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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

January 30, 2012 at 2:11 PM

At mid-season, the best of a bad Pac-12 . . .

A newspaper friend suggested that this year, the Pac-12 all-league team might have nobody on the first unit and a bunch of guys on the second.

No doubt the conference is lending a new definition to the term “down year,” but I’m going ahead and throwing out some mid-season superlatives anyway for a league that has nowhere to go but up (at least that’s the conventional wisdom).

Player of the half-season Jorge Gutierrez, Cal. He’s only the 10th-leading scorer at 14.1 but he’s sixth in assists at 4.43 and the most respected perimeter defender in the league. I seriously considered Washington’s Tony Wroten but opted for Gutierrez, partly on the logic that Cal won the head-to-head meeting, and it was Gutierrez’ presence that discouraged Washington from getting the ball to Terrence Ross on its final, unsuccessful possession.

More on the Wroten phenomenon later.

Coach of the half-season — 1, Lorenzo Romar, Washington. Pretty tight call here, but the Arizona victory has the potential to be a game-changer for the Huskies, and the fact they’re tied for first tips it to Romar, who has negotiated some bumps with injuries to Scott Suggs and C.J. Wilcox. I also like the way Aziz N’Diaye has become a bigger force.

2, Tad Boyle, Colorado. Boyle clearly can coach, and he’s got the Buffs at 6-3 in the league even after losing two of the all-time program mainstays, Cory Higgins and Alec Burks. Now if he can just get them to play on the road.

3, Dana Altman, Oregon. The Ducks are not an overly talented bunch, but Altman gets the most out of them. A little more consistency inside would help them contend for the title.

Freshman of the half-season –Wroten. This is one of the most statistically intriguing players I can remember. He’s second in the league in scoring at 17.1, second in steals (1.95) and ninth in assists. And he shoots 22.5 percent on threes, .553 from the foul line, and at the crucial point-guard position, he has a negative assist-turnover ratio. Still, the bottom line is making plays and winning, and he’s clearly been instrumental for the Huskies.
An all-league team, roughly by position: Andre Roberson, Colorado; Brock Motum, Washington State; Wroten; Gutierrez; Jared Cunningham, Oregon State.
Roberson averages only 11.1 points a game, but leads the league in rebounds at 11.0 per game, and I like how active he is and how he changes things inside (he’s third in blocked shots at 1.62). Motum has turned himself into a very nice player who is clever around the basket and capable of hitting a three. Cunningham is the league’s leading scorer but he’s got to do more to lead his team into the first division in the second half.
Most disappointing team — 1, Oregon State (4-5). If the Beavers had just beaten Stanford or Arizona in overtime, the verdict would be different. This team is too good to be languishing under .500 in a sub-standard league. Maybe the emergence at Oregon is a good sign.
2, Arizona (5-4). I’m questioning whether the Wildcats are really more than an also-ran. They’ve now dropped league games at home to Oregon and Washington, they’re not very imposing inside, the point-guard play is suspect and the freshman class has been less than overwhelming.
3, UCLA (5-4). Given the Bruins’ forgettable pre-conference performance, maybe 5-4 isn’t really so bad. But you just expect more out of this program.



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