BY SEBASTIAN PYCIOR
Non-conference play is winding down for northwest college hoops and there are a ton of bright spots to keep an eye on. Excitement for some of these teams will eventually come to a halt, but it’s fun to hope right? Christmas time is here and great records are abound, even if they’re supported by cupcake schedules.
PAC-12 basketball starts soon after Christmas on the 29th of December, so tune in!
This team has a lot to look forward to this season after the tough Boise State loss. The Ducks success should be attributed to the emergence of Kenny Wooten off the bench. He’s a freshman who’s only missed 3 buckets over the past three games. Sure he’s a big man and shouldn’t be missing much, but he’s been part of huge runs that have helped get the Ducks out of offensive ruts.
Heading into PAC-12 play, expect the Ducks to start off hot. Their first two PAC-12 games include Colorado and Utah, neither of which would be able to handle guards Elijah Brown and and Payton Pritchard. As I write this, Pritchard is off to a fast start against Central Arkansas, scoring double digits in just the first half.
Don’t be surprised if this team ends up being ranked before facing Arizona State well into January.
Oregon State Beavers vs. Kent State, 4:00PM PT Thursday | ESPN3
The Beavers will face an underrated Kent State team tonight, and so long as they can contain Jaylin Walker, they’ll be fine. He’s averaging 16 points per game and he will be the Beavers’ biggest priority on defense.
OSU isn’t the flashiest team in the PAC-12, but they’ve proven so far that they’ll be a tough out. As they start conference play against Utah, Colorado, and Oregon, fans should be confident that the Tres Tinkle led squad will give their opponents a run for their money.
This team has displayed patience in their offense. 58% of team field goals end in assists for the Beavers, while averaging about 69 possessions per 40 minutes. Turnovers have been an issue, but the team has already surpassed their win total from last year and are buying into Coach Tinkle’s basketball philosophy again.
Washington Huskies vs Montana, 8:00PM PT Friday | PAC-12
The Huskies pre-conference slate of games has been a relative success. They nabbed a historic win against Kansas and will look to finish with 10 wins before PAC-12 play begins. They host the Montana Grizzlies in what should be an easy game.
The UW will have a tough beginning to conference play. Both USC and UCLA will be difficult, and PAC-12 success essentially hinges on Noah Dickerson’s ability to further sustain his strong play. Coach Hopkins has been able to improve Dickerson’s efficiency dramatically this year, as he’s making 63% of his field goals this year. Last year, he made 54% of his shots.
Another question remains with Jaylen Nowell. He’s a freshman guard with great size, and has been amazing on offense thus far. Can he sustain 17 points per game in the PAC-12?
If he can sustain his rise has UW’s main offensive option, it’d be great if he could get some support.For example, David Crisp struggles against decent competition. Even with a hot shooting performance against dead-weight Bethune Cookman, he’s only made 37% of his field goals this year.
Washington State vs. Bethune Cookman, 6:00PM PT Friday | PAC-12
As I’m typing this, the Washington State Cougars are behind the Kansas State Wildcats. Of course, the reason seems to be Malachi Flynn’s cold shooting. In the first half against the Wildcats, Flynn has made just one out of seven three-point attempts. He had a solid game against lacking IUPUI, but at this stage, I don’t think the Cougars will be able to readjust their dependence on the three point shot.
The Cougars currently rank seventh in the nation on percentage of field goal attempts from three-point range. Their offensive rating is middling, meaning that this team has decided to live or die by the three.
Washington State will feel brief relief against Bethune Cookman, breezing by a weak program. If the Cougars are looking to start PAC12 play against UCLA and USC, then Flynn will need to reconfigure his shot selection. WSU is making their threes against weaker teams now, but can they keep it up in the PAC12?
Gonzaga Bulldogs at San Diego State, 7:00PM PT Thursday | CBSSN
Fans should be happy with the state of this team heading into conference play. They’ve had impressive wins against Creighton, Texas, and Florida. Although Gonzaga lost to Villanova, this team has won three straight games heading into a game against the San Diego State Aztecs. Sure the game against North Dakota State was worrisome, but Gonzaga overcame their recent inconsistencies.
Turnovers have been causing setbacks during the win streak, but look for Coach Mark Few to right these wrongs immediately. The Bulldogs have coughed the ball up 34 times over the past two games. I don’t see the Aztecs beating Gonzaga though, since the Bulldogs are so efficient on offense. Gonzaga has the sixth best offensive rating for a team in the NCAA, right behind Arizona State.
What does conference play look like? This is the time of year when the Bulldogs take a break and practice for the rest of the year. Their first two conference games against Pacific and Santa Clara will be cakewalks.
In addition! Portland State Vikings at California, 8:00PM PT Thursday | PAC-12
Barrett Peery has the Portland State Vikings looking healthy as they head into tonight’s game against California, a game they have a very good chance at winning. In his first season with Portland State, he has the team at nine wins already.
Led by guard Deontae North, this offense just flies. They have about 82 possessions per game, and they don’t turn the ball over that much, which is pretty respectable. They score a ton of points at about 93 per game.
On the other hand, the Vikings are known to fly on offense. Last year, they were 8th in the nation with points per game. What makes Barrett Peery different?
Look for them to make some noise this year, as Peery looks to maintain the energy that the Vikings have displayed this year. After facing the California Bears, they’ll face paltry conference opponent Sacramento State.