Leaf is simply a great playmaker who is a key cog in UCLA’s elite offense. It’s also worth noting that in all three of their losses, Leaf went long stretches without being a factor in the offense. When he is involved, however, there isn’t a better offensive team in the country than UCLA. With how well he has played, it would be a real suirprise if he doesn't leave after the season.
Dillon Brooks, Forward (Oregon)
It was a big week for Dillon Brooks and the Oregon Ducks. After last week, all the talk was about how red-hot Arizona suddenly is and that now they seem to be the favorite in a tightly contested Pac-12 race. Brooks and company sure had something to say about that. Last Saturday Oregon was upset on the road by Colorado and then just barely escaped with a one point win over Arizona State at home the following Thursday. Brooks scored 27 points on 9-14 shooting, and the Ducks needed every one of them. The exclamation point came on Saturday. In what was supposed to be a great matchup between No. 5 Arizona and No. 13 Oregon, the Ducks came out and dominated from start to finish. Brooks would tally 18 more points on another efficient day, shooting 7-10 from the field and 4-7 from three-point territory. Brooks’ numbers are a bit down this year after soaring on to the college basketball scene a year ago, but much of that has to do with him easing back into the lineup earlier in the season as he completely recovers from a leg injury. However, he continues to prove why he was selected as a preseason All-American with big time performances in critical games. The remarkable thing is, Brooks only played 22 minutes against Arizona and still looked like the best player on the court. His numbers may not be as gaudy this year, but his efficiency has been superb, and Oregon has undoubtedly been a better team with him in the lineup. After their rout of Arizona, Oregon made a strong case that they are the best team in the conference, and now they have a great chance to win their 2nd consecutive Pac-12 title. The Ducks currently sit at the top of the conference with a 10-1 record.
Tyler Dorsey, Guard (Oregon)
Dorsey has been criticized all season long for his inconsistency, but he responded in a big way over the weekend. Against Arizona, arguably the best defensive team in the Pac-12, Dorsey turned in maybe his best all-around game of the season on the way to an absolute demolition of the Wildcats. Dorsey netted 23 points on the afternoon and buried all six of his three-point attempts. He also shot 7-9 from the field and 3-3 from the free throw line. To add on to his already stellar day, he tallied four assists without committing a turnover. Dorsey has been the conspicuous x-factor for Oregon this season. In all three of Oregon’s losses this season, Dorsey has struggled from the field, shooting a combined 9-33. Even in close wins against inferior teams, Dorsey has not played that well, which is evident in the one-point win over Arizona State. On the other hand, games like the one he had Arizona propel Oregon to a entirely new tier. It’s pretty safe to say that he is a vital key to their success. When Dorsey is on for the Ducks, there may not be a team in the conference that can beat them.
Lauri Markkanen, Forward (Arizona)
It appears that the seven-foot European wonder is human after all. After such an incredibly torrid few weeks, one had to figure that he was going to cool off eventually. After all, Markkanen went his first nine conference games scoring in double-figures, averaging nearly 18 points per contest, which is rare for a freshman. However, in his last two games Markkanen failed to eclipse double figures and only shot a combined 2-11 from the field. The four points against Oregon, in arguably his most important game of the year, is a bit of a cause for concern. That being said, there’s still absolutely no reason to panic. Markkanen all year has been one of the most productive and consistent players in college basketball, regardless of class. Remarkably, these two games marked only the second and third times that Markkanen has not scored more than ten points in a single game. Sean Miller is a great coach, and Arizona will most definitely rebound from the Oregon blowout, but Markkanen will need to get back on track for Arizona to close out the regular season on a high note.
Under the Radar Player
Chimezie Metu, Forward (USC)
USC has won four games in a row now, including a big upset win over UCLA, and they are flying way under the radar. They also just got one of their key contributors back in Bennie Boatwright. Metu, however has been playing really well as of late and is not getting much recognition. He has scored in double figures in each of his last three games and had a monster game on Saturday against Washington State. On 12-14 shooting, Metu scored 29 points and throttled the Trojans to another win. Metu has improved considerably since last year, particularly in the rebounding and free throw shooting categories. He has increased his rebounding average up to 7.5 per game and is shooting a solid 73% from the charity stripe. USC is a potential sleeper in the Pac-12, and if Metu can continue to be consistent, they’ll be dangerous.
Top 5 Offensive Teams
1. UCLA Bruins
This one is a no brainer. The Bruins are near at the top of the nation in almost every category on offense. They’re the second highest scoring team in college basketball, are second in three-point percentage, and lead the nation in both assists per game and field goal percentage.
Oregon has a lot of guys who can fill up the stat sheet in a hurry. They are led by one of the best scorers in America in Dillon Brooks. The Ducks are averaging just under 80 points per game, are third in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage, and they are second in the Pac-12 in assists at 17.3 per game.
Despite the miserable performance against Oregon over the weekend, the Wildcats are still dangerous offensively, especially now that Alonzo Trier is back. The one weakness they have is that they are not an elite passing team, but they have enough talent and skill at every position to carry them a long way.
It may not seem like it, but the Utes are one of the most efficient offensive teams in the conference. They are the Pac-12’s third highest scoring team, while they are 2nd in field goal percentage and 4th in assists. The biggest weakness for this team is their three-point shooting, but it is definitely not something that will hold them back too far.
The Trojans have a lot of athleticism all over the court and are dangerous in transition. Getting Bennie Boatwright back gives them a guy who can stretch the floor and make them more versatile. They also are third in the conference in assists and do not turn the ball over frequently.