ecapping the week in Pac-12 basketball …
Theme of the week I: The plot thins
UCLA’s sweep on the Oregon Trail, combined with Arizona’s stumble at Stanford, gave the Bruins a two-game lead in the loss column with three weeks remaining. Considering the Bruins (12-2) play four of their final six games at home and the Wildcats (11-4) must visit Los Angeles, it appears the program with 11 NCAA titles will win its first Pac-12 regular-season championship in a decade.
Theme of the week II: The plot thickens
There’s plenty of drama just below the Bruins, and it’s unfolding on two fronts. Utah, USC, Arizona State and Oregon are separated by one game in the loss column as they scramble for a top-four seed (and opening-round bye) in the Pac-12 tournament. Within that race is the competition (with Arizona) to avoid the No. 4 seed, which would bring a semifinal matchup against UCLA.
Theme of the season: March Madness outlook
The Pac-12’s push to place more than two teams in the NCAA Tournament took a hit with USC’s loss at Oregon State and Oregon’s missed opportunity against UCLA. None of the other bubble teams made much progress, leaving the conference in essentially the same predicament: Only the Wildcats and Bruins are assured of spots in the field of 68.
Team of the week: UCLA
The Bruins handled their business at Oregon State, then produced one of the most impressive second halves of the season (for anyone) in their victory at Oregon, building an 18-point lead with five minutes remaining. In both games, the perimeter defense was stout, the offensive execution impressive and the sense of inevitability unmistakable.
Game of the week: Stanford 88, Arizona 79
The teams exchanged leads until seven minutes remained, when Stanford appeared to take control. But due to a series of Cardinal turnovers and a four-point play by Arizona, the underdogs couldn’t breathe easy until the final minute. We also considered Oregon State’s narrow win over USC and ASU’s overtime duel with Cal.
Loss of the week: USC
The Trojans (17-8/9-5) cannot afford bad results down the stretch if they hope to land on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. The loss at Oregon was a missed opportunity, but the three-point defeat at Oregon State, which carries a NET ranking in the 200s, is the very definition of a ghastly outcome at precisely the wrong time.
Win of the season: Oregon State
The Beavers’ 61-58 upset of USC stands as their most significant victory of the season — and it’s not even close. Their non-conference results were nondescript, and their previous Pac-12 victories were against teams (UW, Colorado and Cal) with a combined conference record of 13-31.
Finish of the week: Arizona State
The Sun Devils’ sweep of the Bay Area was fueled by a stellar rally Thursday in which they outscored Stanford 14-2 over the final six minutes to secure a 69-65 victory. Two days later, ASU escaped Berkeley with an overtime win to hold its ground in the fight for a top-four finish.
Player of the week: UCLA F Jaime Jaquez Jr.
We didn’t spot a clear winner in this category and chose Jaquez because of his superb second half against Oregon (18 points) and his 24 total rebounds for the weekend. Jaquez is a lock for first-team all-conference honors and closed the gap on Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis in the Player of the Year race.
Singular performance of the week: Stanford F Spencer Jones
We considered Jones for Player of the Week but opted instead to focus on one aspect of his weekend: The fourth-year junior scored all 18 of his points against Arizona in the second half to power Stanford’s upset. During one crucial stretch, he scored 13 in a row for the Cardinal.
Stunner of the week I: Arizona F Azuolas Tubelis
The frontrunner for Pac-12 Player of the Year had scored in double figures every game this season, until Saturday. Hampered by fouls and hounded by Stanford’s defense, Tubelis managed just four points in 17 minutes of court time. It was his lowest output since scoring 14 points against Creighton in late November.
Stunner of the week II: Colorado F Tristan da Silva
Another case of a high-impact player having a low-impact performance — and his team being unable to compensate. Da Silva had scored at least 20 points in five consecutive games but totaled just six in the Buffaloes’ loss at Utah. Fouls weren’t the issue: da Silva played 36 minutes. But he was 3-of-12 from the field.
Reminder of the week: The ACC
We suggest Pac-12 fans pause their angst over officiating and make note of the following: The ACC announced Saturday night that officials in the Duke-Virginia game made an “incorrect adjudication” in the final second of a tie game. The gaffe, which led to Virginia winning in overtime, stands as a major embarrassment for the conference. Then again, most fans are probably elated, given that it led to Duke losing.
The Cougars beat Washington 56-51 despite shooting below 30 percent from both the field and 3-point range. How? Defense and rebounding, courtesy of forward Mouhamed Gueye. It was WSU’s fifth victory in the past seven matchups with the Huskies.
Stat of the season I: Arizona
The Wildcats have lost four conference games, all to unranked teams (Utah, WSU, Oregon and Stanford) and all of them by at least nine points. Of note: Arizona’s opponents have shot 41 percent from 3-point range in the four games.
Stat of the season II: Utah
The Utes dispatched Colorado with ease to record their 10th conference win of the season, the first time they have reached double-digit victories in league play since the 2018-19 season. With a trip to Arizona upcoming, then a visit from the Los Angeles schools, the 11th win could be weeks away — if it comes at all.
Stat of the century: Cal
The Bears were swept at home by the Arizona schools and have dropped games 22 overall. Three more, and they will set the school record for single-season losses. The current mark (24 losses) was established just five years ago.
Upcoming game of the week: Utah at Arizona (Thursday)
This Pac-12 Networks broadcast will carry multiple layers of intrigue. Utah won the first meeting, by 15 points in early December. Can Arizona avoid another loss to an unranked opponent? Will the Utes, who are on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble, improve their slim chances to reach the NCAAs? Will Utah’s Ben and Branden Carlson hold their own up front against Tubelis and Oumar Ballo? We don’t see a middle ground: Either Arizona wins in blowout fashion, or it goes down to the wire.
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