A look around the state at Arizona, Arizona State, Northern Arizona and Grand Canyon and how their basketball teams fared this past week plus looking at what’s ahead this week on the hardwood.
The Wildcats did exactly what they needed to do in their matchup with the Sun Devils. Win and win convincingly. That was one of the best performances I have seen from Arizona all season long from start to finish. Minus that first three minute stretch in the second half which Sean Miller called the most bizarre stretches he has ever been a part of whether coaching, playing or just watching in sports from the age two to 44. The reason why the Wildcats were able to play this complete game, was because their great depth finally worked in their favor. The eight man rotation, that Miller normally rolls with, was productive from top to bottom. All of them scored and three were in double figures (almost five with Tarczewski and Lyons scoring nine and eight points). And lastly, the defense was back to form. Holding ASU, who going into the the game had one of the top field goal percentages in the conference, to just 58 points.
Wildcats MVP last week: Nick Johnson. He is back. After struggling for a good stretch of conference play over the last month, Johnson shot six of eleven from the field tallying 17 points, had four rebounds, three assists and three steals. When Johnson is rolling, the entire team seems to roll. He is regaining that confidence at the perfect time for Arizona
Pac-12 Tournament this week for the Wildcats. They have reached the championship game in this tournament two consecutive years but have lost them both. For a team that has lost out on some high NCAA Tournament seeding projections, a good run in this tournament could get them back into more of the limelight in the eyes of the selection committee. The Wildcats start Thursday at 2pm where they will play the winner of Colorado and Oregon State. If it is Colorado, Arizona owes sure does owe them a whooping. Colorado beat them in the conference tourney last year and should have beat them twice this season. More or less, Colorado has had the leg up on Arizona since joining the conference last year and if I am the Wildcats and I have been the cream of the crop in the conference for many many years, I deliver a blow to the Buffs that brings them back down to earth. It wont be easy to do that, but that’s just me.
Do or die time for the Sun Devils. They have now lost four in a row and seven of ten to close out conference regular season play. ASU knew it would be tough to go into McKale and win as it always is but it would have made their NCAA hopes more likely by leaps and bounds if they came in and got a win. Carrick Felix put together another of gutsy effort and Jahii did his thing. Paving the way for Jahii to earn Pac-12 co-freshman of the year honors with Shabazz Mohammed. But two guys can’t carry a team this time of year. Carson and Felix made up 37 of their 58 points. If you add Bachynski’s eight, thats 45 of ASU’s 58 from three people. That along with 17 turnovers are just not going to cut it.
Sun Devils MVP this week: Carrick Felix. You expect the senior leader to come up big in a big game and he did that. While his three rebounds were lower than usual, his game high 22 points were huge and you have to be happy with that kind of effort.
ASU now needs to run the table in the conference tournament as a nine seed. USC in 2009 and Colorado in 2012 as six seeds won the tournament as bubble teams who needed to win it all to get a bid for the tournament and that was a big feat. To do that as a nine seed, that would be incredible. The first matchup with Stanford will be a tough one. ASU fell to the Cardinal at home earlier in the season. But if they can get passed them, they take on UCLA who they have matched up well with this season. They blew out the Bruins in Tempe, lost in overtime and should have won at Pauley Pavilion. Get passed the Bruins and now you don’t know what can happen from there. It won’t be easy, but it’s their only shot.
Very tough weekend for NAU last week. They were in the driver seat to win both games vs. Montana State and Montana but weren’t able to close out either game. Against Montana State, the Jacks lost a heartbreaker in overtime despite an amazing effort from Gabe Rogers who had 29 points including seven three-pointers. Against Montana, NAU led by as much as 11 on the road in the first half and lead at halftime behind 14 points from Max Jacobsen and 50% shooting as a team to go with just three turnovers. But Montana came back with a vengeance in the second and locked up the Big Sky conference crown.
Lumberjacks MVP last week: Max Jacobsen. Gabe Rogers is going to get his. That is a given. But the play of Jacobsen in Montana was huge for the Lumberjacks and is what had them in the driver seat to win both games despite falling short. He had 29 points and 13 rebounds combined in the two games.
NAU finished in a three way tie with Southern Utah and Sacramento State at 8-12 in conference. Based on tie-breakers, NAU finished 7th in the conference and will play Weber State in the first round of the Big Sky Tournament. NAU has given Weber State a run for their money in both meetings this season. The most recent in Flagstaff had to be settled in overtime in what was an incredible game at the Dome. All games of the Big Sky Tournament will be played at Montana’s Dahlberg Center in Missoula. If NAU goes on a run and makes it to the championship game, they will play at 7pm on ESPNU.
It wasn’t the showing that GCU had hoped in the inaugural Pac West Tournament last week. They fell to Chaminade in their first round game in what was one of the worst performances the Lopes displayed all season. They shot a season low 30% from the floor including being 0-13 from the three point line for the second half in the loss. GCU was on the wrong end of an 18-1 run to start the second half that put the game out of reach. Dixie State, who had the top seed in the tournament, came away the conference tournament champion.
Lopes MVP last week: Killian Larson. Though it’s tough to find a bright spot form GCU’s game last week, Larson finished with a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Despite the disappointing week, GCU is in the division II NCAA Tournament as they were awarded a six seed in the West Region. They will take on the third seeded Seattle Pacific on Friday who finished 2012-13 25-3 on the season. The game will be at noon on the campus of Western Washington University, located in Bellingham, Washington. If they win, they will play the winner of Cal Poly Pomona and Chico State next week. The West Regional final is next Tuesday. With all of that being said, GCU is now riding what is tied for a season-long losing streak of two in a row. They will need to get back to their high level of play which they have displayed all season to make a run in the tournament.