If Week One of conference play is any indication, the next two months will be deliciously unpredictable.
UCLA, a few days removed from losing at home to Cal State Fullerton, won at Washington.
The Huskies turned around and pummeled USC, which was coming off a win at Washington State, which beat UCLA in overtime after trailing by double digits midway through the second half.
And how about the results in the Mountain region, where Colorado outplayed No. 4 Oregon, then two days later collapsed in the second half and lost to Oregon State, which was fresh off a loss at Utah.
The Beavers rallied from 11 points down with eight minutes left for the victory in Boulder, closing the game with a stunning 24-5 run.
The only orderly developments from the weekend came in the rivalry matchups, where the home teams won handily: Stanford thumped Cal, and Arizona embarrassed ASU.
When the results settled, the Pac-12 was left with only two undefeated teams in conference play — the fewest number possible given the schedule.
Eight teams had the opportunity to record a weekend sweep. None did.
Takeaway No. 2: Backs to the wall.
It’s early, so early, but Arizona State’s season is on the line over the next three weeks.
The Sun Devils have lost three of their past four, a stretch that includes a 40-point home loss (to Saint Mary’s) and a 28-point road loss (to Arizona) and a truckload of missed shots.
ASU was 3-of-21 from 3-point range in Tucson, which followed a 7-of-26 performance against Creighton, which followed a 3-of-22 showing against Saint Mary’s.
Three games, all losses, and 13-of-69 from behind the line.
The good news for the Sun Devils: Historical averages suggest their perimeter shooting will improve, soon than later.
The bad news: Modest improvement won’t be enough to reverse course, not with their upcoming schedule.
This week, they hit the Oregon trail, where daunting (Eugene) and difficult (Corvallis) assignments await.
Then the Mountain schools descend on Tempe, followed quickly by Arizona’s annual visit.
By the close of business on Jan. 25, after just six conference games, we’ll know if ASU has the fortitude and firepower to compete for a top-four seed in Las Vegas.
Takeaway No. 3: Isaac who did what?
His name is Isaac Bonton, and your lack of familiarity is forgiven.
Bonton grew up in Portland, spent one season at Montana State, another at Casper (Wy.) College and joined the Washington State program under new coach Kyle Smith.
Aside from several remarkably poor shooting performances, Bonton did little in WSU’s first 14 games to indicate a high-efficiency breakout was coming.
In fact, in a loss to USC on Thursday, he was 7-of-26 from the field.
Then UCLA rolled into town, and Bonton got hot at just the right time: In overtime.
The 6-foot-3 junior scored eight of WSU’s 14 points in the extra period — the barrage included this ridiculous jumper (the 1:20 mark) — to propel the Cougars to victory.
In all, Bonton was 7-of-14 from the field.
On the four occasions he has eclipsed 35 percent shooting — yep, only four times — the Cougars are 4-0.
Takeaway No. 4: The offense is a tad offensive.
Number of Pac-12 teams currently among the top-25 nationally in the Pomeroy adjusted offensive efficiency ratings: Two.
(That would be No. 6 Oregon and No. 12 Arizona.)
Number of Big Ten teams in the Pomeroy top 25: Six
Number of SEC teams: Four
Number of ACC teams: Four
We’ve seen moments of rhythm and flow in the Pac-12 that would make any team in any conference proud.
But we’ve seen long stretches of missed shots and miscues … of ghastly play … that remind us of last year’s often-unwatchable product.
Takeaway No. 5: Tantalizing talent.
Based on NBA Draft projections, one could make a strong case that Washington and Arizona possess the most talented starting lineups in the conference.
But that talent is young, and it’s erratic.
We saw both teams at their best over the weekend, as the Wildcats hammered Arizona State (by 28) and Washington dissected USC (by 32).
But we have also seen much less from each roster, and seen it recently:
UW lost to Houston on Christmas Day and dropped its conference opener to struggling UCLA.
Arizona lost to Gonzaga and St. John’s prior to the holiday break.
Back-to-back losses, then a blowout victory that suggests the possibility of a deep run in the NCAAs — we should expect many more downs-and-ups from the Wildcats and Huskies.
Takeaway No. 6: Help required, after all.
Just when we thought Payton Pritchard could carry Oregon to the regular-season title by himself — he’s having an All-American-caliber season, after all — our theory dissolved in the conference opener.
Pritchard scored 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting in Boulder, and the Ducks lost convincingly.
Nobody else scored more than 10 points as his backcourt partners, Chris Duarte and Anthony Mathis, struggled from the field and bench contributions were a bit light.
That prompted a quick check of prior Oregon box scores, and sure enough …
In the win over Memphis, forward Shakur Juiston scored a game-high 17 points
In the overtime loss to Gonzaga, Pritchard led the Ducks with 17 points but Duarte added 16.
In the win at Michigan, Pritchard scored a game-high 23 and Mathis contributed 19.
The Ducks need a second scorer. Whether it’s Mathis or Duarte or Juiston or Will Richardson, it matters not.
And they don’t need a second scorer every game.
Just in the big ones.
One look ahead:
No. 25 Arizona at No. 4 Oregon (Thursday, 6 p.m., ESPN).
It’s too early for us to assign the highest stakes to the matchup.
There’s too much uncertainty, especially in regard to Arizona’s ability to win consistently on the road, to declare the winner the frontrunner in the conference race.
But if the Wildcats maintain their composure, this could be one of the best games of the season — perhaps a preview of last Pac-12 teams standing in March Madness.
Last Thursday, we got Oregon-Colorado.
The schedule rotation wasted no time serving up high-level duels.