Pac-12 M5: Valentine’s Day EditionPosted by AMurawa on February 14th, 2013
- Last night began the last month of the regular season in the Pac-12. With just four weeks of conference play remaining, everybody is jockeying for placement in advance of March, which makes Arizona State’s loss at Utah last night all the more troubling. For a team already right on that borderline between the NIT and the NCAAs, the Sun Devils rebounded from a lackluster first half that saw them trailing by seven at the break to build up an eight-point lead with under eight minutes to go and a six-point lead with under three to go. And then ASU proceeded to score exactly one basket over its final seven possessions, while allowing the Utes to score 13 points over that same stretch. And in the process, the Sun Devils may have given away the game that could prevent them from dancing on Selection Sunday.
- Meanwhile, Oregon has somewhat righted their ship, going into Seattle last night and knocking off Washington for its second-consecutive victory following a three-game slide. Jonathan Loyd was the big star, filling in for Dominic Artis with a big 11-point second half (making for a season-high in points) to help the Ducks cruise past the Huskies. However, at the end of the game with the outcome no longer in doubt, Loyd took a hard foul and appeared to sustain a knee injury as he remained on the ground in pain for some time. After the game, Loyd said that he thinks he’ll be okay and could be in uniform this weekend for Oregon’s trip to Pullman. Artis, meanwhile, will miss one more game but is expected to return next week when the Ducks host the Bay Area schools.
- Despite three Final Fours in his past, the drumbeat for the end of Ben Howland’s era as head coach at UCLA grows louder by the week, and last week’s scathing commentary by Bruin legend Bill Walton on an ESPN telecast has ratcheted up the pressure. But, as Ryan Menezes of the Daily Bruin writes, there are more things wrong in the UCLA program that just the head coach. This season in a newly renovated Pauley Pavilion, the Bruins have struggled to fill the house that Wooden built and have often played in front of sparse crowds. Is that a response to Howland’s style of play and recent lack of success? Or is that just the nature of the beast for an aging fan base of a program whose glory days are 40 years in the past? I know this much: Even in the depths of the Billy Gillispie days, Kentucky was still leading the nation in attendance. Even when North Carolina was preparing to divorce Matt Doherty, they were still putting fannies in 18,000-plus seats per night. Even when Mike Davis was turning in a sub-.500 year in Bloomington or Tom Crean was limping home to a 10-win season, they were doing so in front of 16,000 Indiana fans. UCLA fans in no way belong in the same discussion as those blue-blood fan bases (for comparison, as UCLA went to the NCAA Tournament in 2011, they couldn’t reach an average of 8,000 fans in attendance), let along up-and-coming programs like San Diego State in their own backyard. That? That’s on the fans, not the coach.
- In advance of tonight’s rematch with Colorado, Arizona is looking forward to playing with Nick Johnson back at full strength. You see, a couple weeks back when the Wildcats traveled to the Washington schools, Johnson was significantly weakened by a stomach virus. And, over the past couple weeks, his numbers have dropped, in part due to that illness; since the virus reared its ugly head prior to the Washington State game, Johnson hasn’t scored in double figures and is just 5-of-18 from the field, quite a dip for a guy who has otherwise shot a better than 53% eFG this season. But, Johnson assures the Daily Wildcat that he is ready to go this week for the trip to the Rockies.
- As for Colorado, they’ve waited 42 days for their crack at revenge against Arizona for their controversial loss in Tucson. Not that they’ve been counting or anything. The same evening after refs waved off Sabatino Chen’s apparent game-winning buzzer-beater, the C-Unit has been planning for the Valentine’s Day Massacre in the Coors Event Center. And in the interim, as the Buffaloes have turned in lackluster performances against Arizona State, UCLA, Washington and UCLA, there has been talk that the team was still suffering from the hangover from that game. Well, tonight’s the night they get to take their frustration out, and they better do it well. Because if there’s one thing worse than thinking you’ve had a game stolen from you, it is spending 42 days waiting for your chance to gain revenge and then failing when the chance is finally presented to you.