Player of the Week
Faisal Aden, Washington State Cougars
No team had a better week than the Cougars as they held court against the Conference’s top 2 teams in Cal and Stanford. Senior SG Faisal Aden led the way offensively scoring 24 vs Cal on 9 of 12 shooting and then followed that up with 33 against Stanford on 10 of 17 shooting. The talented guard has shown flashes of offensive brilliance in the past but is prone to inconsistency with hot streaks intertwined with cold shooting streaks making him an unreliable player. It is for this reason that Aden comes off the bench in a spark plug type role while rarely seeing 30 minutes of action. But when he’s on, like he was this past week, the Cougars are a tough team to beat.
Travis Wear, UCLA Bruins
Travis continues to improve and plays a very well rounded game showcasing both a decent outside shot and soft touch in the paint. He needs to improve his toughness and get stronger, but there is a very solid skill set in place for the sophomore big man to continue to develop. Over his past 5 games, Travis has averaged 17.6 points on over 69% shooting from the field. He and his brother David provide solid building blocks going forward for a disappointing Bruins squad.
Stanford was arguably the Pac 12’s best squad in the Non Conference slate and looked like a team that would have a very good shot at winning the Pac 12 and being one of the few teams in the Conference to put together a solid enough resume to earn an at large bid if they came up short of the tournament title. However, even at a respectable 5-3 in conference record, they just haven’t looked particularly impressive. All 3 of their losses have been by double digits and they have narrowly escaped some tough games vs UCLA, Oregon State and Utah that could have gone either way. The Cardinal need to continue to work the ball inside out and start knocking down open jumpers.
Top 5 Freshmen
1. Tony Wroten, Washington
17 points per and he’s showing the type of skill that has people thinking he’s a one and done first rounder. Excellent ball handler and passer with great one on one abilities. His shooting however is way behind even for the college level and questions about having a true position are there. He is a ball dominant guard who looks more for his own offense then running a team at this point.
2. Chasson Randle, Stanford
Randle, like Wroten, is a combo guard who at this point shows a propensity for scoring over running a team. Unlike Wroten though, Randle must establish pg abilities and improved leadership qualities before considering a pro career due to his lack of size. Randle is an excellent athlete and can get hot from deep and takes a lot of threes. He has earned the trust of his coach and regularly sees 30+ minutes on a team that uses a deep lineup.
3. Nick Johnson, Arizona
Johnson is an excellent athlete and he has a feathery smooth jump shot that he gets a lot of lift on which helps his range and ability to hit off the dribble. The skills are there but he has to add some muscle. At this point he is too weak physically and he struggles playing through contact and often has to settle for difficult floaters when he does drive since he cant overpower defenders.
4. Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado
Spencer is a 6-4 combo guard who has been gaining confidence as the season wears on. He is averaging double figures and has hit for double digit scoring in 12 of the last 14 games after a bit of a slow start to the season. He prefers attacking the paint over settling for jumpers and plays an unselfish role for the Buffaloes while remaining a dangerous threat that opponents can’t overlook.
5. Josiah Turner, Arizona
While Turner has come up drastically short of his preseason projections, this guy is slowly establishing himself as a solid college player and edges out Washington State’s Devonte Lacy for this 5th spot. Josiah defends and has an excellent handle and can get into the paint with a nice combination of both speed and strength. But his jumpshot is broken and running a team doesn’t come naturally to him as he seems to be thinking too much rather then playing instinctively.
Upcoming game of the week:
Sunday, California vs Stanford. These are probably the only 2 teams that would be invited to the tourney if it were to start today as at large bids. Stanford is coming off a disappointing week where they were swept by the Washington schools and Cal went 1-1. Should be a great battle in the bay area between two of the Conference’s top teams. But the loser of this match up will be falling into a tough spot where they have to start questioning just how good of a team they are.
-Look out for the Oregon Ducks. At 15-5 overall and 6-2 in the pac 12, they are tied for the conference lead and have some talented pieces led by Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph and junior forward EJ Singler.
-Arizona States sophomore SG Chance Creekmur is the definition of a specialist. So far this season, 69 of his total 79 field goal attempts have come from behind the 3 point line. Chance is an excellent shooter, maybe as good as any in the Pac 12 if he can get his feet set. Problem is he lacks the speed to create space for himself. Even average defenders can get up on him and force him to pick up his dribble. But occasionally he provides a big lift offensively when teams loose track of him as was the case in the Sun Devils upset win over Oregon State on Jan 14th where Creekmur went for 24 points including 6 of 7 from three.
-UCLA’s big man [Player: Josh Smith］ has been sliding deeper out of the rotation with the improved play from the Wear twins. Coach Ben Howland has shown little patience for the out of shape big man as he has only averaged 15 minutes a game over the last 3 contests with him failing to get more then 10 points or 5 rebounds in any of those games.
-Utah senior PG Josh Watkins, who was leading the team with 16 points and 5 assists, was dismissed from the team for violation of team rules. He had been suspended previously for 1 game for various instances including showing up late to practice and sleeping through a class and was dismissed for continued similar infractions according to the Salt Lake Tribune.