I’m in Las Vegas, watching Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference tournament, and something has become apparent to me the last few years, reinforced by some unpredictable college hoops Saturday.
The final days of college basketball’s regular season invariably produce some wacky results — especially the last Saturday — something you know well if you’ve been following the Pac-12 lately.
Saturday, unranked Baylor destroyed Kansas. TCU, at the bottom of the Big 12, put a hurt on bubble-sitter Oklahoma’s NCAA chances. Air Force beat New Mexico.
The Pac-12, meanwhile, has been a complete carnival down the stretch. Oregon just finished a terrible mountain trip by losing to Utah and missing out on all or part of the Pac-12 championship. Colorado pummeled the Ducks Thursday night, then found a way to lose to downtrodden Oregon State Saturday. Cal would have had a piece of the title, but on Senior Night, it lost by 15 to Stanford. Washington State, which couldn’t get out of its own way for the past six weeks, outrebounded UCLA 46-23 and won in double digits, then beat USC by 25. Utah swept the final weekend against the Oregon schools.
What to make of it? Some possible theories: After a long season, some teams have their very future in front of their eyes and gird for one big effort. Others have the hay in the barn and seem to mail in their last game. And there’s always the possible emotional effects, good and bad, of senior days/nights.
Of course, this is stuff that hits people here in Vegas sportsbooks right between the wallet. Unless they can sense some of the madness in the making.
So the first day of the Pac-12 tournament looks like this: Washington against Washington State; Colorado against Oregon State; USC against Utah; and Stanford versus Arizona State.
That means Pac-12 winner UCLA gets the winner of Stanford-Arizona State; No. 2 seed Cal faces the survivor of USC-Utah; third-seeded Oregon tries to emerge from its funk against the UW-WSU winner; and No. 4 seed Arizona gets either Colorado or Oregon State.