Four Thoughts: Washington-Oregon State & UCLA-ArizonaPosted by Connor Pelton on March 9th, 2012
The first two games of the Pac-12 reminded us of why we love this time of year. Four extremely talented teams were playing their hearts out for different things. Washington needed to avoid a bad loss to clinch an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament; Oregon State needed a win to get onto the NIT bubble; Arizona needed a win to keep alive its NCAA Tournament hopes; and UCLA needed a win to stay in the NIT field. Here are four things that stood out in the first two quarterfinal games.
- Oregon State’s resiliency (part two) — We mentioned yesterday how resilient Oregon State was when it could have just rolled over after giving up a 16-point lead against Washington State. Today was almost an exact replica of yesterday’s game (except played better). Oregon State led by as many as 15 before Washington went on a 33-10 run to lead 66-58 with 8:50 remaining. The Huskies were hitting everything they threw up, Oregon State was turning the ball over, and the pro-Washington crowd was on their feet. Once again, it looked as if the Beavers were ready to call it a season. Instead, Oregon State was able to force some turnovers and began knocking down their shots. Before you knew it, Jared Cunningham put home a layup to put the Beavers ahead 84-83 with 30 seconds to play. Over the next half-minute, both teams would miss a combined 10 free throws. But when it was all said and done, it was Oregon State dancing off the court with an 86-84 victory.
- Heating up and cooling down – One of my favorite things about Championship Week is that it tells us a lot about what is to come from different teams heading into national tournament play next week. Oregon State, while likely just heading to the NIT, is heating up at the right time and could easily make a run in that tournament. Then there’s the Huskies, who have lost two in a row to mediocre teams. Not only has their on-court play been bad, but their confidence has to be pretty low right now. That doesn’t bode well for a win in the First Four or Second Round of the NCAAs next week.
- Three NCAA Tournament teams? – It could certainly happen, even if most people around the nation think the Pac-12 only deserves one bid, much less three. But before the week started I penciled in California as a lock, and Washington making it unless it lost their quarterfinal game by double digits. It lost by two, and with 21 wins and the title of regular season champions, it should be enough to get the Dawgs into the field of 68. Then you get to Arizona, who fell off the nation’s radar after their loss to Arizona State last Sunday. But with a win tomorrow, the Wildcats would clinch a spot in the Pac-12 championship game, have 23 wins, and have quality victories over New Mexico State, California, and Colorado. Cat fans should be rooting against teams like Miami (Florida) (3/9 vs. Florida State), NC State (3/9 vs. Virginia), and Tennessee (3/9 vs. Mississippi).
- Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry step up – It’s the time of year when players who have flown under the radar all season step up to lead their teams to a big victory, and Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry did that for the Wildcats today. Hill, who came in averaging 12.5 PPG, blistered that number as he recorded 25 points, not to mention 12 rebounds. Perry, who came in averaging 11.9 PPG, had to work incredibly hard for his 16 points and 12 rebounds. On the other side of the court was UCLA, who saw its NCAA hopes vanish along with the play of their stars. David Wear only had four points in the 66-58 loss, while Joshua Smith only had seven points himself.