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February 10, 2012 at 11:22 AM

Crowded at the top of Pac-12 race

With six games remaining, six teams are separated by two games and bunched at the top of the Pac-12 standings. This figures to be the tightest race in years.
But let’s be honest, a contested race isn’t necessarily a good thing for the conference. Especially if teams like Washington and California, which lead the league, fail to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
Imagine if three teams finished tied for first at 14-4 or 13-5? My goodness that would be a train wreck of a finish. Compelling in some ways because it’s always interesting to see a scramble down the stretch. But it would be a disaster in terms of impressing the NCAA tournament selection committee.
At best the Pac-12 puts three teams in the tourney and that only happens if one team wins the regular-season title convincingly, a different team takes the conference tournament title that includes an automatic NCAA tournament berth and an upstart team makes a strong run at the end. It would help the upstart team if it had a few future NBA players on the squad and they played a brand of basketball that’s compelling.
The most probable scenario is the Pac-12 gets two teams in the dance, the regular-season champs and tourney titlist.
In a worse-case scenario the conference gets one representative. That hasn’t happened in decades. But it’s possible because the Pac-12’s numbers aren’t impressive. As a conference the RPI is down. It failed to beat an top 25-ranked opponent and has just one win against a top 50 RPI team. That’s a mid-major resume.
All that being said, Washington remains in the driver’s seat. Seriously. It may not feel that way after last night’s 82-57 debacle at Oregon, but the Huskies control their fate.
Here’s a look at the standings:
CALIFORNIA ……………….. 9-3 (19-6)
WASHINGTON …………….. 9-3 (16-8)
OREGON …………………… 8-4 (17-7)
ARIZONA ……………………. 8-4 (17-8)
COLORADO ……………….. 8-4 (16-8)
UCLA …………………………. 7-5 (14-10)
STANFORD …………………. 6-6 (16-8)
OREGON STATE ………….. 5-7 (15-9)
WASHINGTON STATE ……. 5-7 (13-11)
ARIZONA STATE …………… 4-8 (8-16)
UTAH ………………………….. 2-10 (5-19)
USC ……………………………. 1-11 (6-19)


ABOUT LAST NIGHT:
— After Oregon senior guard Garrett Sim drained the first three baskets, I started writing this game story. Steve Kelley sat next to me and he had more questions than answers for the Huskies.
— Here’s the game story from the News Tribune and GoHuskies.com.
— Nice line from Lindsay Schnell at the Oregonian who wrote: “All that talk about Washington being the most athletic, high-flying team in the Pac-12? Don’t tell it to Carlos Emory and Jeremy Jacob, who skied through the paint for big tip-ins, or to Tony Woods, who followed a few missed shots with two-handed jams.”
— A few north on Interstate 5, Washington State pulled off the shocker and beat Oregon State 83-73 to snap a five-game conference road losing streak. Brock Motum had 24 points and nine rebounds and led five WSU players who scored in double figures including D.J. Shelton who came off the bench and had 14.
— Oregon State coach Craig Robinson sounded a lot like Washington’s Lorenzo Romar when he told the Gazette-Times: “It looked like to me they thought all they needed to do was show up to play a game and win it.” The Beavers wasted a 33-point performance from Jared Cunningham, the Pac-12 scoring leader.
— It was relatively close for a half, but California wore down USC and cruised to a 75-49 win over USC behind 19 points from Allen Crabbe and 18 from Harper Kamp.
— When sophomore guard Maurice Jones left the court for about seven minutes in the second half due to foul trouble, USC fell apart.
— Arizona is the hottest team in the Pac-12 and the Wildcats are making a serious late run at the conference crown. Following a loss to Washington two weeks ago, they went to the Bay Area and swept both games before dominating Colorado last night in a 71-57 victory. That’s three impressive wins for Arizona, which has the easiest remaining schedule of the teams vying for the Pac-12 title.
— At sea level, Colorado is rather ordinary. The Buffaloes are 1-5 on the road in the conference with the only win at USC.
— UCLA remains in contention following a 72-61 win over Stanford. Lazeric Jones had 21 points and six of UCLA’s 15 steals.
— Stanford hasn’t won in Los Angeles since the 2004-05 season, going 0 for 13 in that stretch. The Cardinal once led the Pac-12 with a 5-1 record and has since gone 1-5.
— After a six-game layoff, junior guard Trent Lockett (ankle) finished with 12 points and six rebounds in his return and led Arizona State to a 57-52 win over Utah.
— Utah dropped its 14th straight road game.

Comments | Topics: top 25, UCLA

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