Pac-12 Burning Questions: How Great Was That Pac-12 Tournament?

Posted by Andrew Murawa & Adam Butler on March 16th, 2015

Another March to Vegas has concluded and now the Pac-12 conference takes its talents to a national stage. But, before we dig deeper into what’s coming in this year’s NCAA Tournament, Adam Butler and Andrew Murawa discuss what went down at the MGM over the weekend with a series of important questions.

Q: Brandon Ashley was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. He shot 19-of-26 across three games and clearly deserved the award. After the junior, however, there were some other great performances. Who was your non-Ashley Most Outstanding Player?

At Precisely The Right Moment, Brandon Ashley Is Playing His Best Ball (Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports)

At Precisely The Right Moment, Brandon Ashley Is Playing His Best Ball. (Casey Sapio/USA TODAY Sports)

Adam Butler: I would like the record to show that I said Brandon Ashley was fantastic. After him, the guy I’d most like to call out is UCLA’s Norman Powell. He scored 35 points on 47 percent shooting. Solid numbers, yes, but I’d most like to highlight his effort against Arizona. As the nation questions UCLA’s qualifications as an NCAA-worthy team, the committee alluded to the Bruins passing the eyeball test. If you had eyeballs on the UCLA-Arizona game, specifically. For large portions of that game he got his and his effort was similar throughout the last month of the year.

Andrew Murawa: The funny thing is that, as well as Brandon Ashley played, I could easily make a case for at least three of his teammates. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was a defensive dynamo and T.J. McConnell is above reproach. But Stanley Johnson remains an absolute freak (16.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG). And in the one game over the weekend where the ‘Cats actually had a chance to lose, it was Johnson who stepped into a three-pointer and effectively sealed the game. Sure, at times he gets caught somewhere between over-exuberance and offensive-foul-induced passivity. But when Johnson is making jumpers like he did at the MGM, the Wildcats are darn near impossible to beat.

Q: College hoops is predicated on moments: Best Pac-12 moment?

AM: Following the Arizona/UCLA semifinal, I spent the better part of the first half of the second semifinal writing about that game. By the time I looked up we were locked into a back-and-forth battle between Utah and Oregon with Conference Player of the Year Joseph Young and his main competitor for that award, Delon Wright throwing haymakers. You probably know what happened: Joe Young put in a 30-footer to win the game. But the instant that I’ll remember in my mind’s eye is all-conference defender Wright hesitate when deciding whether to pick up Young full-court. He backed off instead, retreated into the half-court, got caught behind a screen, and the rest is history.

AB: I don’t want to take the obvious route here and call it Joe Young’s buzzer beater. That was awesome. I think, however, that my favorite Pac-12 Tournament Moment is captured in this picture:



Q: What was the most fascinating statistic you noticed from the tournament’s four days?

AB: There were five different players who set career scoring highs in Las Vegas. Each of David Kravish (28), Elijah Stewart (26), Brandon Ashley (24), Isaac Hamilton (36), and Brandon Taylor (26) put on a show in Vegas. I have no idea how to contextualize this — whether this is something that’s normal in conference tournaments or what. But it really feels like a lot of players for one weekend of action. Also, only one of these dudes lost in their big game (Taylor, to Joe Young’s buzzer beater).

AM: I spent much of the weekend sitting next to Butler, who is extremely adept at finding interesting stats. I’ll avoid stealing any of the great ones he came up with, but here’s one that I’ve been interested in for awhile, highlighted by that Oregon/Utah finish. The Ducks are 9-2 in games decided by two possessions or less this season the Utes are 2-4. I could extend that to last year’s team and make that number appear worse, but aside from simple luck, I think there is something inherent in those numbers, something that still makes me scared as hell of Utah’s chances going forward.

Q: Are Walton selfies the hottest thing going?

AM: Walton selfies are one thing. But my favorite new trend is the acceptability of wearing tie-dyed t-shirts along press row. Sign me up!



AB: It’s obviously really hard to miss a seven-foot man in the crowded concourses and walkways of Las Vegas. He’s going to get noticed. But the thing about Walton that leads to the ubiquity of photos with him is that he’s remarkably patient. He agrees to seemingly every request that comes his way. He’s kind about it and incredibly thoughtful.

Q: In a digestible number of words, convince readers why they need to be a part of this tournament.

AB: This is West Coast basketball’s Coachella, or Consumer Electronics Show, or ComiCon or whatever large assembly of like-minded people you want to equate it to. The key in understanding these analogies is that these go far beyond the immediate product. Coachella is bigger than a concert; it’s a cultural and fashion scene. The Consumer Electronics Show isn’t just a tradeshow; it’s an ideas exchange. ComiCon isn’t just a really strange phenomenon that I really can’t figure out, it’s – well – I just really don’t get it. Alas, every single bar or casino I stepped into over the weekend was swarming with Pac-12 basketball fans. I discussed the prospects of Ivan Rabb while doubling down. We rehashed last year’s championship game, our favorite Washington State Cougars, the prospects of Stanford’s and Washington’s basketball programs, and gave full credit to UCLA. Being here is to be a part of the unpredictability of March. Be here because you don’t know what’s going to happen. I could lay out the possibilities for you but there’s no guarantee other than you’ll enjoy yourself.

AM: There are so many reasons that the Pac-12 Tournament is necessary. First, if you are a fan of any other team in the conference other than Arizona, please, please, please, start coming to this tournament if only to deprive another incessant U-of-A-chanter of a seat. (I kid, I kid. Sort of.) But really, here’s what we’ve got in championship week in Vegas: three of the top 10 conferences in America holding their respective conference tournaments down the street from each other, with the WAC also getting in the action. Roll in on Monday. Take in the WCC semis and then the championship game the next night. Then on Wednesday, opening round action begins in the Mountain West and in the Pac-12. Take your pick of those tourneys for the rest of the week. And, then, in the years when the powers-that-be get it right (like this season), you can take in both conference’s title games on the same day. And in-between, pull up a seat in a sports book and watch whatever other game you want to see. Sure, you’re probably not going to sleep much, but that’s overrated anyway.

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