Pac-12 Tourney Underwhelms on the Way to a Much-Anticipated Arizona/UCLA Final

Posted by AMurawa on March 15th, 2014

Let’s be blunt: through ten of the 11 games in the Pac-12 Tournament, this has not been a particularly thrilling tourney. Just three games have been decided by single figures; the other seven games have had final margins of an average of more than 20 points. Neither Arizona nor UCLA, the two teams that will appear in today’s championship game, have been tested at all, with the Wildcats winning their two games by an average of 26 points and the Bruins relatively sneaking by with an average margin of victory of just 23 points. But none of that matters now. In a season where Arizona and UCLA were scheduled to play just once (at Pauley Pavilion, way back on January 9), the basketball gods have seen fit to correct such an egregious oversight by the conference schedule-makers and arranged for the conference’s two elite programs to get another crack at it. As Adam Butler so eloquently put it, it is the title game we need and deserve.

Arizona and UCLA Will Meet In The Pac-12 Title Game For Just The Second Time Ever (Julie Jacobson, AP Photo)

Arizona and UCLA Will Meet In The Pac-12 Title Game For Just The Second Time Ever (Julie Jacobson, AP Photo)

We need it, because not only has it become clear that these are, in fact, the two best teams in the conference, but also because missing out on a return game of the conference’s best rivalry in the name of progress is certainly an example of progress not being made. And, we deserve it because, after the past handful of years (hitting rock bottom in 2011-12 when the regular season conference champion was shipped to the NIT), Pac-12 basketball diehards have earned a little good karma. Arizona/UCLA in a conference championship game will occur for only the second time in history (the last time was 1990 – the final conference tournament for more than 10 seasons), and it will give us a chance to relive and come to terms with last year’s controversial semifinal game.

Arizona will head into the title game on an absolute roll, playing arguably their best ball of the season at precisely the right time, as somewhere in the neighborhood of a seven-point favorite. In their two Pac-12 Tournament games so far, the ‘Cats have allowed just 0.72 points per possession. Aaron Gordon seems to be on a crusade to highlight the lunacy of his absence from the Pac-12 All-Defensive team, with five blocks and five steals punctuating his versatile and harassing defense. He’s capable of dominating a Wear twin if Sean Miller decides to go that way, or he could make things very uncomfortable for Kyle Anderson if the ‘Cats decide to check the UCLA point guard/power forward with their most versatile defender. Meanwhile, Nick Johnson (who did make the Pac-12 All-Defensive team) has already this season showed his ability to completely lock up Jordan Adams. In fact, in that first match-up, the Wildcats’ held Anderson and Adams to a combined 10-of-30 from the field along with five turnovers. Furthermore, the Wear twins were largely invisible, combining for 10 points and four boards in 40 minutes of action. These are the types of things this Arizona defense is capable of doing, namely shutting off the water for a handful of key cogs on the opposition.

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Rounding Up Pac-12 Quarterfinal Thursday

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 14th, 2014

The big talk around the conference tournament on Wednesday was Utah’s potential. A KenPom darling ranked in the upper 30s by that metric with a history of playing everybody – including conference elite Arizona – tough, they were usually somewhere around the “Next Four Out” section of most bracketology projections. A win over Arizona in Thursday’s quarterfinal, and maybe they jump California for the seventh Pac-12 team in line for an NCAA bid. For the first segment of the game Thursday afternoon, things were fine, with the Wildcats holding a 7-6 lead at the under-16 timeout. And then. Well. Adjectives fail to adequately describe, so let’s jump right to the numbers: over the remainder of the half, Arizona outscored the Utes 27-6 and 44-11 over the next roughly 23 minutes of game time. At the half, Utah was averaging less than a point every two possessions (0.48 PPP). Arizona was grabbing 92.9% of defensive rebound opportunities and 53.8% on the offensive end. They were leading 8-0 in fast break points, 9-2 in points off turnovers and 16-8 in points in the paint. Three Utes scored in the first half, and their top-three leading scorers on the year – Delon Wright, Jordan Loveridge and Brendan Taylor – were not among them. We could go on.

Arizona's Defensive Dominance Was Displayed Early and Often Thursday Afternoon (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

Arizona’s Defensive Dominance Was Displayed Early and Often Thursday Afternoon (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

There are more stats to be spouted about how dominant the Wildcats were on Thursday afternoon, but there will be more opportunities for them to show off for the rest of the country. Put simply, if the Arizona team that showed up today, and that showed up a couple weeks back dominating the Bay Area schools, continues to be the default Wildcat team, they’ve got a very good chance of cutting down the nets in April. As for Utah, they’ll have an opportunity to continue their season in the NIT, and they’ll be a very tough out there. And next year, behind Wright and Loveridge, they’ll be a favorite for an upper-division Pac-12 finish and an NCAA Tournament invitation. Neither of those things, however, give them much solace now.

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Pac-12 M5: 03.11.14 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 11th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. The Pac-12 announced its conference awards on Monday, and we’ll go right to Doug Haller of AZ Central for the details of an Arizona-heavy set of awards. To begin with, as expected, Nick Johnson of Arizona took down the conference Player of the Year award, and his head coach Sean Miller went home with the Coach of the Year award, standard fare for a champion that won the conference by three games. But the Wildcats weren’t done there, as Aaron Gordon won Freshman of the Year and earned All-Pac-12 first-team honors along with Johnson (nevermind for now the fact that the Pac-12 insists on putting ten guys on its first team). Elsewhere, T.J. McConnell earned second-team honors (which is the equivalent in reality to third-team) and a spot on the All-Defensive team, while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was a member of the All-Freshman team. But the state wasn’t done there, as Arizona State senior Jordan Bachynski also earned a big award, taking home the Defensive Player of the Year award.
  2. As we turn our collective eye towards Las Vegas and the conference tourney, for Washington, the challenge is clear: win the Pac-12 Tournament or consider NIT (or worse) options. And in order to do that, they’ll need to repeat a feat that only Colorado has accomplished in the nine years since the conference went to first-round byes in 2006: win four games in four days. What are the odds that the Huskies can get that done? Well, KenPom.com puts the odds at 28% that they’re even able to knock off their first-round opponent Utah, with the Huskies’ suspect defense being the primary disadvantage against the Utes.
  3. Washington’s first-round opponent, Utah, is in a similar boat. There is an outside chance that if things fall just exactly right and if the Utes reach the Pac-12 championship game and give a good showing there that they can sneak in as an at-large to the First Four – but nobody should count on that. In order to have any confidence that they’re going to hear their name called on Selection Sunday, the Utes need to win this thing. But for a Ute team that is used to playing with everybody on their schedule (of ten losses, seven were by one possession or an overtime game, an eighth was by four points and just two were by more than four points in regulation), they’re confident. As sophomore guard Brandon Taylor puts it, according to Dirk Facer of Deseret News: “We know that we can compete with everybody in the league.”
  4. Continuing our theme of Pac-12 teams that will need to win four games in four days to win the conference tournament, Oregon is in that boat with Washington and Utah. But unlike those teams, even if the Ducks come up short, and likely even if they lose in their opening game, the Ducks will probably wind up dancing. Still, the Ducks have standards to live up to, as in every Pac-12 Tournament that has been played in Las Vegas, Oregon has come out the champion. Sure, that’s only one tournament, but still. The good news for the Ducks is they are the hottest team in the conference right now, with seven straight wins under their belts. The bad news is that unlike last year when they got a first-round bye, they’ll have to get started on day one with a game against in-state rival Oregon State.
  5. Then there’s Colorado who, as the fifth-seed, earns the advantage of getting to play last-place USC in their opening round tournament game. They’re likely in regardless of what goes down in Vegas, but avoiding a bad loss against the Trojans only makes sense. For head coach Tad Boyle, the prescription, according to Tom Kensler of The Denver Post, is to not play tight but to “play with an edge and understand that… every possession could be our last.”
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Pac-12 Superlatives: Coach, Newcomer, Freshman of the Year and More

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 10th, 2014

We announced our Player of the Year and All-Conference teams earlier today, now to dig a little bit deeper with the rest of our All-Conference Awards.

Coach of the Year

Sean Miller, Arizona – This was a no-brainer, as all three of our voters opted for the head coach of the conference champion. Not only did Miller put together a heaping pile of talent in Tucson, but he’s got the group to all buy in to a single goal. They’re all committed defensively, they work together as a single unit, covering for each other. And when Brandon Ashley went down with a broken foot in February, Miller was able to shift on the fly, remaking his team to give it the best chance come March. Many times, a coach is punished in these Coach of the Year votes for having the best talent. This time around, despite Miller having the best team in the league, there should be little argument that he deserves the nod.

Sean Miller Has Done A Brilliant Job Molding The Talented Wildcats Into A True Team (Arizona Athletics)

Sean Miller Has Done A Brilliant Job Molding The Talented Wildcats Into A True Team (Arizona Athletics)

Newcomer of the Year

Delon Wright, Utah – In his first year in Salt Lake City after a stint at the City College of San Francisco, Wright was something of an unknown coming into the season. And then, as the Utes were running roughshod over undermanned opponents in the early schedule, it was hard to tell if Wright’s ridiculous numbers were legitimate. Four months later, there is no such worry;  not only are his numbers legit, he’s one of the handful of best players in the league. He led his team in scoring, assists, steals, blocks and minutes. He posted a 59.7 eFG%, an absolutely ludicrous number for a point guard. And he helped shift the climate in the Huntsman Center from that of a program used to losing to one that now expects to win.

Defensive Player of the Year

Nick Johnson, Arizona – Our three voters are a small sample size, perhaps accounting for this surprising result, but Johnson edged Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski on the basis of his hounding perimeter defense for the most efficient defensive team in the nation.

Nick Johnson: He's Not Just Our Player of the Year, He's Our Defensive Player Of the Year (Christian Petersen, Getty Images)

Nick Johnson: He’s Not Just Our Player of the Year, He’s Our Defensive Player Of the Year (Christian Petersen, Getty Images)

Freshman of the Year

Aaron Gordon, Arizona – So often, the talk about Gordon is about the things he can’t do, and admittedly, he’s a pretty poor shooter. But, he wouldn’t be our unanimous Freshman of the Year and a second-team all-conference guy if he were defined strictly by what he can’t do. Because, what he can do is pretty special. Athletically alone, he is in the upper 1% of all Division I college basketball players. His versatility – being able to guard not only fours and fives like Josh Scott and Dwight Powell, but also ones and twos like Chasson Randle and Spencer Dinwiddie – allow the Wildcats to switch everything defensively and match up with whatever the opponent puts on the court without tweaking their own personnel. And then his ability to rebound and finish around the rim, or his keen passing eye or developing game off the bounce? It is no wonder NBA scouts drool over his potential.

Sixth-Man of The Year

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona – What you want most from a sixth-man is the willingness to do whatever is needed to help the team achieve its goals. Sometimes that means a gunner coming in off the bench to provide instant offense, like Jason Calliste at Oregon. Or a complete change of blood like Bryce Alford and Zach LaVine provide at UCLA. But Hollis-Jefferson is the consummate sixth-man, so much so that when Brandon Ashley went down for the year, Hollis-Jefferson was ready and willing to step into the starting lineup. And then, three games later, when Sean Miller decided it would be better for him to return to his role off the bench, he did so without complaint. Oh, and it also helps that he’s really good, a terrific defender that fits in perfectly with the rest of the squad, an aggressive rebounder and a skilled slasher.

Most Improved

Davonte Lacy, Washington State – On a team that lost go-to scorer Brock Motum, the junior guard took over the reigns as the Cougars best offensive option. His scoring average jumped from 10 PPG to almost 20, his shooting percentages went up across the board and his usage numbers skyrocketed as well. It may not have been the year Ken Bone envisioned, but it certainly wasn’t Lacy’s fault.

All-Freshman Team

  • Aaron Gordon, Arizona
  • Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington
  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona
  • Zach LaVine, UCLA
  • Bryce Alford, UCLA

All-Defensive Team

  • Nick Johnson, Arizona
  • Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State
  • Aaron Gordon, Arizona
  • Delon Wright, Utah
  • Jordan Adams, UCLA
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RTC Bracketology: March 10 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on March 10th, 2014

Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) is Rush the Court’s resident bracketologist. He will update his brackets at least twice a week through the rest of the regular season here at RTC, but his updated brackets can be viewed daily at Bracketology Expert. As we approach March Madness, he’ll also provide occasional blind resumes. Evans has been ranked by the Bracket Matrix as the nation’s 11th-best bracketologist out of hundreds of entries.

It’s the best week of the year as we all count down the hours to Selection Sunday. It may take every minute to figure out this field, which continues to produce loops with some of the stunning losses we’ve seen over the last few weeks. On Sunday alone, two potential No. 1 seeds lost  following a Saturday when Kansas and Arizona lost. One quick note for this bracket: Wisconsin’s loss to Nebraska on Sunday night moved the Badgers off of the No. 1 seed line. Villanova is now the final No. 1 seed and I believe firmly that if the bracket was released today, the Wildcats would join FloridaWichita State and Arizona on the top line. For the first time in over a month of bracketing, I feel like those four teams are relatively clear-cut choices on the top line, but over the next six days that is certain to change. The Gators and Shockers are locked in as No. 1s but Arizona and Villanova could still make things interesting in conference tournament play. Meanwhile, the Badgers loss was Nebraska’s gain. The Cornhuskers jumped up to a No. 10 seed in this bracket and will likely end up in the No. 10-12 range on Selection Sunday.

The NCAA Tournament Picture (full bracket below)

  • NCAA Tournament Locks (36): Arizona, Florida, Wichita State, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Kansas, Duke, Villanova, Virginia, Creighton, Michigan, San Diego State, Iowa State, Michigan State, Louisville, North Carolina, Saint Louis, Cincinnati, UCLA, Texas, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Kansas State, VCU, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Iowa, Ohio State, George Washington, Memphis, Arizona State, New Mexico, Oregon, Baylor, SMU, Oklahoma State
  • NCAA Tournament Auto-Bids (5): Harvard (Ivy), Eastern Kentucky (OVC), Wichita State (MVC), Mercer (A-Sun), Coastal Carolina (Big South)

The Bubble Picture

  • Projected Bubble Spots Left: 10
  • Bubble In (10): Colorado, Stanford, Nebraska, Saint Joseph’s, Dayton, Xavier, California, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Tennessee
  • Bubble Out: BYU, Arkansas, Georgetown, Providence, Green Bay, Florida State, St. John’s, Belmont, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia

Potential Bid Thieves Left (70)

  • American (5): Houston, Rutgers, UCF, Temple, South Florida
  • ACC (10): Clemson, N. C. State, Florida State, Maryland, Miami (FL), Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Boston College, Virginia Tech
  • A-10 (9): Dayton, St. Joseph’s, Richmond, La Salle, St. Bonaventure, Rhode Island, Duquesne, George Mason, Fordham
  • Big East (8): St. John’s, Xavier, Marquette, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Butler, DePaul, Providence
  • Big 12 (3): West Virginia, Texas Tech, TCU
  • Big Ten (6): Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Penn State, Northwestern, Purdue
  • Mountain West (9): UNLV, Nevada, Boise State, Wyoming, Fresno State, Utah State, Colorado State, Air Force, San Jose State
  • Pac-12 (5): Utah, Washington, Oregon State, Washington State, USC
  • SEC (12): Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, LSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina, Mississippi State
  • WCC (3): BYU, San Francisco, St. Mary’s

The NIT Picture

  • There will be more to come on the NIT bracketology front as this week progresses, so stay tuned. I’ll likely also try to throw together CBI and CIT fields.
  • Clinched NIT Bids (5): Belmont (OVC), Florida Gulf Coast (A-Sun), Davidson (SoCon), Vermont (America East), Green Bay (Horizon)

The Projected NCAA Tournament Field (March 10, 2014 at 10:13 AM CT)

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RTC Top 25: Regular Season FINAL Edition

Posted by Walker Carey on March 10th, 2014

With apologies to Penn and Princeton, the college basketball regular season came to a satisfying end on Sunday. This regular season was defined by unexpected results and uncertainty near the top of the rankings, but #1 Florida, #2 Wichita State, and #3 Arizona end the regular season as the consensus top three teams in America among our pollsters. The Gators capped off their 29-2 overall and 18-0 conference record with blowout wins over South Carolina and Kentucky. Will they or won’t they? That has been the question all season long about the second-ranked Shockers and their pursuit of perfection entering the NCAA Tournament. Gregg Marshall’s squad confidently answered that question over the weekend with a fairly easy stroll to the Missouri Valley Tournament title and a perfect 34-0 record. While Florida and Wichita State used the final week of the season to showcase their excellence, Arizona experienced its third setback of the season in a loss at Oregon on Saturday. However, the Wildcats still possess a sterling 28-3 overall record, which our pollsters fully agreed was good enough for the third spot in our final regular season poll. The quick n’ dirty analysis of this week’s poll is after the jump.

rtc25 reg season FINAL

Quick n’ Dirty Analysis.

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RTC Bracketology: March 8 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on March 8th, 2014

Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) is Rush the Court’s resident bracketologist. He will update his brackets at least twice a week through the rest of the regular season here at RTC, but his updated brackets can be viewed daily at Bracketology Expert. As we approach March Madness, he’ll also provide occasional blind resumes. Evans has been ranked by the Bracket Matrix as the nation’s 11th-best bracketologist out of hundreds of entries. 

This is a quick update to the March 3 field. Remember, this weekend we are awarding automatic bids. The race for the final No. 1 seed is heating  up and will come down to conference tournament play over the last few days of the season. For now, my final No. 1 seed is Wisconsin and I believe that if the Badgers win the Big Ten Tournament, they are likely be on the No. 1 line.

Kansas, Virginia and Villanova also have strong cases. Like I wrote in my last update, I think Florida, Arizona and Wichita State are pretty much locks to be No. 1 seeds. The only way I can see that changing is if Florida loses to Kentucky and again in the SEC Tournament, Arizona follows suit, and Wichita State loses in the MVC Tournament. Plus at least two teams from the Wisconsin, Kansas,Virginia and Villanova group would need to win their conference tournaments. That would really make things interesting. I’ve never missed a No. 1 seed and don’t plan to start this year, so I’m honestly hoping that last scenario does not happen.

First Four Out: Tennessee, Missouri, BYU, Providence

bracketmarch8

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Marching to Vegas: The Final Steps

Posted by Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) on March 7th, 2014

Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) of Pachoops again will be joining us all year, providing us with his weekly take on our favorite conference, as we begin the March to Las Vegas.We find ourselves on the penultimate day of the basketball season. A season, like those before it, that has seen highs and low, cliché, cliché, cliché. I’ve been critical of the Pac, supportive of the Pac, predictive, analytical, and funny. I’ve defended it multiple times and sang praise, too. I’ve linked this entire lead. But the point here is that we’re here. The calendar has turned to our favorite month. Our March to Vegas is over. Our season embarks into the madness of sudden death and the promise of possibility. Tournaments begin (ultimately two of them) with abundant hope and now I’m getting lost in Waltonian hyperbole; but if not hyperbole then what is March for? I mean, look at our first and only conference games thus far in the month. The home and road teams have nearly split their contests. To date, home teams had been winning at a greater than 66 percent clip. Suddenly we get to the third month on the calendar and nothing becomes predictable. Each of Wednesday’s road teams won and then, in perhaps the most unexpected of outcomes, the Trojans got their second victory. Indeed we’re knee deep in the madness and we aren’t even in Vegas yet.

Behind A High-Flying Arizona Team, The Pac Is Back, Right? (Ralph Freso, Getty Images North America)

Behind A High-Flying Arizona Team, The Pac Is Back, Right? (Ralph Freso, Getty Images North America)

But before we get there, I’d like to revisit our first thought. When I lauded that the Pac was back before nary a game was played. Is it back? Or, perhaps more aptly said, has it returned? With the benefit of hindsight, I’d say it is. Look at what we have: arguably the best crop of guards in the nation and the best defense the nation has to offer. We watched the emergence of Utah, a budding program under the hard-nosed and determined watch of Larry Krystkowiak. And have you watched Delon Wright? I didn’t see that coming and if you did, link me to what you said about it because I’d like to buy you a drink. What a phenomenal player who is coming back next season. And still has this season to play (I see you, Vegas). Further, we watched what I believe to be the best backcourt in the country. Or at least the most dynamic. Between Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, is there anything they can’t do? And if there is, they could just toss it up to Zach LaVine and it might be all right.

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Pac-12 M5: 03.07.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on March 7th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. At this point last season, UCLA sat at 22-7 and head coach Ben Howland was a dead man walking. The Bruins came into yesterday’s game at Washington with the same exact record, but the coaching situation could not be more different (no matter what Bruins Nation might say). Steve Alford has stepped up the program’s recruiting presence locally, and with the players having fun, the team is definitely going in the right direction. They’ve picked up big wins against the likes of Arizona State, Colorado, and Oregon, and while those haven’t exactly translated into an uptick in attendance, I don’t know if any coach could change that. He’s also got one of the frontrunners for Pac-12 Player of the Year running point guard in sophomore Kyle Amderson, who is helping things immensely in Westwood. The Bruins will close the regular season Saturday night at Washington State. They’ll look to protect the #5 seed that Joe Lunardi currently projects them as.
  2. UCLA improved to 23-7 on the 2013-14 campaign with a 91-82 road win in Seattle last night. Washington actually led 45-41 after an offense-filled first half before the Bruins woke up. Tied at 64 with a little over ten minutes remaining, Kyle Anderson put home a layup to put the visitors in front. That would initiate an 11-3 run, giving them just enough separation to put the Dawgs down. Sophomore guard Jordan Adams dropped a career high 31 points in the victory, which clinched the #2 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament for Alford’s squad.
  3. Last February, Adidas unveiled these insane uniforms for six teams to use in the postseason, including UCLA. So when I heard yesterday that the company was rolling out another set of special March uniforms, I was excited to see what was in store. They decided to go with a much more subdued approach this time around, but the results are still decent. You can view the two Bruin jerseys here, and the rest of the set at this link.
  4. A lot of teams suffer some type of burnout at this point in the season, but few have seen a collapse like California this season. The Golden Bears have lost four of their last five, two at home, and all by an average of 17.5 PPG. “Emotionally, we’re really spent,” coach Mike Montgomery said. “We’re having a hard time emotionally sticking with this thing right now.” If you’re looking for a #HOTBRACKETTIP, you may want to avoid picking these guys very deep in a couple of weeks.
  5. Below is our panel’s selections for the final weekend of regular season Pac-12 basketball. We head to the Willamette Valley for our game of the week, where two of us are taking host Oregon, and Adam sticks with his Wildcats. Drew is taking a few road warriors in Colorado, Arizona State, and UCLA on Saturday, while I’ve got all home teams except for the Bruins, who will be heavy favorites on the Palouse.
    Game Connor (34-7) Drew (30-11) Adam (29-12)
    Utah @ Stanford Stanford Stanford Stanford
    Arizona @ Oregon Oregon Oregon Arizona
    Arizona State @ Oregon State Oregon State Arizona State Oregon State
    USC @ Washington Washington Washington Washington
    Colorado @ California California Colorado California
    UCLA @ Washington State UCLA UCLA UCLA
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Pac-12 Bubble Watch Heading Into the Final Weekend

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 6th, 2014

There are 10 days until Selection Sunday and no fewer than nine Pac-12 teams have designs on crashing March Madness over the next couple of weeks. Let’s take a look at where each stands heading into the final weekend of regular season play.

Locks

  • Arizona – Right now they’re an obvious #1 seed. A loss at Oregon and a loss in their opening round Pac-12 Tournament game (to Utah or another team like Cal, Stanford, Utah or Washington) and they drop to a #2 seed; otherwise, the Wildcats have earned the #1 seed in the West, with a San Diego/Anaheim route to Dallas. Heck, even if they do find a way to drop to a #2 seed, they’re still in all likelihood bound for San Diego and Anaheim.
Arizona Looks Locked Into A San Diego -> Anaheim Path To The Final Four (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

Arizona Looks Locked Into A San Diego -> Anaheim Path To The Final Four (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

  • UCLA – Let’s not pretend the Bruins have finished strongly, with two losses in their last three games. They finish up with two on the road (tonight at Washington and Saturday at Washington State), but the Bruins are in the NCAA Tournament. Finish with a good run and they wind up around a #5 seed (a #4 isn’t out of the question, but unlikely); finish with a 1-1 trip to Washington and an early exit in the Pac-12 Tourney and they’re more apt to be in the #8/#9 game.

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Otskey’s Observations: Episode XV, Player and Coach of the Year Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on March 6th, 2014

Each week throughout the season, RTC columnist Brian Otskey (@botskey) will run down his observations from the previous week of college basketball.

As the college basketball regular season wraps up, I thought this would be a good time to run down my Coaches of the Year and Players of the Year in each of the major conferences. Here goes…

ACC

  • POY: T.J. Warren, NC State (24.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.8 SPG). Warren has been a tremendous bright spot on an otherwise mediocre Wolfpack squad. Since a rough four-point game against Virginia on January 11, Warren has scored at least 20 points in every game he has played (he missed one game due to injury). At 6’8” and an athletic 215 pounds, Warren is a match-up problem for nearly every opponent. He has had eight 30+ point games (only one fewer than Doug McDermott), including Monday’s 41-point explosion in a road win at Pittsburgh. Some may disagree because NC State is not at the top of the ACC, but a season like this where Warren brought it night after night deserves special recognition.
Tony Bennett has done a tremendous job at Virginia. (virginiasports.com)

Tony Bennett has done a tremendous job at Virginia. (virginiasports.com)

  • COY: Tony Bennett, Virginia (25-5, 16-1 ACC). Bennett’s teams have always been terrific defensively and this one is no exception. Ranked third nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, Virginia has allowed only four ACC opponents to score 60 or more points this season. Even in a league with a tempo as slow as this year’s ACC, that is a remarkable statistic. Virginia was a trendy surprise pick but I am not sure anyone thought it would turn out to be this good. The Cavaliers were picked fourth in the preseason ACC poll but currently hold a three-game lead over Syracuse and North Carolina with just one game to play.

American

  • POY: Russ Smith, Louisville (18.0 PPG, 4.5 APG, 2.0 SPG). This was a really close call between Smith and Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick but I am giving Smith the slightest of edges. Both mean so much to their respective teams but Smith’s decision to return to Louisville for his senior year has proven to be a wise one. Smith is enjoying the best shooting season of his career (46.8 percent) and has matured greatly. He is playing smarter and has led this Louisville team to a 25-5 overall record. The Cardinals again have the look of a Final Four contender and Smith is the primary reason why.

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Pac-12 M5: 03.05.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on March 5th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology report is out, and he has Arizona as the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. UCLA follows as a #7 seed, while Arizona State is also safely in the field on the #8 line. The Pac-12 dominates the #10 line, with Stanford, Colorado and California all appearing there. The Golden Bears are on Lunardi’s “Last Four Byes” list, and Oregon is listed as one of the last four in the field. John Templon’s NIT projections were also released earlier in the week, and Utah headlines the conference as a #2 seed there. Washington and Oregon State are also in the field as #4 and #6 seeds, respectively.
  2. Both major Top 25 polls were released shortly after we released the M5 on Monday morning. Arizona appears at #3 in both the AP and Coaches’ rankings, and that’s it for the Pac-12 in the Top 25 proper. UCLA did manage enough votes to place 27th and 28th in each poll, and Arizona State follows at #37 in the AP. The only other team to receive votes was Colorado, who came in two spots behind the Sun Devils.
  3. The Sun Devils traveled to Eugene to meet Oregon last night in the first Tuesday conference game in recent memory. Most of the country missed the majority of the first half thanks to that insane Marquette-Providence game going to double-overtime, and so Oregon’s 15-0 binge to open the festivities went unnoticed. And while it was impossible to keep up that kind of pace, the Ducks never trailed Arizona State, cruising to a 85-78 win that is enormous for their NCAA Tournament hopes. Next up is a visit from #3 Arizona, and Dana Altman‘s team needs either a win in that one or on Wednesday in the Pac-12 Tournament to lock up an at-large bid. Jahii Carson actually led all scorers with a 28-point performance, while Mike Moser paced the Ducks with 22. Because of the long gap between games in the state of Oregon, the Devils caught a flight back to Tempe and will return later in the week.
  4. There were 9,125 Ducks fans in attendance last night at Matthew Knight Arena, one of Oregon’s biggest home crowds of the season. You can thank Altman for that, as the fourth-year head coach toured campus on Monday and pleaded with students to turn out for the game. After hearing that ticket sales were low, he met with many students in person, adding a personal touch that was clearly much appreciated.
  5. For a comprehensive preview of the rest of the week’s action, check out this piece from Adam Butler. Butler notes that because of NCAA and Pac-12 Tournament seeding implications, nearly every game this week is must-see television, save maybe USC-Washington State. The meeting between the Ducks and Wildcats on Saturday is the game of the week in my opinion, as Arizona can lock up a #1 seed with a victory. Oregon’s got the most to prove, however, and it took a big step towards an at-large bid last night by knocking off Arizona State.
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