Making a Splash

Player of the Week

Payton Pritchard – G – Oregon

Payton PrichardPayton PrichardPritchard has done a good job leading the Ducks offense this year, averaging 16 points to go with 4 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. His shooting has also been impressive, at 48% from the field including 43% behind the arc. In his last game, he scored 25 points on 8-13 shooting. He also recorded 3 steals.

Pritchard has seen a sharp increase in production from his freshman year to now, his sophomore year. The 6’2 guard has shown diverse abilities on the court and has been very impressive leading this Ducks team.

Who’s Hot

Kodi Justice – G – Arizona State

The senior guard has seen an increase in production recently. He has upped his scoring over the past few games, with two games of over 20. He has also really improved his three-point shooting, at 39% and rising with increased usage this year. He also averages 1.5 steals per game. The 6’5 Justice could get looks in the NBA as someone who can shoot and play defense. No team can ever have too many of those players in this day and age.

Who’s Not

Tra Holder – G – Arizona State

Holder has slowed down, and so have the Sun Devils. In his past 5 games, the most points he scored was 14. He has been below 40% shooting in all of those games. Holder is the leader of the Arizona State offense, and he will need to perform better for them to get back on track. The senior guard has not been as effective in conference play as he was before, but he still has been very impressive this year.

Power Rankings

1) Arizona Wildcats (16-4, 6-1)

Arizona has continued its dominance of the Pac 12, now at 6-1 in conference play. They have had success both at home and on the road, led by their elite players in Allonzo Trier, DeAndre Ayton and Rawle Alkins. This is a team that can win with its offense or its defense and is a very talented roster top to bottom. Outside of an early season 3-game losing streak, the Wildcats have looked fantastic. They have only lost one game since the return of Alkins. Now that Arizona State has cooled off, Arizona are the clear favorites to win the conference.

2) USC Trojans (16-6, 7-2)

The Trojans seem to have found their groove. Now winners of 5 straight, they have an impressive Pac 12 resume already. Jordan McLaughlin continues to impress running the show at point, with an AST:TO ratio of 3.3. Chimezie Metu and Bennie Boatwright have continued to be effective forwards, with similar numbers. Metu averages 16 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks on 52% from the field and 40% from three while Boatwright is just below at 15 points and 6 rebounds with slightly worse shooting numbers.

We knew all season that this was a talented roster. Despite a bad start, the Trojans have found a way to win games. If they can finish near the top of the Pac 12 and have a good conference tournament run, we should be seeing them in March.

3) Arizona State Sun Devils (15-4, 3-4)

Undefeated going into conference play, the Sun Devils have had a tough time in the Pac 12. Tra Holder and Shannon Evans II have impressive counting stats, but both shoot around 40% from the field. That is not a winning recipe for your top two scorers. While they still have time to turn things around, this team is not the national championship contender some may have thought they were at 11-0.

4) Washington Huskies (14-6, 4-3)

Jaylen Nowell continues to lead a surprisingly good Huskies team. He and Noah Dickerson are making big contributions to a team that has had some up and downs this season. With that said, if Washington can beat the teams they are supposed to, this team has a shot of playing in the NCAA tournament. They play both Arizona and Arizona State at home, two huge potential resume boosters.

5) UCLA Bruins (13-7, 4-4)

The Bruins have hit a cold streak, losing three in a row. However, their next three games are at home, where they are 9-2. The Bruins are a very talented roster led by Aaron Holiday and freshmen Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands. If they can regain some momentum, this is a team that can compete with the best on any given night. Look for the Bruins to rise in these rankings in the coming weeks.

6) Oregon Ducks (13-7, 3-4)

Led by Payton Pritchard, the Ducks are playing well this year despite losing so many key players from last year’s final four run. The have had a difficult schedule of late, with their last four games coming against four of the five teams ranked above them. There are some reasonable questions about efficiency with this group, however, as none of their top six scorers shoot above 50% from the field. With that being said, this team has shown its ability to play with the elite Pac 12 teams.

7) Colorado Buffaloes (12-8, 4-4)

McKinley Wright IV has slowed down a little of late. Colorado has still been an effective team, winning on the road at UCLA. George King has stepped up his contributions, including back to back 20 point-10 rebound performances. This is another team that lacks consistency but could be a threat if they can find it. A big road game at Arizona, who is undefeated at home thus far, could determine how the remainder of the season will look.

8) Stanford Cardinal (11-10, 5-3)

Stanford has finally found their identity as a team, and is currently at third in the Pac 12 standings. Reid Travis has continued to make his Pac 12 player of the year case, averaging just under 20 points and 8 rebounds on impressive shooting. A home win against Arizona State looks very impressive. With how badly the year began for the Cardinal, they will have to win the conference tournament to get looks from the selection committee. They have the talent to beat anyone in the conference with how they have been playing of late. Look for this team to play spoiler for the remainder of the year.

9) Oregon State Beavers (11-8, 3-4)

After an impressive start to conference play, the Beavers had a stretch of tough games where they went 1-3. Sophomore forward Tres Tinkle has improved consistently over the year, averaging 18 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists per game. The Beavers are a talented group but have struggled at times. Yet another team that has proven to be inconsistent, Oregon State will need to catch fire if they have any hopes of playing in March.

10) Utah Utes (12-7, 4-4)

After losing four straight, the Utes won two games to get back on track. Justin Bibbins and David Collette have had good seasons for Utah, a team that has occasionally lacked offensive firepower. If they can consistently score 75+ points per game, their defense can keep them in games against in-conference foes. While they are not the most consistent team, they have put forth some impressive performances thus far.

11) Washington State Cougars (9-10, 1-6)

This team started the year 6-0. They are 3-10 since. Their lone conference win was against Cal, the only team worse than they are. Robert Franks has been having a good season, including shooting 10-13 from deep against Cal, where he scored 34 points. He is averaging 18 points a game on 49% shooting and 43% from behind the arc. He also averages 7 rebounds and 2 assists. The junior forward has NBA potential as a stretch four who can shoot the three.

12) California Golden Bears (7-13, 1-6)

Leading scorer Don Coleman shoots 36% from the field. This is not a recipe for success. The Golden Bears’ lone conference win came on the road at Stanford, which is starting to look more impressive as the Cardinal get their act together. Cal simply lacks the consistent scoring to stay with other teams in the conference. Coleman needs to have better shot selection if they want consistency. All in all, this is not a good team.

Top 5 Pac 12 POY Candidates

1) DeAndre Ayton – C – Arizona

The leading rebounder, who is also top 5 in points, FG% and blocks has dominated all throughout his freshman year. He has shown his ability to do it all as a big man. Any team going against the Wildcats has to plan for him specifically and be ready for him to go off.

2) Reid Travis – F – Stanford

With the improvement of the Cardinal of late, Travis has a case for player of the year. He has played well and shot the ball at a high rate all year. The leader in scoring for the conference has also rebounded at a good clip, and has started shooting the three this year, although not that successfully (28%).

3) Allonzo Trier – G – Arizona

Tied with Travis for leading scorer, the leader of the Wildcats has had a fantastic season as expected. His shooting has improved over the years, now sitting at 52/40/85 splits. His assists are also up, at 3.2, the highest in his career thus far. With the return of Rawle Alkins, Trier has been relied on a little less to carry the scoring load, but he has still gotten his numbers.

4) Tra Holder – G – Arionza State

Although the Sun Devils, and Holder, have slowed down, he is still a candidate for player of the year with the numbers he is putting up. 19 points and just under 5 rebound and 4 assists is a great line. While he is only shooting 42% from the field, he is 40% from deep and 84% from the line.

5) Tres Tinkle – F – Oregon State

Tinkle has had a fantastic season for the Beavers thus far, averaging 18 points a game with improved three-point shooting. As I stated earlier, he has NBA potential as a 3 and D wing. The 6’8 sophomore also averages 7 rebounds and 1.5 steals a game. He has also upped his assists numbers to 3.5 per game.

Freshman Spotlight

Jaylen Hands – G – UCLA

Hands has been behind Aaron Holiday in the rotation but has still gotten minutes and produced. The 5-star recruit is averaging 11 points with 3 rebounds and 3 assists per game. He is at 40% from three, impressive for a freshman. With a lot of talent both coming in to UCLA and becoming eligible after a year-long suspension, Hands will have the opportunity to lead an elite offense if he chooses to stay another year, which I would strongly advise him to do.

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