|Another bizarre day from the most wide-open major conference.|
Saint Mary's and Davidson were California's best wins in non-conference play, but they have no losses against likely RPI 100+ opponents, and are off to a quick 2-0 start in Pac-12 play. If they can get a couple of big scalps while going 10-8 or better in Pac-12 play, that really should be enough to earn an at-large bid.
Utah, in contrast, is starting to look shaky as an NCAA Tournament team. With that win over Duke and the increased respect the Pac-12 is getting, Utah would be a near certainty for an at-large bid at 10-8 or better in Pac-12 play, but that will be an uphill battle. They need to pull an upset Friday night at Colorado to avoid dropping to 0-3.
Arizona Wins In Tarczewski's Return Kaleb Tarczewski played in his first game since Thanksgiving Week, though foul trouble prevented him from having too large of an impact. He only played for 15 minutes and had 8 points and 5 rebounds. The star for Arizona was Gabe York, who shot 4-for-7 behind the arc, including making three straight during the key stretch when Arizona blew the game open. The other story in the game was the reffing, which was driving both head coaches nuts. And in a six point game with a little over a minute to go, Bobby Hurley melted down, picking up one technical foul and then a second, getting tossed. The game was over by the time he left the court:
Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley picks up his 2nd technical and is ejected from the game with 59.6 to go #Pac12 https://t.co/qUycVNs92t— FS1 (@FS1) January 3, 2016
UCLA Loses Again Just two days after a rough loss to Washington, UCLA ends their Washington road trip with another bad loss. UCLA's defense let them down here, as it has for much of the season. Wazzu hit 61% of their two-pointers and scored 1.18 PPP, led by 20 points and 14 rebounds by Josh Hawkinson. Of the 13 teams that UCLA has played in the Pomeroy Top 200, 10 have cracked 1 PPP.
UCLA has those big wins over Kentucky and Gonzaga, so even at 9-9 in Pac-12 play they'll be in the mix on Selection Sunday, but they are now 0-2 with losses to arguably the two worst teams in the league. A home game against Arizona on Thursday night is a crucial game to avoid 0-3, and also to add a third big win onto their resume.
USC's Brutal Collapse When you're a potential bubble team, every single game could end up the difference between making or missing the NCAA Tournament. And if USC misses on Selection Sunday, some will point back to their ugly collapse here, where they blew a 22 point lead with 13:30 to go. The injury to Julian Jacobs was a factor, but USC really just fell apart offensively. Over that final 13:30, they scored 0.61 PPP, scoring just 6 baskets to 9 turnovers, while Washington made 14 baskets and committed just 1 turnover.
It remains to be seen if the Jacobs injury will be a serious one, but the ending of this game just reinforces how important he is to the Trojans. They have a key week coming up with a homestand against the Arizona schools. Their win over Wichita State is their only against a likely RPI Top 50 opponent, so the Arizona game in particular would be big for their resume.
Oregon State Eases Past Oregon Oregon State jumped out to an early 31-14 lead, and the lead basically stayed in that range for the rest of the game. Oregon State is a team that is not great in any one area, but they have nice balance on both sides of the court and don't make a ton of mistakes. Wayne Tinkle is one of the better coaches in the Pac-12, and it was actually Tinkle's son Trey who led all scorers with 19 points here. In addition, Gary Payton II had another stat stuffing day (12 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals). He also did this:
Oregon has been in a little slide since those nice early season victories over Baylor and Valparaiso. They still look like an NCAA Tournament team, but they head into a very tricky part of their schedule. It feels like the majority of the Pac-12 is a bubble-quality team, and Oregon plays almost all of them in the next few weeks. California and Stanford are up next.