The last week was a mixed bag for the Dawgs. First, they travelled to Toronto to play Tennessee in the Naismith Classic. In addition to being a good team, Tennessee was a uniquely tough matchup for the Huskies and it showed on the court. The Volunteers got to the middle of the 2-3 zone at will and built a big early lead. Jordan Bowden led the way with 18 points. Poor outside shooting and 17 turnovers kept UW from making the comeback they teased at times in the second half.
Tuesday’s home game against Maine looked like a bounce-back opportunity and the Dawgs made the most of it. Maine kept it close four about eight minutes, but Naz Carter’s highlight-reel dunk capped a 25-4 run that put the Black Bears down for good. Isaiah Stewart led the way with 16 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 blocks. The game was one-sided enough that Hopkins was able to empty the bench near the end.
Washington clings to the last spot in the top 25 headed into two winnable games this weekend. They will take on Montana on Friday and San Diego on Sunday, both at home. Each team ranks in the 150-200 range in the KenPom rankings. The Torreros pose slightly more of a threat. They were one of the better WCC teams last year and already beat Fresno St this season. They are a respectable defensive team, so that could be a low-scoring affair.
Three weeks into the basketball season and the Pac has lost a total of four games, and one of those was Arizona State’s loss to Colorado in a game in China. Other than that loss, the Huskies fell to a ranked Tennessee team, Oregon State lost to “also receiving votes” Oklahoma, and WSU has the only bad loss to Santa Clara on the road. It has been a much stronger start for the conference than the last few years.
According the KenPom, the best team in the conference so far has been Arizona. The Wildcats are led to two standout freshmen, big man Zeke Nnaji and point guard Nico Mannion. Nnaji has been fantastic so far with at least 19 games in each of his four games and an other-worldly 33-39 shooting from the floor. Mannion has been a playmaker who makes things easier for Nnaji and the rest and he offers very good three point shooting on top of it. Another freshman, Josh Green, gets big minutes for the team. They have veteran support in the form of forwards Ira Lee and Chase Jeter, as well as Cornell grad transfer Stone Gettings and a host of sophomores from last year’s recruiting class. The Wildcats are deep, and if Nnaji and Mannion are as good as they have looked so far, they have the top-end talent to go with their depth.
Cal has the biggest upcoming game in conference, a daunting matchup with Duke at Madison Square Garden. Cal stands little chance in that one, but they will get a shot at either Georgetown or Texas even if they end up on the losing end. Other games to keep an eye on: Oregon hosts a very solid Houston team in Eugene and Temple visits USC. ASU travels to Connecticut to play in the Hall of Fame Tip-off against St. John’s and will face either UMass or Virginia thereafter. Over the next week, Stanford, WSU, UCLA, and Oregon will travel all over the Western Hemisphere to play in various holiday tournaments. Suffice to say, the next week will not be the cake walk the last few weeks have been for the conference.
It should not be a big surprise that Louisville is off to a good start. They entered the season ranked #5 in the country and coach Chris Mack had a season under his belt to install the system that brought him so much success at Xavier. Moreover, the team returned all but two of their key rotation players from last year to go with a top-15 recruiting class. That recruiting class included six total players, four four-star recruits, and five-star swingman Samuell Williamson, who is putting up solid numbers across the board in about 23 minutes per game. Jordan Nwora, their leading scorer, is a junior forward who broke out last year. He’s shooting even better this year and has pushed his scoring average over 20 per game. The team’s only significant win so far was a 13-point victory over a good Miami team. Things will get more difficult in the next month- Michigan, Pitt, Texas Tech, and Kentucky in December-, and they won’t continue to shoot 44% on threes as a team, but the Cardinals have the exact balance between experience and high-end youth that can contend for a national title.
In addition to the preseason tournament games involving Pac teams, there are some other compelling matchups to keep an eye on. LSU will face #15 Utah State (UW’s first-round NCAA foe from a year ago) in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Mississippi will travel to Memphis for a rivalry game, though the Tigers will remain without national #1 freshman James Wiseman until the NCAA reinstates him in mid-January. Finally, Butler will face Missouri in Kansas City on Sunday.
Excluding UW, which team has the best chance to win the Pac?
This poll is closed