Pac-12 rewind: Pope leads Oregon State as WSU sweeps, Love shines and Madsen beats Stanford

Recapping the weekend action across the Pac-12 …

Theme of the week: The ‘Pac-2’ rise

Oregon State and Washington State were the only teams to win twice in Week 5 of conference play, with each sweeping at home. OSU stunned Arizona and handled Arizona State while WSU dominated the Mountain schools, which continue to struggle on the road. The sweeps allowed OSU to climb out of the cellar and propelled the Cougars onto the top tier of the standings. As February approaches, nine teams are within two games of first place.

Theme of the week II: NCAA outlook

The conference continues to stumble along the road to Selection Sunday, with a handful of teams on the NCAA Tournament bubble unable to gain traction. Only Arizona is safely in the 68-team field. Oregon, Utah, Colorado and Washington State are in dire need of Quadrant I wins and desperate to avoid Quadrant III or IV losses. Down the stretch, they will have few opportunities for the former and many chances to experience the latter.

Team of the week: Oregon State

We gave serious thought to honoring Washington State but opted for the Beavers because of their upset of Arizona and the unlikely nature of their sweep. (Prior to toppling the Arizona schools, OSU was 1-6 in conference play and had lost five in a row.) The Beavers rallied from a double-digit deficit Thursday to slay the Wildcats, then avoided a massive letdown two days later against the Sun Devils. But can they build off the weekend success? OSU heads to Los Angeles this week and has a fighting chance to gain a split.

Coach of the month: WSU’s Kyle Smith

When the calendar turned, the Cougars were 0-2 in conference play and hurtling toward a middle-of-the-pack finish, but Smith’s team has coalesced superbly in 2024, winning six of eight. The surge includes home wins over the top-tier teams (Arizona, Colorado and Utah) and road victories over Stanford and USC. But can the Cougars maintain the momentum as they head to Seattle, Eugene and Corvallis? Win two of those three, and they will be well-positioned for a top-four finish.

Player of the week: Oregon State G Jordan Pope

The 6-foot-2 sophomore has been one of the conference’s most underrated players since the first game of his first season, but never has he risen to the heights displayed this weekend. Pope scored 50 points in OSU’s sweep of the Arizona schools (on 17-of-28 shooting) and recorded a career-high 31 points in the upset of Arizona. His performance Thursday night included the shot of the year in the conference, a game-winning 3-pointer from the left wing as time expired.

Performance of the year: Arizona’s Caleb Love

For singular brilliance in a high-profile game, we haven’t seen any player in the Pac-12 match Love’s masterful showing Saturday afternoon in Eugene, where he scored 36 of Arizona’s 87 points — and did it with maximum efficiency (12-of-18 shooting). It was the best game we’ve seen Love play that wasn’t against Duke in the Final Four.

Game of the week: Oregon State 83, Arizona 80

The visitors were in control throughout the first half and early in the second. But with 14 minutes remaining, the Beavers made their run and outscored Arizona 30-12 as Gill Coliseum turned delirious. OSU’s lead grew to nine points on Tyler Bilodeau’s 3-pointer in the final minutes. But back came the Wildcats, as Pelle Larrson’s free throws with 11 seconds left tied the game. The breathtaking finish was all about Pope, whose step-back 3-pointer sparked the celebration.

Breakthrough of the decade: UCLA

One disappointing team defeated another in Los Angeles, where the Bruins recorded a 65-50 victory over USC and snapped a five-game losing streak in the Galen Center. It was the first time since 2004 that both L.A. schools had losing records when facing each other, according to the Associated Press. The Trojans, picked second in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, are alone in last place. After bottoming out, the Bruins have won three of their last four.

Shortcoming of an era: Colorado

The Buffaloes collected a rare road win Thursday night at Washington but were unable to make it stick, losing two days later at WSU. They are 1-4 on the road in conference play and, since joining the Pac-12 in the 2011-12 season, have managed just three sweeps in 48 weekends on the road (per the AP). Tad Boyle is a quality coach, but there’s something about competing at sea level that doesn’t agree with his program.

Victory of a lifetime: Cal coach Mark Madsen

One of the best players in Stanford history beat his alma mater 73-71 on Friday night as the Bears rallied from a 10-point deficit early in the second half. “It felt great – you had students from all across campus,” Madsen said. “You had fraternities and sororities here. You had different clubs. An unbelievable turnout from the Cal band. Just gratitude to everyone who came out.” Stanford could have hired Madsen last spring, after his successful run at Utah Valley, but chose to retain Jerrod Haase.

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Stat of the week: Oregon State

The upset of ninth-ranked Arizona was OSU’s first win over a top-10 team since Jan. 11, 2015, when the Beavers stunned No. 7 Arizona 58-56. Their top scorer that game: Langston Morris-Walker, with 12 points.

Stat of the season: Utah

The Utes were swept in Washington and dropped to 0-5 on the road in conference play. Average margin of defeat: 14 points.

Stat of the decade I: Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd

The third-year coach has lost 16 games in his Tucson tenure, but never has he dropped two in a row. Thanks to Love’s exploits Saturday afternoon, that impressive run lives on.

Stat of the decade II: Cal

The Bears have been one of the worst teams in the Power Six in recent years but nonetheless have won six of the past 10 over Stanford.

Game of next week: Colorado at Utah

With so many eyeballs available — there are no NFL games — the Pac-12 schedule features the Bay Area schools in Arizona and the Oregon schools in Los Angeles and, therefore, is devoid of a marquee affair. Colorado is one game behind the conference leaders (in the loss column) while Utah is two back. Because of the location, a loss for Utah would be far more damaging than a defeat for the Buffs.

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