With Arizona trailing for most of its matchup against San Diego State and Stanford and UCLA losing in the NCAA tournament South regional semifinals, it looked as if the Pac-12 would go 0-3 in the Sweet Sixteen.
But the Wildcats prevailed, which allowed the conference to avoid being skunked Thursday night.
Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly.
FRIDAY MORNING LINKS:
— Nick Johnson missed his first 10 shots, but lucky for No. 1 seed Arizona the Pac-12 player of the year found stroke at the end and the Wildcats pulled off a 70-64 comeback win over No. 4 seed San Diego in Anaheim, Calif. to advance to the NCAA tournament Elite Eight. San Diego State led by eight points early in the second half after leading by that many just before halftime. The Wildcats got within one three times, but SDSU answered with baskets the first two times. However, the Aztecs couldn’t stop T.J. McConnell (11 points), who gave Arizona its first lead (50-49) with 7:21 left. A minute later, Aaron Gordon (15 points) gave Arizona a 52-50 lead it wouldn’t relinquish. That’s when Johnson took over. He scored all of his points and 15 of Arizona’s final 16 in the final 2:46 minutes. Arizona (33-4) plays No. 2 seed Wisconsin (29-7) to advance to the Final Four.
— In its last three wins, UCLA stymied opponents with a surprisingly resilient defense that had been absent most of the season. However, the Bruins regressed Thursday night at the most inopportune time. They couldn’t slow down top-seeded Florida, which shot 50 percent from the field, during a 79-68 defeat in the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 in Memphis. UCLA now is 0-4 against Florida coach Billy Donovan all time — all in the NCAA tournament. In their final game with the Bruins, senior forward Travis Wear had 14 points and twin brother David added seven. UCLA (28-9) will also likely say goodbye to sophomore guard Kyle Anderson, who had 11 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Sophomore guard Jordan Adams (17 points) and freshman Zach LaVine (five points) are reportedly considering entering the NBA draft.
— Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke believes better days are ahead for the Bruins. He writes: “And they will take the lead. One day. They will own these moments. One day. Alford has spun this program in the right direction and his team will be strong enough physically and emotionally to pull off this kind of victory. One day. But Thursday night at the FedEx Forum was not that day. In front of a large, loud Bruins crowd, UCLA pushed Florida to the edge before crumbling under its lack of cool, lack of a big man, and plain old lack of experience.”
— No. 10 seed Stanford had the bigger front line, a future NBA draft pick in Dwight Powell and a savvy point guard in Chasson Randle. Howver, none of that mattered during an 82-72 defeat to No. 11 Dayton in the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 in Memphis. Stanford fell behind 42-32 at halftime and couldn’t gain any ground in the second half as both teams scored 40 points. The scrappy Flyers exposed the Cardinal’s biggest weaknesses: a lack of depth. Stanford’s front line was plagued with foul trouble as three starters had at least four fouls. In their final game with the Cardinal (23-13), Powell had 17 points and nine rebounds while Josh Huestis had 13 and 8. Stefan Nastic finished with 15 points in 20 minutes before fouling out. Chasson Randle led Stanford with 21 points, but he converted 5 of 21 field goals and committed five turnovers.
— The Stanford cheering section in Memphis included Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, football coach David Shaw, former basketball player Josh Childress and former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
— San Jose Mercury-News columnist Mark Purdy said nothing went right for Stanford, including coach Johnny Dawkins’ technical foul, which he hoped would spur the Cardinal. Purdy writes: “Not good enough. Stanford was trailing by 10 points at the time. It finished the first half trailing by 10 points. The strategy of taking a purposeful “T” occasionally works. More occasionally, it stands out as a “what-the-heck-I’ll-try-this-because-nothing-else-is-succeeding” move.”
— There were several celebrities in Memphis, including Tim Tebow.
— Oregon junior guard Joseph Young is considering turning pro.
— No word yet on what happened when Oregon State coach Craig Robinson met with athletic director Bob De Carolis in their annual end-of-the-season meeting. Robinson is expected to return, but De Coralis may insist on a change in the coaching staff.
— Ron Holmes, the father of former UCLA star Shabazz Holmes, was sentenced to 37 months in prison Thursday after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud in connection, for his part in a Las Vegas real estate scheme. According to a sentencing brief filed last week, Ron Holmes told the FBI he received a loan last year based on his son’s future professional basketball earnings estimated at $350,000. At the time Ron Holmes received the loan, his son had one more game with the Bruins. Technically, that’s a breach of NCAA rules. And theoretically, the NCAA could launch an investigation, which might threaten the Bruins 2012-13 Pac-12 regular-season championship. Most likely, the NCAA will do nothing.