Reviewing Day One at the Pac-12 Tournament

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 10th, 2016

The Pac-12 Tournament got underway on Wednesday in Las Vegas. Four games; three total blowouts; one marginal blowout. Still, lots went down. Let’s dig in quickly below.

Washington 91, Stanford 68

Are Johnny Dawkins' Days At Stanford Numbered? (AP)

Are Johnny Dawkins’ Days At Stanford Numbered? (AP)

After losing six of its final eight games in conference play, Washington looked great on Wednesday in jumping out to an early lead, turning on a press against the point-guard-less Cardinal late in the first half and cruising to a rematch with Oregon (who just beat them by 13 in Eugene two weeks ago) in style. We’ll find out plenty more about the Huskies today, but the bigger story out of this game may be at Stanford, where Johnny Dawkins is again in trouble. The Cardinal finish the season on a three-game losing streak; with eight seasons now in the books for Dawkins in Palo Alto, there has still been just one NCAA Tournament appearance. If this is indeed the end for Dawkins, it’s hard to argue it was the wrong decision in light of that fact. The irony, though, is that Dawkins probably just turned in his best season-long coaching performance. This is a Stanford team that lost their only real point guard, Robert Cartwright, to a broken arm just a week before the start of the season. Power forward Reid Travis went down eith a stress fracture after playing just eight games this year. Finally, converted point guard Christian Sanders was suspended indefinitely a week ago for the dreaded “violation of team rules.” And yet still Dawkins, with what was arguably the second-worst roster in the league, got drastic improvement out of guys like Rosco Allen, Dorian Pickens and Michael Humphrey — enough to earn eight conference wins. After a year like this one, bringing Dawkins back for another year wouldn’t be insane. That being said, it’s also true that any recruiting momentum Dawkins once had has now stalled. It may be time to get a fresh start.

Colorado 80, Washington State 56

George King was phenomenal (21 points in 23 minutes), Josh Scott was quiet but still effective, bench players like Tory Miller, Thomas Akyazili and Josh Fortune were all key contributors and the Buffaloes rolled. A rematch with Arizona — who the Buffs beat at the Coors Event Center three weeks ago — now makes for a a very intriguing Thursday afternoon matchup. Washington State ends this season on 17-game losing streak, with their last win coming on Jan. 3 over UCLA.

USC 95, UCLA 71

Steve Alford, UCLA

Steve Alford Took Responsibility For UCLA’s Poor Season, But Increased Pressure Is Coming (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

USC sweeps its three-game season series with UCLA. As Doug Haller points out, in 120 minutes of action between the two rivals, the Trojans led for 118 minutes and 13 seconds. We’ll have plenty more time to talk about the Trojans, so how about a quick post-mortem on the Bruins. A 15-17 overall record (worst since 2009-10) and 6-12 in the conference (worst since 2002-03, Steve Lavin’s last year) is bad. Overly dramatic UCLA fans are already calling for Steve Alford’s head. But let’s be realistic: he isn’t going anywhere. For one, there’s that ridiculous rollover contract with an insane buyout that Alford was given, but moreover, how about a status check of where the head coach stands in his three years in Westwood: two Sweet Sixteen appearances, one absolutely terrible season (this one) and a top-five national recruiting class headed in next season. This year, there were very legitimate problems with this roster. Their two best offensive big men couldn’t guard a cubicle. Alford’s son, Bryce, for all of his offensive talent, isn’t much of a defender either. There was no real depth. And team chemistry was pretty clearly absent. But with a generational-type point guard talent coming in next year in Lonzo Ball, another five-star recruit in T.J. Leaf due on campus (not to mention athletic center Ike Anigbogu coming along for the ride), this roster will soon get a much-needed infusion of talent and athleticism. And with only Tony Parker graduating, there will also be plenty of solid pieces returning. In short, Alford is going to be back next season, and he deserves to be. He will bring back increasingly high expectations with him, however. An underwhelming back-door Sweet Sixteen showing next season is not going to be enough to earn him another go-round. It’s highly possible that no coach in America will be under more pressure in 2016-17 than Steve Alford.

Oregon State 75, Arizona State 66

The Sun Devils season is over, disappointingly so, but Bobby Hurley’s first season in the desert was more encouraging than the record would indicate. Moving past ASU, the big story in this game was the bubblicious Beavers. Wednesday night’s win over a team off the NCAA Tournament radar does nothing to solidify their resume, but at least they avoided a bad loss. At this point, a loss tonight against California would leave the Beavers right where they started the week: squarely on the bubble. However, the struggles a number of mid-major bubble teams had in locking up auto bids (see: Wichita State, Saint Mary’s, Monmouth, and Valparaiso) do hurt Oregon State’s at-large chances. A win over Cal tonight would change this equation, but with Beaver freshman forward Tres Tinkle in a walking boot on the bench and unlikely to play at any point this week, OSU’s chances to pull the upset feel slim. If Gary Payton II and company can somehow summon the strength to pull it off, however, the Beavers will be a near-guarantee to go dancing.

AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

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