The final week of the regular-season tips off tonight and there’s plenty still to be decided in the Pac-12.
Here’s a few of the top story lines:
— With a victory at USC, Washington claims at least a share of the conference crown and eliminates Arizona, Colorado and Oregon from title contention.
— Oregon and Colorado square off tonight at Matthew Knight Arena. It’s a rematch of their controversial first meeting in which the Buffaloes won 72-71 after a last-second foul. Both teams are in a four-way tie in the conference with an 11-5 record and desperately need a win to improve their chances of capturing one of four byes in next week’s Pac-12 Tournament.
— Just 18 points separate Pac-12 scoring leader Jared Cunningham and Brock Motum.
— UCLA plays its first game since an unflattering portrayal in Sports Illustrated came out this week. Coach Ben Howland may need a strong finish to cool the flames beneath his seat.
— Oregon State needs a win to assure itself of its first winning season since 2004-05 and only the second since 1990.
Here’s a few links to get you started.
— We weigh in on the Coach of the Year debate with a story on how Lorenzo Romar turned around the Huskies after a 5-5 start. After 14 games, Washington was 8-6. In the past 14 games they are 12-2.
— Jerry Brewer writes: “If the Huskies beat USC on Thursday night, they’re assured a share of the conference title. But winning outright is what they need for their tournament resume.”
— USC coach Kevin O’Neill told the Everett Herald he’s not playing the spoiler card to motivate his players. He said: “I’m not going to be making any Knute Rockne speeches … saying: ‘Let’s see if we can screw up Romar’s year.’ We’re just going to play the game as best we can.”
— The News Tribune examines the Pac-12 Player of the Year race.
— UCLA disputes how it was represented in a damning portrayal by Sports Illustrated.
— Bud Withers chimes in on the Bruins brouhaha.
— Former UCLA star Reeves Nelson is demanding a retraction from SI.
— Howland received a lukewarm vote of confidence from his bosses, however his job status will be reviewed after the season.
— LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke said nothing in the SI story should run Howland out of town. He writes: “If Howland doesn’t win next season in flashy new Pauley Pavilion with a hot new group of recruits, he’s gone.”
— Orange County Register columnist Mark Whicker said we’ll know if Howland is able to connect with players next season when Joshua Smith reports to training camp. If the big man is still overweight, then clearly there’s a disconnect between the coach and one of the team’s best players.
— Barring an amazing run next week at the conference tourney, Washington State would welcome a CBI invitation.
— The biggest knock on Colorado’s NCAA tournament resume is the lack of a quality road win. It’s the same reason why I favor Romar – at the moment – in the Pac-12 COY race.
— Oregon wants to spoil Boyle’s return to Eugene, Ore. where he began his college coaching career.
— Oregon State began the year with NCAA tournament expectations. Now the Beavers are hoping to finish above .500.
— If you think Brendan Sherrer’s story is impressive. Consider the path of OSU forward Kevin McShane, a walk-on who became a three-year captain and earned a scholarship before his senior season.
— Utah is gearing up to face Oregon State’s tough 1-3-1 zone.
— California senior Harper Kamp said the Golden Bears were soft against Colorado.
— Looks like Arizona senior guard Kyle Fogg will be voted on the Pac-12 All-Defensive team.