Last week in this space, we looked at the biggest pleasant surprise so far in Pac-12 men’s basketball in the Arizona Wildcats.
It’s time to take note of the league’s biggest disappointments, and no hoops fans need look further than the state of Oregon.
Both the Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers are off to miserable starts, particularly in light of each program’s respective preseason expectations.
Last spring, the Beavers put together one of those March runs every coach longs for, with OSU stealing an NCAA Tournament bid by winning the Pac-12 conference championship, defeating UCLA, Oregon, and then Colorado in the title game. The momentum didn’t slow for OSU in the tournament, as the Beavers rolled to wins against Tennessee, Oklahoma State, and Loyola Chicago before the Cinderella story ended against Houston in the Elite Eight.
Head coach Wayne Tinkle was rewarded in April with a contract extension that added three years to his existing deal (six total), along with a $300,000 raise for this season and $100,000 for each year afterward. Despite returning a number of key players from that run, including Warith Alatishe and Jarod Lucas, the early returns on Tinkle’s extension have been scant.
After getting routed 90-75 at home on Sunday by Arizona, the Beavers fell to 1-8 overall with an 0-2 start in Pac-12 play (OSU lost at Cal in its league opener). Oregon State has suffered home losses against Samford and Princeton.
The situation in Eugene might be even more perplexing. Ducks coach Dana Altman might have been quietly relieved news began circulating on Sunday about football coach Mario Cristobal’s pending move to Miami, as it overshadowed his team’s overtime loss against Arizona State, which had never before won at Knight Arena.
The Sun Devils entered the game with a six-game losing streak and were coming off a dreadful 29-point performance in a home loss against Washington State. But in Eugene, ASU got a tying 3-pointer from DJ Horne with 3.5 seconds left in regulation and a winning 3-pointer from Jay Heath with 11 seconds left in overtime to drop Oregon — picked second in the Pac-12 preseason media poll and 13th in the preseason AP Top 25 — to 5-4.
“I was really disappointed in the way that those two guys got their looks,” Altman told reporters afterward. “We knew they were the only two guys that were capable of beating us from three. Health goes 4 for 6 and Horne goes 3 for 9. I thought we gave those guys way too many looks.”
After playing a big role in Arizona’s road thumping of Oregon State, Wildcats forward Bennedict Mathurin on Monday was named the Pac-12 player of the week. Mathurin went 11-for-18, with a 4-for-9 mark on 3-pointers, at OSU, finishing with 29 points and six rebounds.
Utah’s Lazar Stefanovic was named the freshman of the week, though he was the only player nominated for the award. Stefanovic recorded 11 points, six rebounds and three assists during the Utes’ league win against Cal.
The initial NET rankings of the season were released on Monday. The Pac-12 pecking order: Arizona (3), USC (7), UCLA (33), Utah (57), Washington State (61), Colorado (119), Stanford (143), Oregon (153), Cal (165), Arizona State (221), Washington (231), Oregon State (261)…UCLA moved up one spot to No. 4 in this week’s AP Top 25. Arizona held steady at No. 11 and USC moved up four spots to No. 16. For the second week in a row, those three teams were the only Pac-12 programs to receive votes.