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Previewing the Pac- Part 1

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A look at the other schools in the Pac-12 North heading into conference play.

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Media Day Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Today we’ll take a quick look at where the other Pac-12 North schools are positioned heading into conference play. Since there are no divisions in basketball, the four teams that don’t have a home and home aren’t decided by division and they just happen to be the other North schools this year. UW only plays the Oregon schools at home and only plays the Bay Area schools on the road. Also, due to a weird scheduling quirk, the first 5 conference games for the Huskies are against these 5 teams while 12 of the last 13 will be home and homes against the Pac-12 South squads. The preview for those teams will be out a little later in the week.

California Golden Bears

Record: 9-3

RPI: 110th

Offensive Efficiency: 103.3 (156th)

Defensive Efficiency: 90.0 (5th)

Strength of Schedule: 263rd

Best Win: 62-51 vs. #78 Montana (neutral site)

Worst Loss: 77-59 vs. #59 San Diego State (neutral site)

Pre-season Pac-12 Media Poll Rank: 4th

Non-Conference MVP:

Charlie Moore, Fr. 5-11, 170: 16.1ppg, 1.9rpg, 3.3apg, 43.3% FG, 42.9% 3pt, 79.7% FT

Ivan Rabb is the best NBA prospect on the team but Charlie Moore has been perhaps more crucial for Cal’s early season success. Moore was the 61st ranked recruit this season according to ESPN but has been overshadowed by the success of fellow Pac-12 freshmen point guards Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball. He leads the team in minutes, points, assists, steals, and 3-pt% while being the primary ball handler as a true freshman. Moore needs to cut down his turnovers but has been a sensation so far.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at California
Charlie Moore has picked up the slack left by Jaylen Brown’s departure for Cal.
Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Outlook:

Cal hasn’t played a brutal non-conference schedule but they’ve been very impressive. They lost to the three best teams in their non-conference slate but have avoided any kind of letdown to the teams they should have beaten. Their last game was a 4-point loss to one of the best teams in the country in Virginia so they have the ability to hang with anyone.

The Golden Bears have played ferocious defense, ranking 7th nationally in opponent field goal percentage and 4th nationally in preventing offensive rebounds. Their one weakness is an inability to force turnovers but they’re 9th nationally in preventing steals on offense so it hasn’t hurt them. Kenpom projects them to go 10-8 in conference which would likely put them squarely on the bubble come NCAA tournament time.

Oregon Ducks

Record: 11-2

RPI: 24th

Offensive Efficiency: 109.8 (48th)

Defensive Efficiency: 91.5 (16th)

Strength of Schedule: 149th

Best Win: 69-65 vs. #74 Tennessee (neutral site)

Worst Loss: 61-65 vs. #50 Georgetown (neutral site)

Pre-season Pac-12 Media Poll Rank: 1st

Non-Conference MVP:

Tyler Dorsey, So. 6-4, 195: 13.5ppg, 3.6rpg, 1.3apg, 47.1% FG, 39.7% 3pt, 63.3% FT

Oregon has had several players miss time due to injury so this came down to Dorsey and Dylan Ennis who have played in every game. Dorsey is 2nd on the team in points and leads the regulars in 3-pt%. He has had 6 games with at least 17 points including a 29 point effort on just 16 shots against Savannah State.

NCAA Basketball: UNLV at Oregon
Tyler Dorsey has been one of the Duck’s best players this season.
Godofredo Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Outlook:

The non-conference schedule has to be considered a let down for Oregon, which was a popular final four pick going into the season. Injuries have been a concern as All-American candidate Dillon Brooks missed three games to start the year and All-Pac-12 Defensive Team member Chris Boucher missed the past two games but is expected to return for conference play. Their 17-point loss to Baylor looks much better now that Baylor is still undefeated but there might not be a single win on the schedule to this point over a team that will go to the NCAA tournament.

Chris Boucher and Jordan Bell are both in the top-40 nationally in block percentage and consequently the Ducks lead the country in that stat. Their defense has been extremely stout. On offense, they have really struggled shooting the ball as they have only shot 31% from beyond the arc. That number will have to improve if they want to live up to pre-season expectations. Kenpom projects them to go 12-6 in conference which would be good for 3rd and a certain NCAA bid but would be a serious disappointment for such a talented and experienced squad.

Oregon State Beavers

Record: 4-9

RPI: 338th

Offensive Efficiency: 96.1 (303rd)

Defensive Efficiency: 99.6 (99th)

Strength of Schedule: 311th

Best Win: 69-50 vs. #170 Kent State (home)

Worst Loss: 90-93 OT vs. #338 Savannah State (home)

Pre-season Pac-12 Media Poll Rank: 9th

Non-Conference MVP:

Drew Eubanks, So. 6-10, 250: 13.5ppg, 8.4rpg, 1.2apg, 2.9 blocks, 59.2% FG, 70.8% FT

Eubanks killed the Huskies late in the year as a freshman and he has picked up where he left off as a sophomore. He has become a force on the low block for the Beavers both on the offensive and defensive end. Turnovers have been a major issue with three per game but when Eubanks holds onto the ball it’s usually going in the basket.

NCAA Basketball: Oregon State at Nevada
Drew Eubanks has been one of the few bright spots for the Beavers in 2016.
Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

Outlook:

Oregon State made the NCAA tournament last year and there was the expectation that they might be in the running for an appearance again this year. That isn’t going to happen barring a miraculous Pac-12 Tournament run. Both Oregon schools have had significant injury problems but the Beavers have been hit harder. Tres Tinkle is pretty clearly their best player but broke his non-shooting wrist at the end of November with an initial estimate of 4-6 weeks for his return. There’s been no update to that timeline so it’s unclear if he’ll return for their only match up with the Huskies this season on 1/7.

Without Tres in the lineup the Beavers are simply terrible. They are 346/351 nationally in turnover percentage so they just can’t hang on to the ball. Oregon State plays at one of the slowest paces in the country so they can’t afford to give away the few possessions they have. On defense they’ve been solid but struggle to prevent offensive rebounds. Kenpom projects them to finish 3-15 in conference but if Tres comes back completely healthy it won’t shock me if they ruin a bubble team or two’s season with some upsets at home since their computer numbers will be much worse than their team once they’re healthy.

Stanford Cardinal

Record: 8-4

RPI: 41st

Offensive Efficiency: 103 (160th)

Defensive Efficiency: 95.1 (48th)

Strength of Schedule: 40th

Best Win: 66-52 vs. #49 Seton Hall (neutral site)

Worst Loss: 49-72 vs. #34 SMU (away)

Pre-season Pac-12 Media Poll Rank: 10th

Non-Conference MVP:

Reid Travis, Jr. 6-8, 245: 17.8ppg, 9.8rpg, 0.3apg, 56.9% FG, 70.2% FT

Travis has to be an early contender for most improved player in the conference as he has improved his stats across the board on two less minutes per game. He’s Stanford’s leading scorer and rebounder from the Power Forward position. His biggest strength is his ability to draw fouls as he is 7th in the country with a Free Throw Rate of 84.1%. For context, last year Andrew Andrews was 32nd at 69.6%.

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at Miami
Reid Travis has been a force for the Cardinal.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Outlook:

Stanford has been a pleasant surprise for the conference so far. Picked 10th in the media poll they have held up well against one of toughest non-conference schedules in the Pac-12. Their four losses are all to likely tournament teams so they don’t have a bad loss but the win over Seton Hall is the only one that could be considered a good win.

The Cardinal have real problems shooting the ball and are just 296th nationally in effective FG%. Their saving grace has been their ability to draw fouls led by the aforementioned Reid Travis. They’ve been much better on defense with their biggest strength being the ability to keep other teams from getting offensive rebounds. Kenpom projects them to finish 8-10 in conference which would likely result in an NIT berth should it happen. UW only plays Stanford in Palo Alto this year which means the game will likely be a boost if they can pull off the upset but wouldn’t hurt very badly should the Dawgs lose.

Washington State Cougars

Record: 7-5

RPI: 213th

Offensive Efficiency: 100.1 (217th)

Defensive Efficiency: 103.5 (190th)

Strength of Schedule: 305th

Best Win: 87-63 vs. #168 Montana (neutral site)

Worst Loss: 54-70 vs. #260 New Orleans (home)

Pre-season Pac-12 Media Poll Rank: 12th

Non-Conference MVP:

Josh Hawkinson, Sr. 6-10, 230: 15.2ppg, 10.8rpg, 2.2apg, 53.6% FG, 26.3% 3pt, 83.3% FT

No matter how badly they’re struggling, the Cougars always seems to have a big man who consistently gets a double-double night in and night out. Josh Hawkinson accepted that title from Brock Motum several years ago and is clearly the leader of this team. He’s one of the best defensive rebounders in the country and is very efficient around the rim, both by making shots and drawing fouls. He’s the one Cougars player that requires a game plan and can single handedly swing the outcome of a game.

NCAA Basketball: Washington State at Kansas State
Josh Hawkinson is putting up monster stats for the Cougars yet again.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Outlook:

The Cougars played one of the easiest non-conference schedules in the country. They played only one team in the power-5 conferences (70-56 loss to Kansas St.) and only one other game against a top-100 team (103-77 loss to Creighton). Their best win is sadly about as impressive as UW’s best win but their losses are much worse. The Cougars were expected to struggle mightily this season and so far, they’ve lived up to the hype.

The Cougars won only one game last conference season so they really have nowhere to go but up. Right now, kenpom projects them to have a Pac-12 record of 3-15 and they will likely be favored in only one game the rest of the season (home vs. Oregon State). Every Saturday or Sunday the rest of the way UW will be playing a team either coming off of a win or motivated to improve after an embarrassing loss. Fair or not, every team will expect to beat the Cougars as a loss is an RPI killer that will require 2 or 3 impressive wins to make up for it.