The new year has brought some surprises in Pac-12 men's basketball action.
A month ago, nobody had ever heard of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. And Lance Armstrong was merely a suspect, not an incorrigible.
Nor is Pac-12 men’s basketball quite what we expected when the calendar flipped to 2013. Let’s assess the league at the halfway mark (alphabetically, so as not to inflict further grief on a few teams who probably deserve it nonetheless):
Arizona (19-2, 7-2)
What we thought: The Wildcats, who negotiated their pre-conference schedule unbeaten, might sail to the Pac-12 title fairly easily.
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What we know now: Nothing comes easy on a team without a true point guard. ‘Cats have lost two and had three other close calls in league.
Arizona State (17-5, 6-3)
What we thought: Despite Jahii Carson’s arrival, there wasn’t enough around him for ASU to make a quantum leap.
What we know now: Carson has been dynamic (18.3 ppg), and elsewhere, improvement has been dramatic. Five guys have started all 22 games, and ASU is the surprise of the league.
California (13-8, 5-4)
What we thought: Bears had the most prolific backcourt in the league, and Mike Montgomery’s cunning would carry them to the NCAA tournament.
What we know now: The guards have been inconsistent, depth is lacking, the big guys are spotty, and there’s a limit even to Monty’s genius.
Colorado (14-7, 4-5)
What we thought: The league’s most impressive out-of-conference showing would translate to a second straight NCAA appearance.
What we know now: Curiously, Buffs maintain league’s second-best RPI at 25, but they’ve been a disappointment. They badly need to win at Oregon or beat Arizona on Feb. 14 at home.
Oregon (18-4, 7-2)
What we thought: Coach Dana Altman had done a nice job retooling a team that had significant 2011-12 losses.
What we know now: Ducks went off the rails in the Bay Area after a blistering start. They need point guard Dominic Artis (foot) back for the league’s most favorable finishing schedule.
Oregon State (11-11, 1-8)
What we thought: A team with defensive and leadership issues wasn’t headed anywhere good.
What we know: Check. Even the annual trip to the CBI bracket looks unlikely.
Stanford (14-8, 5-4)
What we thought: Unless the Cardinal could cure its shooting woes, it was doomed to another backwater tournament.
What we know now: Suddenly Stanford is on fire, shooting .574 on treys its past three games, including 15 of 25 from Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright. Still needs to prove it can do business on the road.
UCLA (16-6, 6-3)
What we thought: Bruins’ sketchy pre-conference period invited questions about the consistency of their freshmen.
What we know now: UCLA ran off 11 wins in a row, and has lost three of four. But it bears watching in the second half.
USC (9-13, 4-5)
What we thought: Severely overscheduled, the rejiggered Trojans would be OK if they could survive Kevin O’Neill’s tough love.
What we know now: O’Neill is haranguing somebody else now, fired in January. But USC has enough talent to cause problems for the title aspirants, as a road win over UCLA shows.
Utah (10-11, 2-7)
What we thought: Utes would be better, but climbing out of last year’s 6-25 abyss will take time.
What we know now: They are, and it will. But Utah has cuffed two respected foes in Washington and Colorado.
Washington (13-9, 5-4)
What we thought: Any team capable of losing at home to Albany might have some issues.
What we know now: Huskies held first four Pac-12 opponents under 40 percent shooting. The last five have combined to hit .525.
Washington State (11-11, 2-7)
What we thought: Brock Motum was going to develop a sore back carrying a team shy of Pac-12 talent.
What we know now: Motum’s shooting has plummeted from last season’s .554 to .461, and .397 to .337 on threes. Other than the emergence of Mike Ladd, not much to like here.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org