Eight or more Pac-12 Teams appear headed for postseason play in latest bowl projections

The Pac-12 Conference continues its rise to the top of the college football world with yet another stellar season. Despite “cannibalizing” themselves to an extent in the PAC 12 football standings – only the Oregon Ducks have fewer than 2 losses – the conference remains in contention for as many as 10 bowl bids. Seven schools currently have winning records while three – Stanford, Oregon State and California – have 5-5 records and will likely eat up the extra at-large spots in the 2014-2015 bowl season.

A look at the latest bowl predictions shows eight Pac-12 teams making bowl games, but the key will be how those three 5-5 teams finish their seasons. Oregon State, fresh off their upset of Arizona State plays at Washington before hosting rival Oregon. California, losers of 4 of their past 5 games, hosts Stanford on Saturday then a tough BYU squad to conclude the regular season while Stanford faces wraps up their season at UCLA. It is entirely possible that all three teams could finish bowl eligible with 6 or more wins and seems likely that at least two of the three will end the regular season bowl eligible.

Pac 12 Football ,

Pac 12 Football Scores & Standings Updated – Writers wanted!

While we look to add to our staff and expand out Pac 12 football coverage throughout the season, Pac12-fans.com and DFN Sports will be keeping up with the action through bowl season and beyond. Please refer to the Pac 12 scores and football standings pages for the latest going on in college football on the West Coast as the Pac 12 continues to supplant the SEC as the NCAA’s top football conference.

Anyone interested in joining our staff to cover Pac 12 football or any Pac 12 member team please email admin (at) collegesports-fans.com today.

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Pac-12 March Madness Update

PAC-12 MARCH MADNESS UPDATE

The Pacific-12 Conference, back in early January, boasted two teams that appeared to be better and more resourceful than anyone else in the league. Those two schools are the ones that have made their way to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

You remember early January, right? Two and a half months ago, the college basketball world felt very different. Arizona had not yet been roughed up by the Pac-12, stumbling against USC and getting whacked at home by California. The Wildcats hadn’t yet been swept by UCLA or outplayed twice by Colorado. As 2013 began, Arizona was ranked in the top five of the nation, due to wins over elite teams from the ACC (Miami) and the SEC (Florida). Arizona defeated a San Diego State team that turned out to be the last Mountain West Conference team remaining in the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats accumulated the high-value wins that were consistent with a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. January and February eroded the team’s overall resume, but it’s instructive to note that coach Sean Miller’s club was always capable of doing big things on the court.

There was another club that radiated promise and potential in the Pac-12. Oregon won its first seven Pac-12 games of the season. Unlike Arizona, Oregon maintained its status as a top-tier team through the month of January, but then disaster struck. Freshman point guard Dominic Artis, a lightning-quick penetrator with top-shelf ballhandling skills, suffered a foot injury that kept him on the sidelines for all of February. Without Artis, Oregon didn’t just lose its quickest player and its best safeguard against turnovers; the Ducks lost the ability to play an up-tempo game and had to reshuffle their entire rotation in ways that put players out of their normal comfort zones. Oregon proceeded to lose six conference games, enough to lose even a share of the Pac-12 regular season championship, which UCLA plucked from the Ducks’ grasp in the final week of the regular season.

Oregon, like Arizona, had to wonder if March was going to offer anything of value. Two seasons that seemed to be headed for greatness had turned so conspicuously sour, albeit for different sets of reasons.

There’s nothing sour about the outlook for the Ducks and Wildcats right now. Both schools are headed for the Sweet 16, their futures as basketball programs very much bathed in sunshine. Arizona and Oregon both received a certain measure of luck this past weekend, but good teams do something with luck in the NCAA tournament, while second-rate teams throw it away. Arizona and Oregon didn’t merely win their first two games of the Big Dance; they throttled their opponents and are breathing nothing but confidence as they prepare for the regional semifinal round of America’s favorite bracketed sporting event.

Arizona benefited from the 14-over-3 seed upset in this tournament, Harvard’s takedown of New Mexico last Thursday in Salt Lake City. However, Arizona – a popular pick to get knocked off in a 6-versus-11 seed game against the Belmont Bruins – had to reach the round of 32 in order to benefit from New Mexico’s loss. Sure enough, the Wildcats clocked Belmont by 17 points in a game that was frankly more lopsided than the final margin would suggest. Bolstered by that confident performance, Arizona played even better against Harvard, crushing the Crimson by 23. The Wildcats now go to the West Regionals in Los Angeles, where their sizable alumni base will give them a partisan crowd advantage against  regional favorite Ohio State.

Speaking of partisan crowd advantages, that’s the break Oregon received in the first two rounds, even though coach Dana Altman’s club was the single most underseeded team in the whole field of 68. Oregon should have been a No. 6 seed, but was instead made a 12 seed to the bafflement of every college basketball pundit. Yet, Oregon was kept close to home, in San Jose, Calif., and Ducks fans made a lot of noise in HP Pavilion.

They had good reason to.

The Ducks simply flourished on Thursday and Saturday in dominant wins over Oklahoma State and Saint Louis, two top-5 seeds who looked more like 12 seeds, in a piece of rich irony. Oregon’s quickness and energy overwhelmed the Cowboys and Billikens, who both fell to the Ducks by margins of at least 13 points. (SLU dropped a 17-point decision in Saturday’s round of 32.) Artis was back in full flight at the point, while Carlos Emory dunked to his heart’s content and Arsalan Kazemi pounded the boards at both ends of the floor. Damyean Dotson hit 5 of 6 threes for 23 points against Saint Louis, and Oregon’s helpside team defense was simply spectacular in both games. Oregon now gets to play the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, the Louisville Cardinals, this Friday, a rich reward for a program that is unanimously seen as being well ahead of schedule.

Elsewhere in March Madness, California gained one additional win for the Pac-12 in the NCAAs, taking down fifth-seeded UNLV in San Jose last Thursday. However, the Bears weren’t able to fight past Syracuse on Saturday, losing a close contest on a night when their two best players, Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs, combined to hit just 5 of 18 field goal attempts. Colorado and UCLA made the Big Dance, but they didn’t dance for long, bowing out in the round of 64 on Friday in Austin, Tex. Colorado was plagued by long scoring droughts in a loss to Illinois, while UCLA fell to Minnesota in a game that pitted two head coaches who both lost their jobs over the next four days (Ben Howland for UCLA and Tubby Smith for Minnesota).

In the NIT, Stanford – the defending NIT champion – fell in the second round to Alabama after beating Stephen F. Austin in the first round. Arizona State lost to Baylor in the second round after beating Detroit in the first round. Washington fell to BYU in the first round of the NIT.

 

Matt Zemek

 

 

Pac 12 Sports General

Pac-12 Conference Tournament Championship Game

Pac-12 Conference Tournament Championship Game

(3) Oregon 78 (1) UCLA 69

 

The Oregon Ducks knew that they should have been able to gain at least a share of the 2013 Pac-12 regular season championship, but they lost to lowly Utah on the final day of the regular season, handing the outright title to the UCLA Bruins. On Saturday night in Las Vegas, the Ducks redeemed their season in a big way by taking home a trophy of their own.

Oregon wrested the Pac-12 Tournament crown from UCLA in the MGM Grand Garden Arena, maintaining a modest lead down the stretch and never allowing the Bruins to get on the kind of run that propelled the top seed to this title bout in Sin City.

UCLA had overcome a 15-point second-half deficit to beat Arizona State in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Coach Ben Howland’s team then erased an 11-point second-half deficit to beat Arizona on Friday. This time, however, UCLA was not able to make more second-half magic. Oregon answered every time the Bruins tried to make a charge, as coach Dana Altman’s team – which is viewed to be a year ahead of schedule in its progression – boosted its seeding for the NCAA tournament.

The Ducks, leading by a tenuous 54-52 margin with 12:09 left, scored six quick points to push their advantage back to eight points, at 60-52, with 10:34 on the clock. UCLA closed within four, at 62-58, with 8:50 to go, but a jumper by Oregon’s Ben Carter just 19 seconds later alleviated game pressure and allowed the Ducks to remain settled on the floor. This pattern – UCLA mini-run, Oregon counter-run – continued for the next several minutes, with the Bruins failing to cement any sort of sustained leverage. The last gasp for UCLA came with 3:34 remaining, when Travis Wear missed a dunk that would have sliced a seven-point UO lead to five. The Ducks built a 71-62 cushion at the 2:36 mark of regulation and were never threatened after that point in time.

Clearly, the absence of Jordan Adams – injured for the remainder of the season in Friday’s win over Arizona – hurt UCLA in this game. The Bruins were not as effective on defense, allowing Oregon to hit 48 percent of its field goals and 50 percent of its threes (7 of 14). The Ducks were always comfortable on offense, which is exactly why they were able to score whenever they really needed to in the closing minutes.

Carlos Emory scored 20 points while Johnathan Lloyd popped in 19 for the Ducks. Arsalan Kazemi collected 12 points and 12 rebounds, enabling Oregon to hold its own in the low post. All five UCLA starters scored at least 10 points, but star wing Shabazz Muhammad hit only 5 of 13 field goals, while Wear hit only 4 of 12.

This win, as mentioned above, will give Oregon’s NCAA tournament seeding a needed boost. Oregon played without point guard Dominic Artis in the month of February, getting him back just before the Pac-12 Tournament. The Selection Committee needed to evaluate Oregon with Artis back in the lineup. When the Ducks lost at Utah on March 9, their seeding was in danger of being an 8 or a 9, putting UO in the dreaded 8-9 game. However, with this tournament title, the Ducks have surely moved out of that seed range. They are at least a 7 at this point, and very possibly a 6. A No. 5 seed is not out of the realm of possibility.

For UCLA, this loss carries the opposite effect. The Bruins, without Adams in the tournament, are going to be seeded based on that absence. This loss to Oregon will clearly prevent UCLA from getting a No. 4 seed. The question facing the Selection Committee is if this loss will bump the Bruins all the way down to a 6 seed. In all likelihood, UCLA will be a 5 seed when the brackets are revealed on Sunday afternoon.

 

Matt Zemek

 

Pac 12 Sports General

Pac-12 Conference Tournament – Semifinals

Pac-12 Conference Tournament – Semifinals

 

(1) UCLA 66 (4) Arizona 64 

UCLA advances to play (3) Oregon in the semifinals on March 15

 

The UCLA Bruins have been doubted throughout this 2012-2013 season. A team that started so poorly in November and early December was rightly called to the carpet for its deficiencies and failures, but ever since Christmas Day, this team has exceeded expectations. UCLA won the outright Pac-12 regular season championship despite trailing Oregon for most of the way. Now, the Bruins will get to play the Ducks one more time for the Pac-12 tournament title on Saturday night in Las Vegas.

Why is UCLA in the final? The Bruins, who displayed a lot of backbone over the past two and a half months, have been as resilient as ever at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. On Thursday in the quarterfinals, UCLA overcame a 15-point second-half deficit to break Arizona State’s heart. On Friday in the semifinals, UCLA stared down a 49-38 deficit at the  10-minute mark of the second half and charged back to leave the Wildcats dazed and devastated. UCLA won all three games between these two teams this season, dealing Arizona a severe disappointment in a season that has not unfolded the way the Wildcats hoped it would.

Amidst the euphoria UCLA fans must feel after their team produced another epic comeback, the Bruins must also deal with the pain of a season-ending injury for one of their best players.

Jordan Adams, who scored seven straight points to lift UCLA to a 58-58 tie with 3:24 left, was the difference-maker for the Bruins on Friday. With UCLA leading 62-61 with roughly 1:20 remaining, Adams stole the ball from Arizona’s Mark Lyons and earned two foul shots, which he calmly made with 1:13 to go. Without Adams, UCLA would not have been able to win the game on a Kyle Anderson putback basket with 24 seconds left. However, on the final sequence of the evening, with UCLA leading 66-64, Adams broke his right ankle in a scramble for a rebound after Arizona’s Grant Jerrett missed a game-typing shot near the rim. UCLA staved off Arizona, but Adams is done for the season, and as a result, the Bruins will have a hard time beating Oregon, not to mention winning a game in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

Nevertheless, UCLA’s ability to pull through adversity – which has become so pronounced in this tournament – is precisely why the Bruins can’t be counted out in the coming days, even without Jordan Adams.

(3) Oregon 64 (10) Utah 45

Oregon advances to play (1) UCLA in the championship game on March 16

The 2013 Pac-12 Tournament produced four games on Wednesday and four games on Thursday that were all in doubt heading into the final two minutes of regulation. No conference tournament had been more consistently thrilling from game to game, and after UCLA beat Arizona by two points in an electric opening semifinal on Friday in Las Vegas, the Pac-12 was going for a perfect “10 for 10″ in terms of close games.

The Oregon Ducks spoiled the fun… and they ensured that the Utah Utes will not pluck an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Oregon limited Utah to 29-percent field goal shooting on a night when the Utes’ best players, the ones who had carried the No. 10 seed into the semifinals, couldn’t hit the side of a barn. Jarred DuBois and Jordan Loveridge, who hit big shots late in Utah’s quarterfinal upset of second-seeded California, came up empty on Friday night, their legs taken away by the grind of having to play three games in three successive nights. DuBois went 0 for 8 from the field while Loveridge went 1 for 10. Utah made 15 shots all game and converted only 10 free throws, running out of offense against an Oregon team that placed four scorers in double figures.

Matt Zemek

Pac 12 Sports General

Pac-12 Conference Tournament – Quarterfinals

Pac-12 Conference Tournament – Quarterfinals

(1) UCLA 80 (9) Arizona State 75

UCLA advances to play (4) Arizona in the semifinals on March 15

 

The Arizona State Sun Devils knew that they had to win the Pac-12 Tournament to make the NCAA tournament, and with just under 17 minutes left in regulation on Thursday afternoon in Las Vegas, head coach Herb Sendek’s team was almost halfway home. A winner in the first round on Wednesday over Stanford, Arizona State grabbed a 53-38 lead over the top-seeded UCLA Bruins in the quarterfinals. A strong finish to the second half against the regular season Pac-12 champion would have enabled the Sun Devils to advance to the semifinals, two wins away from an unexpected automatic bid. Arizona State was so close to an upset that it could taste the sensation of advancing in the bracket as a No. 9 seed.

That dream, as romantic as it was, did not survive the day.

UCLA used a quick 8-0 run to shave that 15-point deficit to just seven. The Bruins contained Arizona State star Jahii Carson and made ASU’s role players hit shots in the final minutes. Jonathan Gilling, who was 5 of 11 from three-point range, missed multiple wide-open treys in the final minutes. Meanwhile, UCLA’s Travis Wear hit a go-ahead jump shot with 1:02 left and then an equally important jumper with 11 seconds left, as UCLA took a 78-75 lead into the final moments of this riveting affair. Gilling got one more high-quality look at a three, this one to tie, but he missed, and UCLA added two foul shots to move on to the semifinals against Arizona, sending Arizona State to the NIT.

Carson scored 21 for Arizona State, 13 less than what he produced in the Devils’ win over Stanford on Wednesday. Wear scored 15 for UCLA, and teammate Larry Drew stepped up big with 20.

(4) Arizona 79 (5) Colorado 69

Arizona advances to play (1) UCLA in the semifinals on March 15

The Colorado Buffaloes had beaten the Arizona Wildcats earlier this season, and in the other matchup between the two schools, Colorado lost only in the most technical sense. On Thursday at the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas, Arizona finally scored a victory over Colorado that was free of controversy and taint.

You might recall that Arizona defeated Colorado in overtime on Jan. 3, but only because a game-winning basket by Colorado’s Sabatino Chen was incorrectly disallowed by the officials, who somehow reviewed the play and concluded that Chen’s release did not beat the buzzer, when in fact it did. Colorado deserved a victory, but had the result taken from its hands by the arbiters. Essentially, Colorado had beaten Arizona twice this season, even though the scoreboard and the record books registered a split between the teams. Arizona knew that it had to play at a much higher level in order to beat Colorado in an honest fashion.

That’s exactly what the Wildcats proceeded to do. Arizona played one of its better games of the season, committing only 10 turnovers and making 14 of 16 free throws. The Wildcats hit 19 of 35 two-point shots, an indication of their patience on offense and their willingness to attack the basket. Nick Johnson was the U of A’s best player in this regard. He scored 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting, taking only two threes and making them. Spencer Dinwiddie led Colorado with 18 points, but he got half of those points from the foul line (nine). He was unable to hit three-point tries, something that limited the Buffaloes’ offense down the stretch. Arizona will now get a third chance to beat UCLA, a team that swept the Wildcats (officially, too) in the regular season.

(10) Utah 79 (2) California 69 (OT)

Utah advances to play (3) Oregon in the semifinals on March 15

There might be a Cinderella in the house at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, and its name is the Utah Utes.

The No. 10 seed is creating chaos at the Pac-12 Tournament. A year after sixth-seeded Colorado improbably won four games in four days to pluck an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, Utah is halfway toward that same achievement. The Utes used a remarkable three-point shot by Jarred DuBois with four seconds left in regulation to earn an overtime period and then beat second-seeded California in the quarterfinals. The upset of the Golden Bears lifts Utah into the semifinals on Friday night against the Oregon Ducks.

DuBois’s three-pointer was an improbable 26-foot heave that was lofted over the tall frame of Cal big man David Kravish. Cal made the mistake of not fouling, but DuBois still hit a shot that most defenses would be happy to allow in such a situation. Once the ball went through the hoop, though, Utah became a team transformed. The Utes received production from several different sources in overtime. Jordan Loveridge and Jason Washburn hit clutch jumpers to give Utah a 69-63 lead with 1:52 left. California could not hit a three down the stretch, and the Utes cruised to the finish line. Cinderella lives in Vegas, if you can possibly believe it.

(3) Oregon 80 (6) Washington 77 (OT) 

Oregon advances to play (10) Utah in the semifinals on March 15

The Washington Huskies knew that if they could get past third-seeded Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday night, they could play tenth-seeded Utah in the semifinals. Coach Lorenzo Romar’s team had a great opportunity to play for a possible automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, but it had to finish the job against a hated rival.

It couldn’t.

Oregon, trailing 64-62 with 20 seconds left in regulation, received two tying foul shots from Johnathan Loyd and forced overtime. Then, in the extra period, Oregon’s Arsalan Kazemi scored six straight points as part of an 8-0 run that gave the Ducks a 72-65 lead with 2:49 left. Washington could not mount a credible response, and the Ducks moved to the semifinals, leaving Utah as the only darkhorse left in this event.
Matt Zemek

Pac 12 Sports General

Pac-12 Conference Tournament – First Round

Pac-12 Conference Tournament – First Round

(9) Arizona State 89 (8) Stanford 88 (OT)

Arizona State advances to play (1) UCLA in the quarterfinals on March 14

The Arizona State Sun Devils endured a very difficult end to their regular season. Given a fresh start in the Pac-12 Tournament, they earned a shot with the league champion and prolonged the hope, at least for a day, that they can swipe an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Arizona State shrugged off a four-point play from Stanford in the final seconds of regulation, regrouping in overtime for a one-point win on Wednesday afternoon in Las Vegas. The victory gives the Sun Devils a date with top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals on Thursday. A win in that contest would enable Arizona State to think that a tournament championship is legitimately possible.

How did Stanford climb back from a 77-69 deficit in the final 62 seconds of regulation? The Cardinal hit two threes while Arizona State’s Evan Gordon missed the front end of a one-and-one. Stanford pulled within two points, at 77-75. After Arizona State made two foul shots, though, the Cardinal still needed four points to tie, trailing by a 79-75 count. They got them on one play with 41 seconds left in regulation. Bright – who finished with 27 points on the day – hit a fallaway three while being fouled. Bright made the foul shot – the only one Stanford attempted on Wednesday – to tie the score at 79. Arizona State missed on its subsequent possession, and when the teams went to overtime, it seemed that Stanford had the edge.

Jahii Carson made sure that Arizona State wrested back the upper hand. Carson, who led all scorers with 34 points, hit a three to give ASU the lead midway through overtime, and he added a layup to carve out a three-point edge for the Sun Devils, at 84-81, with 1:08 to go. Stanford couldn’t hit a three on its next few possessions, and with Gordon hitting five foul shots in the final minute, the Sun Devils had just enough to win. The final margin was one point, but that was only because Stanford hit a meaningless three with one second left.

Carrick Felix added 19 points and 12 rebounds for ASU, while Dwight Powell chipped in with 23 points for Stanford.

(5) Colorado 74 (12) Oregon State 68

Colorado advances to play (4) Arizona in the quarterfinals on March 14

The Colorado Buffaloes did not play well or elegantly on Wednesday against the Oregon State Beavers, but they managed to get the win they desperately needed. Colorado had lost to Oregon State this past Saturday, meaning that a second consecutive defeat at the hands of the Beavers would have jeopardized CU’s NCAA tournament chances. By nailing down this first-round win in Las Vegas, however, the Buffaloes should be fully set to make the field of 68. They will make back-to-back NCAA tournaments for the first time since 1962 and 1963, a tremendous achievement by coach Tad Boyle and his players.

Oregon State, as was the case all season long, was simply far too inconsistent and unable to maintain concentration for extended periods of time. The Beavers committed too many lapses and did not lock down Colorado’s best scorer, Spencer Dinwiddie, who popped in 20 points and hit big baskets at key moments for the Buffs. The Beavers’ season will once again end without an NCAA tournament appearance. It’s been 23 years since OSU last made the Big Dance, marking the second-longest drought in the country behind Northwestern, the one power-conference school that has never made the NCAA tournament.

(10) Utah 69 (7) USC 66

Utah advances to play (2) California in the quarterfinals on March 14

The USC Trojans, due to a strong month of February, were seen as something of a darkhorse in the Pac-12 Tournament, but their stay in Las Vegas lasted only one day. The Utah Utes knocked USC out of Sin City on Wednesday night, building a 60-47 lead midway through the second half and then hanging on for dear life in the end.

USC looked down and out when it fell behind by 13 points with 8:45 left in regulation, but the Trojans promptly unfurled a 12-0 run to trim their deficit to a solitary point, at 60-59, with 3:30 to go. It was then that Jarred DuBois stepped into the breach for Utah, hitting two mammoth jumpers, the second one being a three-point shot that extended Utah’s lead to 65-61 with 2:40 on the clock. The Utes gained strength from DuBois’s momentum-shifting shots, locking down USC on the Trojans’ next few offensive possessions. Utah gained a three-point lead with 40 seconds left, setting up a curious endgame sequence.

Despite a differential of only five seconds between the game clock and the shot clock, USC interim coach Bob Cantu decided to play defense instead of fouling Utah to extend the game. DuBois missed a 17-foot jump shot with eight seconds left, but because of the minimal time left on the clock, USC had to rush the ball up the floor. The Trojans bobbled the ball about 30 feet from the basket, and time expired with both teams diving for the orange near midcourt. A poor coaching move by Cantu will further speculation that he might not return as USC’s permanent head coach, but athletic director Pat Haden will have the final say on that matter.

(6) Washington 64 (11) Washington State 62

Washington advances to play (3) Oregon in the quarterfinals on March 14

The Washington State Cougars never stopped fighting on Wednesday night in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament. Trailing 62-47 with 8:36 left in regulation, Wazzu ran off 15 straight points to tie the score at 62-apiece with 2:50 to go. The score remained deadlocked for another 93 seconds, but the Washington Huskies managed to regain their hold on this wildly uneven affair in Las Vegas. Washington’s Desmond Simmons broke the tie on a jumper with 1:17 left. Washington State had two possessions in the final minute with a chance to tie or take the lead, but the Cougars failed to execute with any appreciable degree of precision. A turnover with 49 seconds left and an errant three with four seconds left sealed Washington State’s fate. Washington swept the season series between the teams, three games to none.
Matt Zemek

 

 

Pac 12 Sports General

PAC 12 Basketball Update

Scores

Wednesday, February 27

USC 89 Arizona 78
UCLA 79 Arizona State 74 (OT)
Colorado 65 Stanford 63

Thursday, February 28

Oregon 85 Oregon State 75
California 64 Utah 46

Saturday, March 2

USC 57 Arizona State 56
UCLA 74 Arizona 69
California 62 Colorado 46

Sunday, March 3

Washington 72 Washington State 68
Stanford 84 Utah 66

After this week of Pac-12 basketball, it seems very clear that this league will take five teams to the NCAA tournament, a considerable improvement over the two-team haul from last season, when only Colorado and California gained bids to the Big Dance. Why is the Pac-12 celebrating such a substantial tournament haul in 2013? Interestingly enough, it’s because of Colorado and California, two teams that met this past Saturday in Berkeley.

Early in February, the Pac-12’s top three teams were Oregon, Arizona and UCLA. Cal and Colorado faced serious questions about their NCAA viability, and with Cal, the NCAAs didn’t even seem to be a realistic prospect. The Golden Bears were hurtling toward mediocrity and had nothing to boast about on their resume, especially an empty slate in non-conference play. Then, out of nowhere, they began to perform. Two wins over Oregon, a road win at Arizona, a home-court thrashing of UCLA, and an unlikely comeback from a 15-point deficit against USC fueled a total transformation of the Bears, who essentially played a perfect February. Colorado, for its part, was able to win at Oregon and claim a home-court victory over Arizona, similarly improving its resume precisely when a wobbly season’s outcome hung in the balance. When Colorado and California locked horns this past weekend, two teams who could identify with each other’s struggles were able to see where they stood in relationship to each other.

Clearly, Cal is the more ascendant team at the moment. The Bears used stifling defense to shut down Colorado, making the Buffaloes’ offense look much as it did in an embarrassing loss to Utah a month ago. Cal’s effort and focus have been questioned at times this season by head coach Mike Montgomery, but on Saturday, the Bears were dialed in all the way, and now they are a sure-fire NCAA tournament team, a 180-degree reversal from a month ago. Colorado should still get in, but the Buffs might want to beat Oregon this upcoming week just to make sure.

Elsewhere in the league, UCLA beat Arizona this past Saturday to tie Oregon for the Pac-12 lead with two games left in the regular season. The Bruins took advantage of the Wildcats’ porous defense, shoving Arizona to fourth place in the conference. UCLA’s odds of at least a split title are strong in this, a redemptive season for head coach Ben Howland.

The Pac-12 team that endured an awful week was Arizona State. The Sun Devils played their way out of NCAA tournament contention by losing at UCLA and USC. Arizona State has to win the Pac-12 Tournament if it wants to make its way into the field of 68. This is a grave disappointment for a team that has lost games to DePaul and Washington, among others.

Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Staff Writer

Pac 12 Basketball ,

Pac-12 Basketball Week in Review – February 4, 2013

Weekly Pac-12 Basketball Scores

Wednesday, January 30

  • Stanford 76 Oregon 52
  • USC 75 UCLA 71 (OT)

Thursday, January 31

  • Arizona State 63 Washington State 59
  • Arizona 57 Washington 53
  • California 71 Oregon State 68

Saturday, February 2

  • Utah 58 Colorado 55
  • Washington 96 Arizona State 92
  • Arizona 79 Washington State 65
  • California 58 Oregon 54

Sunday, February 3

  • Stanford 81 Oregon State 73

This was a week when the tone, tenor and trajectory of the Pac-12 race changed to a considerable degree. The Oregon Ducks entered the top 10 of the national rankings with an unblemished conference record… and promptly dropped two games on their Bay Area road swing without freshman point guard Dominic Artis, who has been sidelined with an injury. The Ducks were thrashed on Wednesday at Stanford and then lost composure down the stretch against California on Saturday, falling back to the pack while their closest pursuers gained new hope in the race for the regular season league championship.

Oregon led California 54-48 with 4:02 remaining… and didn’t score a point the rest of the way. The Ducks couldn’t buy a bucket, which was partly the product of turnovers but mostly a result of an unwillingness to attack the rim. The Ducks settled for threes. One by E.J. Singler from the top of the key with eight seconds left was actually a high-quality look; with Cal leading 56-54, that shot by Singler could have won the game for Oregon. However, it didn’t drop, and two seconds later, the Golden Bears were able to force a held ball in the paint on the rebound. The possession arrow pointed to Cal, and the Golden Bears’ Justin Cobbs subsequently hit two free throws to ice the game.

Oregon is now tied with Arizona for the Pac-12 lead. The Wildcats swept their road swing through the state of Washington, beating the University of Washington on Thursday in Seattle and then Washington State University on Saturday in Pullman. Arizona has a lot to play for in the Pac-12. Winning the league outright would give the Wildcats a strong case for a No. 1 seed in the West Region of the NCAA tournament in 2013.

In the reshaped standings, Arizona and Oregon lead UCLA and Arizona State by one game. The Bruins could have forged a three-way tie for first place with Arizona and Oregon, but they lost at home to USC on Wednesday, a bad loss that will hurt their seeding in March. Arizona State split its trip to Washington State, beating Wazzu on Thursday before losing to UW on Saturday.

Elsewhere in the league, Colorado suffered the kind of loss that puts a team in the NIT. The Buffaloes fell at lowly Utah and watched the quality of their resume nosedive. Colorado has to do something special in the coming five weeks if it wants to be seen as an NCAA tournament team. This includes the realization that the NCAA Selection Committee might view Colorado’s controversial loss at Arizona in a favorable light; the Buffs have hurt their profile in too many ways in recent weeks. They’re headed for the NIT alongside Washington and Stanford if they don’t rack up multiple high-value wins.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

Pac 12 Basketball , ,

Pac-12 Basketball Week in Review – January 28, 2013

Weekly Pac-12 Basketball Scores

Wednesday, January 23

  • Oregon 68 Washington State 61
  • Oregon State 74 Washington 66

Thursday, January 24

  • UCLA 84 Arizona 73
  • Colorado 75 Stanford 54
  • Arizona State 98 USC 93 (OT)
  • California 62 Utah 57

Saturday, January 26

  • Arizona 74 USC 50
  • Oregon 81 Washington 76
  • Washington State 71 Oregon State 68
  • Arizona State 78 UCLA 60

Sunday, January 27

  • Colorado 81 California 71
  • Stanford 87 Utah 56

In the Pacific-12 Conference, it was a great week to be an Arizona State fan and a terrible one to be a Washington fan. The Sun Devils did a lot to help themselves in the hunt for the NCAA tournament, while Washington did even more to hurt itself in the race for a March Madness berth.

Arizona State’s best feature before this week was that it avoided a lot of bad losses. The Sun Devils, at 14-4, had suffered three defeats against ranked teams – Creighton, Oregon and Arizona. ASU’s only bad loss of the season was against DePaul on Dec. 12. Other than that, the Devils had stepped past a number of potential landmines and owned a 3-2 Pac-12 record. Heading into a two-game home swing against the Los Angeles schools, the job was plain for head coach Herb Sendek: avoid a bad loss against USC and then grab the first high-value win of the year against UCLA.

Improbably, ASU didn’t just sweep the L.A. schools out of Tempe, Ariz.; it had a harder time beating the lowly Trojans than the resurgent Bruins. USC is a team that won’t make any postseason tournament this season, while UCLA is solidly in the NCAA tournament field, barring a February collapse. Yet, Arizona State – perhaps looking ahead to UCLA – performed poorly on Thursday night, needing overtime to skate past the Trojans in a defense-optional contest. Arizona State was able to survive, though, showing the toughness of a team that attains the bottom-line result even when the level of execution leaves much to be desired. Having cleared that hurdle, ASU then saved its best game of the season for UCLA, thumping the Bruins by 18 points and making the kind of statement that will leave a lasting impression with the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee. Arizona State hounded UCLA into 35-percent field goal shooting while crushing the Bruins on the boards, 49-29 (and 13-6 on the offensive glass). Three ASU players snagged at least 11 rebounds, with Jordan Bachynski snapping down 15 to go along with 22 points. Carrick Felix gobbled up 11 boards to complement 23 points. Those two max-out efforts overwhelmed anything and everything UCLA was able to muster against the Sun Devils.

While Arizona State put itself into the NCAA tournament’s pile of “good bubble teams,” Washington went in the opposite direction. The Huskies, whose resume was similarly thin heading into this week, now have a portfolio that is appreciably damaged. Washington started the Pac-12 season with four wins but is now 4-3 and reeling after getting swept on the road by the Oregon schools. A Wednesday loss at Oregon State is a bad loss. Saturday, UW had a chance to cancel out that setback with a quality win against the league-leading Oregon Ducks, but UO stopped the Huskies down the stretch in a five-point triumph. Oregon has a two-game lead over the rest of the field, but two of the teams Oregon leads – Arizona and UC LA – will be headed for Bracketville. Washington is headed for the NIT unless something changes very quickly.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

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