Read it, don’t weep, at ryanrecker.com, along with a bevy of podcast goodies.
This is the finale. The last Weekend Preview we’ll read, the end of the regular season, the close of a forgettable year. But you know what?
The Madness is here and this is why – no matter how bad the early losses to South Dakota State, Loyola Marymount, Wyoming, or Seattle-Pacific sting – we kept watching. For the shots that fall a blink before zero and the names that are called on Sunday afternoon and for that mad Thursday and Friday where a two-hour lunch break is gone in a flash. To rationalize our favorite 12-seed winning it all and to become irrationally lost in a close game and to lose your five bucks in the office pool to Diane in HR who just thought Shaka Smart was cute. For one shining moment.
Yes, this is the greatest of the twelve months for all of those reasons and more.
Get excited. Get rowdy. Get some time off work.
TV Complaint: Seventy-five percent of Thursday’s games will not be televised. This is undoubtedly a complainable offense but let’s re-frame it. Life’s better if we can twist things into something a little more bright so I will remind you – as Thursday’s sole televised game is a mega-matchup – that this evening’s broadcast shorcomings will be the last. Indeed this final weekend is the final weekend of regular season Pac-12 basketball (or football or baseball or water polo or gymnastics or underwater basket weaving) that we will ever endure sans the Pac-12 Network. Take a moment to turn this on and celebrate for a moment. No doubt you’ve followed the commentary but I’ll remind you that Larry Scott will be putting every regular season basketball and football game on television. No more hacking networks, radio pirating, or twitter fiending. Your games shall be yours. Rejoice.
Game of the Weekend: No buildup here. Colorado heads to Oregon to play, straight up, for a spot in the top four. We won’t discredit Saturday’s games when the Buffs travel to Corvallis and Ducks host the Utes, but Thursday’s game has major post-season ramifications. Should the Buffs win – their first major road win of the season in the final weekend – they’ll secure themselves the four seed (of course assuming the road sweep which is no easy task) as they would drop the tie-breaker to Arizona. If Dana’s Ducks win, they’ll wind up the three seed as they hold the tie-breaker over the Wildcats. But enough about standings, hypotheticals, and making asses out of ourselves, this is going to be a good one. We’ve outlined what’s at stake so now recall that Boyle’s Boys previously beat the Ducks on a “controversial” foul in the final seconds, sending Oregon home bitter. The rematch is on a bigger stage, with tangible outcomes and is the first big game in March. Doesn’t get any better than this.
Game to Avoid: Every game that doesn’t have top-four implications. Sorry, but if you don’t have a chance to dance then the season’s over. By all means I expect the teams to maintain their competitive spirit and try their best; channel their inner non-Bruin and show up. But that doesn’t mean you have to. Your time is precious and act accordingly. The current TV deal’s swan song will make most of this easy for you but don’t bother logging on to usctrojans.com to take in the USC-WSU game. Ignore the UCLA-WSU or Utah-OSU games, too. Beyond that avoidable triumvirate, every other game has Pac-12 (or bigger) tournament seeding ramifications. Down to the wire.
Something to Prove: A strong showing this weekend could put the Oregon Ducks in the Big Dance. Beating Colorado tonight will nearly guarantee them the third seed and a first round bye. But here’s the deal. Oregon has the second highest RPI (48 vs. Cal’s 37) and dances in six different bracket projections. I won’t spell out their tournament resume but know that these guys are intriguing and dangerous with an impending conference tournament to play. A tournament that could prove deal making – even without running the table – for the Ducks. But don’t mistake intrigue and opportunity for the red carpet. Sweeping the visiting Ski Trippers and making a run through staples is imperative and difficult. It’s a fragile destiny but one that Dana and his Ducks could control. Of course we need to hat tip here to the Buffs as they too have an equal shot to make some noise. If nothing else, Boyle and company can aggressively plant the CU flag on Pac-12 Mountain.
Something to Lose: Once the darlings of the downtrodden conference, California is coming off a semi-surprising loss to Colorado, sits alone in second place and should they lose on Sunday to Stanford – a place they’re 1-3 the last four years – Monty’s Crew could find their way to fourth place (I cannot fully substantiate that claim without extensive tie-breaker research but it’s semi-feasible and highly dramatic). It’s no time to panic in Berkeley but things have undoubtedly been brighter especially considering its felt as if the Bears controlled their destiny much of this season. I really can’t see Cal playing their way out of the Big Dance but the Bears could stand to piece together a nice little closing run. If for no other reason than their own sanity.
Weekend Youtuber: It’s time.