Player of the Week

Bennie Boatwright – F – USC

Bennie BoatwrightBennie BoatwrightThe junior forward had a pair of phenomenal games this week. First, against Middle Tennessee, he had 23 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 blocks. While he only was 4-11 from the field, that includes 3-7 from deep and 12-16 from the line. The following game, against New Mexico State, he scored 33 points on 10-16 shooting, 6-10 from deep. He was also 7-7 from the stripe and added 7 rebounds.

Measured at 6’10, Boatwright has the tools to be a fantastic stretch four at the next level. He is at 36% from three on the season, but has been better as of late. He is able to do a little of everything, and has a great skillset at the college level. I am excited to see how he will do in conference play.

Who’s Hot

DeQuon Lake – F – Arizona State

Although this is his first college season, Lake is technically a junior due to his JuCo experience. Against Pacific, he shot 5-8 to score 12 points. He also recorded 9 rebounds and 7 blocks. In the prior game against Longwood, he went 6-7 from the field to score 16 points to go with another 9 rebounds. He was also 8-12 from the line. Although these games were not against the greatest competition, it is good to see him get two consecutive good games under his belt.

Lake’s height was much needed for this Sun Devils roster. With their next game being against Arizona, they will rely on him for inside presence against the likes of Ayton. If he can get more disciplined (2.7 fouls in 19 mpg), he can be relied on in important stretches of the game.

UCLA Bruins (9-3)

Following losses against Michigan and Cincinnati, UCLA needed a big win. They got that with an 83-75 victory over #7 Kentucky. Kris Wilkes and Aaron Holiday each scored 20 for the Bruins.

While questions will be around this team all year in light of the strange events that have unfolded with the Ball family and full-season suspensions of Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, they are a talented group that should still have high expectations going into conference play.

Who’s Not

Cody Riley and Jalen Hill – UCLA

Official word came of their season-long suspension this week, so this year will unfortunately be lost. While the Bruins have still been playing well, these players would have them in contention for the Pac-12 Championship, whereas they now will likely be a upper-middle team. Both players are very talented, and assuming they are with the Bruins next season, they will be expected to play well being given a year to adjust to college life, albeit in a way that is significantly different than most student-athletes, ever.

Elijah Brown – G – Oregon

Now a senior, the 6’4 guard’s scoring has decreased both of the past two seasons. From 21.7 PPG sophomore year to 13.3 now, the drop off is surprisingly to say the least. Against Central Arkansas, he only scored 8 points on 3-7 shooting. He did not get to the free throw line.

While Brown’s percentages have stayed essentially the same over the past three years, it is disappointing that they did not improve if his production was going to drop off this much volume wise. Hopefully he can get back going for conference play.

Power Rankings

1) Arizona State (12-0, 0-0)

Undefeated going into conference play with two ranked wins, including one over a Kansas team that was ranked #2 at the time, the Sun Devils have been very impressive. Averaging 92 points per game, they have a victory margin of 20 points. Tra Holder has led the charge, averaging 21 points per game.

With their first game being against Arizona, the early favorite will be decided early. This will be a must-watch game for all Pac-12 fans.

2) Arizona (10-3, 0-0)

After a three-game losing streak that saw the Wildcats drop out of the rankings, Arizona has won seven straight games. With the return of Rawle Alkins, they are at full strength going into conference play. Alkins, DeAndre Ayton and Allonzo Trier will be heavily relied on all season.

The game against Arizona State will show how far this team has come since their early season struggles. It should be an extremely exciting matchup.

3) UCLA Bruins (9-3, 0-0)

The Bruins got their signature win, and for the second year in a row it is over Kentucky. Despite losing players due to a rough trip to China, UCLA has still showcased solid depth, with a bench unit led by Jaylen Hands.

It has been a very up and down season for the Bruins. Conference play will be a great test for this team. I believe they will rise to the occasion.

4) Oregon Ducks (10-3, 0-0)

Despite losing some key contributors from last year’s final four run, the Ducks appear to be picking up where they left off. They have been on a five-game winning streak going into conference play, and have shown that a number of players can score in large quantities for them.

The Ducks will continue to grow as the season progresses and leaders establish themselves more. This is often the case with teams that have many players depart for the NBA or graduate.

5) USC Trojans (9-4, 0-0)

The Trojans were considered one of the best teams in the country at the start of the season. However, they have gotten off to an average start. They have yet to beat a good team, with losses to Oklahoma, SMU and Texas A&M. If they cannot beat some of these better teams, they have will have no chance to do well in conference play. However, Coach Andy Enfield will likely find the right scheme for this group before long. Don’t count out the Trojans just yet.

6) Washington Huskies (10-3, 0-0)

The Huskies beat #2 Kansas on the road and then and got destroyed by #12 Gonzaga at home in the same week. What does that say about this team? Hard to say. Freshman guard Jaylen Nowell is off to a great start, scoring 17 points a game with impressive shooting splits.

The Huskies have had an up and down season, so conference play will be a good test for this group. They will need to find some form of consistency if they want to be legitimate contenders for the Pac-12 title.

7) Washington State Cougars (8-4, 0-0)

Washington State has struggled of late, with their four losses coming in their last five games. With that said, they had some quality wins earlier in the season, including a win over Saint Mary’s.

They open conference play against UCLA, in a game that should prove to be a great test for two teams searching for consistency.

8) Utah Utes (8-3, 0-0)

The Utes have a good record but lack impressive wins. They have lost to average teams in BYU, Butler and UNLV. If those games are any indication of what type of team this is, it is a lower-level team in the conference for sure. Opening against Oregon, they will be hoping to pull off an upset to generate themselves some momentum.

Five players average double digit scoring for the Utes. However, none of them are above 13.5. This is a balanced team that needs to find an edge if they hope to compete at the highest level within the Pac-12.

9) Colorado Buffaloes (8-4, 0-0)

Freshman guard McKinley Wright IV is off to a phenomenal start to his college career, averaging 17 5 and 5 shooting 50% from the field and 40% from deep. Outside of him and George King, they lack production.

Colorado is yet to have a signature win, with three losses in their last four games, including losing by 27 on the road at Xavier. Their opener against Oregon State will be a good test for both teams.

10) Oregon State Beavers (8-4, 0-0)

Led by Tres Tinkle, the Beavers are off to a solid start. Like many of the teams above them, they lack a true quality win. However, many of their losses have been close, such as their most recent game, a one-point defeat at the hands of Kent State. This is a talented team that could make a good run if they get hot. We will have to see how they perform as conference play begins.

11) Stanford Cardinal (6-7, 0-0)

Despite a disappointing start, this is a strong roster that will be a threat to upset some of the top teams throughout conference play. Reid Travis, a 6’8 junior forward, is averaging 21.4 points per game on 53% shooting. Their most recent game was a 20-point loss to Kansas. They open against Cal, another team who has had a rough start. Hopefully they can begin to play better and finish strong.

12) California Golden Bears (6-7, 0-0)

Outside of junior guard Don Coleman, who has seen his scoring jump from 4.6 points per game to 20.5 in one year, this team has struggled. They showed flashes of a good team in the first half against Wichita State, when they pressed effectively and hit their shots. If they can continue to play good defense and shoot the three well, they can play with some of the better teams in the nation. Until then, they will remain at the bottom of the totem pole in the conference.

Top 5 Pac-12 Player of the Year Candidates

1) Tra Holder – G – Arizona State

Holder has been fantastic early, averaging 21, 5 and 5 for the undefeated Sun Devils. He is shooting over 45% from the field and from deep, impressive marks halfway through the season. He also has 1.8 steals per game. A senior now, he has consistently improved throughout his career.

2) DeAndre Ayton – C – Arizona

A 7’1 freshman, Ayton was great right off the bat for the Wildcats. Averaging 19.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game while shooting over 60%, he has been reliable in nearly every game for this team. They will rely on him and his size advantage down low against other teams.

3) Allonzo Trier – G – Arizona

While the team has not been as good as some expected, Trier has still been playing at a very high level. Averaging 21 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists while shooting 56% from the field and 43% from deep, he has been the leader on offense for this team. As conference play begins, look for his assists to rise, especially with the return of Rawle Atkins to help relieve the scoring load.

4) Reid Travis – F – Stanford

Currently the leading scorer in the conference, Travis has been playing very well. He is at 21.4 points to go with 7 rebounds per game. He is shooting 53% from the field including 26% from deep, something that he has added to his arsenal this season. If the numbers from three improve, he is suddenly a much more enticing prospect at the next level.

5) Payton Pritchard – G – Oregon

Pritchard has really stepped up this year as the leader of the Ducks’ offense. He averages 16 points on 50% from the field and 45% from deep. He also has over 4 rebounds and assists per game to go with 1.3 steals. As conference play begins, he will be the player to watch on this Oregon team as they try to emulate their success from last season.

Return from Injury Spotlight

Rawle Alkins – G – Arizona

The sophomore recently came back from an injured foot, and his impact has been felt within the Arizona offense. In four games since returning, he is averaging 16 points per game shooting 56% from the field and 43% from deep. In their most recent game, a win over UConn, Alkins contributed 20 points on 6-11 shooting, including 3-5 from deep. He also had 2 steals and no turnovers.

Atkins gives some much-needed help to DeAndre Ayton and Allonzo Trier in regard to scoring the ball. He is now the third Wildcat to be averaging double digit points per game.

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