Pac-12 rewind: Big Three roll as Oregon falters, home teams dominate and Mick Cronin rails against early NCAA seed

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Recapping the week in Pac-12 basketball …

News of the week: The NCAA seed reveal

As expected, Arizona and UCLA were included in the NCAA selection committee’s early reveal of the top 16 seeds. The Wildcats were No. 6, two ahead of the Bruins. (Both positions equate to No. 2 seeds.) Arizona was a tad higher than we expected as the non-conference wins over Tennessee, Indiana, Creighton and San Diego State surely helped. It’s encouraging to see the committee reward teams for both intent and success with regard to the aspect of the schedule that they control.

News of the week II: Cronin responds

Coach Mick Cronin wasn’t thrilled with UCLA’s placement in the early seed reveal. “If you ask my one-word answer on that ranking — comical,” he said. Cronin attributed the No. 8 ranking to the school’s move into the Big Ten in 18 months. “When we left the Pac-12, it cost a lot of people millions of dollars and there was going to be fallout, and I think it’s a direct result.” The Hotline loves a good conspiracy theory, but we strongly disagree with Cronin’s conclusion. The Bruins have fewer Quadrant I wins than every team slotted above them except Houston, which doesn’t play in a power conference.

Theme of the week: Home dominance

The host teams won 11 of the 12 games this weekend as sweeps by Arizona, UCLA and USC added to separation in the standings. Given the matchups, we expected the results to lean heavily in favor of the home sides, but the Washington schools’ victories over Oregon and Oregon State added to the lopsided nature of the results. The only home team to lose: Arizona State, to Colorado.

Theme of the season: March outlook

USC’s sweep of the Bay Area teams did nothing to help its postseason position; the Trojans remain on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Meanwhile, losses by Oregon (at Washington and WSU), Arizona State (to Colorado) and Utah (at ASU and Arizona) served to collectively undercut the conference’s at-large prospects. It’s difficult to envision any member of that trio making the NCAA field without multiple upsets over the final two weeks of the regular season and in the Pac-12 tournament. This looks like a three-bid league, at best.

Team of the week: Washington

The Huskies produced their second home sweep of the season with victories over the Oregon schools and improved to 7-10 in conference play with three winnable games down the stretch. They head to the Bay Area, then finish the regular season at home against Washington State. Win all three, and coach Mike (Hot Seat) Hopkins will have unexpected momentum headed to the conference tournament in Las Vegas.

Surge of the week: Colorado

The Buffaloes ensured themselves of a split in the desert Thursday night with a tremendous game-ending run to beat Arizona State. Down six points with six minutes remaining, they scored 17 of the final 20 and emerged with a 67-59 victory that, in our view, was the death blow to ASU’s hopes for an NCAA at-large berth. It also provided a twist for the Sun Devils, who won at Stanford the week before with a game-ending 14-2 run.

Fade of the month: Oregon

The Ducks (15-13/9-8) climbed onto the NCAA bubble with six wins in eight games through the middle portion of conference play. But they are fading fast with three consecutive losses, including a double-whammy in Washington by four combined points. Barring a romp through the conference tournament, the Ducks will miss March Madness for the second consecutive season.

Player of the week: Washington G Keyon Menifield

There were a slew of worthy candidates this week, including USC’s Drew Peterson and Boogie Ellie, Colorado’s Tristan da Silva, Arizona’s Oumar Ballo, WSU’s Mouhamed Gueye and UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. We selected Menifield for his stellar performance in the overtime victory over Oregon (27 points, seven assists) and solid showing in UW’s sweep-securing dismantling of Oregon State (12 points, eight rebounds, four assists). The freshman from Flint, Michigan is one of the few reasons for Huskies fans to be optimistic about the program’s future.

Player of the month: WSU F Mouhamed Gueye

The 6-foot-11 sophomore is playing as well as anyone in the conference in February and produced his fifth double-double in the past seven games with 18 points and 12 rebounds in WSU’s victory over Oregon. The Cougars (13-15/8-9) have won three games in a row and finish with the Bay Area schools and Washington on the road, creating the potential for a third consecutive winning season under Kyle Smith.

Player of the year: TBD

For weeks, Arizona forward Azuolas Tubelis seemed to have the Pac-12 Player of the Year award in a headlock. But an ebb in his production (fueled by foul trouble) combined with a sizzling stretch from UCLA’s Jaquez (three consecutive 20-point games), has added drama to the proceedings. The outcome could hinge on the end-of-season showdown in Pauley Pavilion. If it’s close, we expect Jaquez to claim the honor, with the coaches favoring the senior.

Coach of the year: TBD

Cronin was the only Pac-12 name on the Naismith’s in-season national Coach of the Year watch list (announced Friday), an understandable development given UCLA’s position in the rankings. But we aren’t convinced he’s the favorite for conference honors. USC’s Andy Enfield and Utah’s Craig Smith are strong candidates, as well.

Stat of the week: Oregon State

The Beavers were swept in Washington in resounding fashion, losing by 14 points in Seattle and by 18 in Pullman. It’s tough to win on the road if you can’t shoot straight: OSU was 7-of-38 from 3-point range (18.4 percent) for the weekend.

Stat of the week: Cal

The Bears were swept in Los Angeles by a combined 72 points and are averaging 58.7 points per game, good for 351st out of 352 teams in Division I.

Stat of the season: UCLA

The Bruins have won 23 consecutive home games, the longest streak in the nation. Their last loss in Pauley Pavilion was in January ’22, to Oregon.

Stat of the year: Parity prevails

With two weeks remaining in the regular season, half the teams are separated by a mere three games, with records ranging from 10-7 to 7-10. ASU and Utah are at the top end, with WSU and Oregon in the middle and Washington and Colorado at the bottom end. Believe it or not, a 12-8 record might be good enough for an opening-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament.

Game of the upcoming week: USC at Utah (Saturday)

Crucial matchup for both teams as the bubble-sitting Trojans will be in position to sweep the Mountain trip or avoid being swept (depending on their game Thursday in Boulder). Utah needs as many quality wins as possible to strengthen its NCAA Tournament resume and secure an opening-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament, which requires a top-four finish.

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