Pac-12 Championship with All Eyes on Vegas

Posted by Adam Butler on March 14th, 2015

It’s a championship game. One for all the marbles and the last nationally relevant game of the day. All eyes, if they’re not asleep, will be on Vegas. Because at 8:00 PM the Arizona Wildcats will play the Oregon Ducks for the third time this season. We don’t necessarily need a preview. As I noted in yesterdays historical recap of UCLA and Arizona, the scouting reports are out the window. I mean, Isaac Hamilton scored 36 points in a game. How can you prepare for March basketball? Undoubtedly you saw this:

But that’s the best part. It is March basketball and that means – more than any of the months prior – these games mean things. In tonight’s case it could mean a #1 seed for the Wildcats. Duke and Virginia both fell in the ACC semifinals, opening the door for Arizona to earn one of the big dance’s top four billings. It would be the second consecutive #1 seed for the ‘Cats but the important part would be their status in the West. That part they seemed to have locked up already. But think about this: Arizona and Wisconsin could potentially both be 31-3 with outright conference regular season and tournament championships and still be #2 seeds. If you need evidence of this year’s Dance being top heavy, there it is. Furthermore it’s Arizona’s fourth attempt at winning this thing in the last five years. Sean Miller told us to not even bother asking about what that feels like.

For Oregon, the Ducks too are playing for seeding. Now locked into the Dance, could they elevate themselves onto the #5 line? With each win their resume swells but that’s probably not the focus, right? This is a championship game. In noting that Arizona hasn’t won this thing, Dana Altman conversely has. The Ducks will be playing for their second title in three years. Clearly there are things at stake for each of these programs independent of their opponent, but this matchup itself offers intrigue beyond just the exciting hyperbole of March basketball. It’s really got something for everyone.

If you’re into the “prove ‘em wrong” narrative, we’ve got plenty of that. Oregon was picked to finish a distant seventh in this conference and spent most of the season off our radar. Sans expectations if you will. They’ve played great to get to this point, outplaying everything we thought they’d be capable of. Take that, world! We’re here to win this thing and no one believed in us! Of course that overachievement earned them some attention and took some away from Arizona. Should Sean Miller have been the Pac-12 Coach of the Year? He didn’t win it. Dana did. And should TJ McConnell have been the Pac-12 Player of the Year? He didn’t win it. Joseph did. The Wildcats are on a mission to prove the rest of the conference that they were the rightful recipients of that hardware. Further, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson hasn’t necessarily held back in his feelings about not winning the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award. Naturally he will then guard Joseph Young and we’ll be treated to a delightful matchup.

Arizona Wasn't Thrilled With This Season's Pac-12 Awards (USA Today Images)

Arizona Wasn’t Thrilled With This Season’s Pac-12 Awards (USA Today Images)

But if proving haters wrong isn’t your thing, if you’re more the vengeful type, how about Arizona basketball’s chance to avenge Arizona football’s Pac-12 championship game loss? That December contest in Santa Clara was over quick, the Ducks winning, 55-13. Rich Rodriguez has been on site here in Las Vegas all week. Think he’ll have words for the basketball team? Conversely, the Ducks are out to avenge two early losses to the Wildcats (basketball) by a combined 52 points. The Ducks are in a much different place than they were in January but losses sting. They stick around.

And if you really need more things to watch, how’s about these quick hitters:

  • Joseph Young! Two games in Vegas: 55 points on 53 percent shooting. Two games against Arizona: 24 points on 33 percent shooting.
  • Offense! Arizona has scored 1.21 points per possession against Oregon this year.
  • Defense! Oregon has scored 0.84 points per possession against Arizona this year.
  • Tempo! The teams played to an average of 70 possessions this year.
  • Balance! Arizona has had 11 double-figure scorers in two games against Oregon.

Of course if none of these narratives do it for you that’s ok, too. After all, this is a championship game and there might not be any need to add to the drama. We tune in – probably all day Saturday and Sunday; then all of Thursday through Sunday; then that again; followed by a Saturday and then a Monday – because anything can happen. Throw what you think you know out, grab a seat, enjoy. It’s championship basketball.

Adam Butler (47 Posts)

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