Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Pac-12 Mascots Death Match: Semis On!

With four remaining we find ourselves a few firsts. Wilbur and Ralphie feature the first rematch – in some regards – that we’ve ever seen in a death match. Which is actually completely contradictory because intrinsic to a ‘death’ match is that someone dies and is no longer. Perhaps our matches aren’t so morbid? Whatever the case, when the coaches squared off, our championship bout saw Whooping narrowly edge the Colorado Cranium, 440-403. Lofty numbers that were Butch T. Cougar nearly beat. But seeing as this is a tournament, survive and advance is all that matters. Butch, Wilbur, Joe Bruin, and Ralphie have survived. They’ve advanced.

The Semis:

#1 Wilbur vs. #5 Ralphie

Two years ago, this was our title match. Look. At. Those. Punims.

MillBoyle

Wilbur from Roommate Pete of That Poor Architect
Wilbur ‘Fists-of-Furry’ Wildcat – He doesn’t roam the open range, don tribal headdresses or eat his weight in fresh water salmon. Nor does he traverse the Iditarod, chase after younger men or sit motionless and dormant in a Northern Californian forest. He won’t protect you from STD’s, quack at your principal or build you a dam, and he most certainly won’t prance around with a pitchfork wearing red and yellow tights calling himself ‘Sparky.’  Wilbur Wildcat won’t do any of these things because Wilbur Wildcat ain’t no paperback bitch. The man in the navy blue cowboy hat will hunt with guile in grassy lowlands, perch confidently atop desert mountains, and sit comfortably and notoriously atop the Sonoran Desert food chain. Wilbur don’t mess around, and neither do his Wildcats.

Ralphie from Ben Burrows of Rumblin’ Buff
Thankfully, someone called the cops on Oski, and he’s off to enjoy the the fruits of our judicial system, saving us all another uncomfortable second under his perverted gaze.  Ralphie, as she is wont to do, just keeps thundering forward, onto the semifinals and a date with Wilbur the Wildcat. The first thing I see when I look at Wilbur is his stupid hat. (Seriously, a hat?)  What does that signify to me?  Domestication. This Wildcat is ‘wild’ no longer.  He has given up his natural advantages for the comfort of human society.  What a loser.  Ralphie, on the other hand, remains a buffalo, yearning to stampede and conquer the plains.  Her handlers?  A mere annoyance; she only tolerates their presence out of pity.  Given enough reason, she’s off to the races, God knows where to.  Meanwhile, there’s Wilbur, on the couch with his hat, watching the television.  Domestic and boring.  What. A. Loser.  Give me the buffalo and freedom.

#1 Wilbur vs. #5 Ralphie

  • #5 Ralphie (not Chip) (56%, 642 Votes)
  • #1 Wilbur (44%, 501 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,143

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#2 Joe Bruin vs. #11 Butch

ButchBruin

Joe Bruin from Luc of The Stoop Kids
After a comfortable rout over Puddles in the last round, it’s onward and upward for Joe Bruin. I mean did you see that game Saturday afternoon? If there was ever a time to be coming into one’s own, this is really it. Joe’s hot at the right time, and won’t think twice about bowling over the Wildcats as they confusingly bear down before him. Ralphie has the awesome sprint across the field thing, but if we’re talking death match, Joe will be feasting on Rocky Mountain Oysters once he’s through with the Buffs. The Cougs had an impressive showing in the last round, and were even rumored to knock off Joe in some faraway locale a few weeks ago, but memory is short and time will prove that their last meeting was an aberration. Joe’s poised for the big stage, and ready to bring home Championship #110 to Westwood.

Butch from Yours Truly
Look at me. It’s been noted that I rub elbows with Gosling and could wear a suit like Clooney. But instead I run with Pirates. Like that brand of being that does as they wish and leaves no survivors. Have you ever seen Pirates of the Caribbean? Only Brad Pitt (Troy) and Johnny Depp have flipped the script from damsel trying to kill him to…well you know where this is going. Look, the “T” is an abbreviated definite article (the). Butch abbreviates the simplest of words because he doesn’t need you worrying your pretty little heads with too much.  When Butch wears ‘sex panther’ it works 100% of the time. He is, Butch T. Cougar.

#2 Joe Bruin vs. #11 Butch

  • #11 Butch (64%, 520 Votes)
  • #2 Joe Bruin (36%, 289 Votes)

Total Voters: 809

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Cal, Utah, Oregon State: In A Tournament

It wouldn’t be the preeminent Pac-12 basketball blog if we didn’t get a chance to examine every post season team’s fortunes. Here we get two NIT previews and a CBI preview that digresses into commentary on Andy Enfield.

The not in tournaments:

#2 California Golden Bears

Opening Remarks: I was inside a raucous Haas Pavilion as Justin Cobbs drifted into the left corner, towards the baseline and Kaleb Tarczewski rolled with him. Cobbs elevated, the seven-footer elevated, and the shot was purely released. Cobbs wound up a heap on the ground, the fans wound up a mess on the court, and the Bears wound up in the NIT. That’s not how the story was supposed to end but that’s how it did. The inconsistencies caught up with them and they closed the season losing eight of their final twelve. That’s not a dancing tune and this is a frustrating NIT bid. In 2012 I watched as Kyle Fogg – an Arizona senior I saw grow, develop, and grind into an first-teamer – accepted a bid into the NIT. He handled it by scoring just 5 points on 2-5 shooting inside the McKale Center. He lost, his final game as a Wildcat, to Bucknell. In Tucson. The point here is that Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon have tasted sweet tournament success. They danced each of the past two years and are just a year removed from giving Syracuse all they could handle. And now they’ve drawn a home game against Utah Valley, KenPom’s 198th best team, on the same floor that they beat an undefeated and #1 ranked Arizona team. It’s a different stage.

First Opponent: So you’ve heard of Utah Valley

So yeah, that happened. They also don’t shoot the ball and are going to make an effort to score inside the arc with the 333rd slowest offense in the nation. This offense is actually pretty impressive considering they take such a deliberate amount of time and conjure the 13th best A/FG ratio in the country. This suggests that their patience pays off. But not that much. They’re still the 209th most efficient offense. Cal should roll and throw zero basketballs at anyone in doing such.

Stories: The NIT committee doesn’t have the same undisclosed and denied sense of drama that the NCAA committee has. I mean, what do you want me to tell you? There was some sort of sick conservatism joke being played on Cal within their quad? They play a school from Utah with a potential second round game against Arkansas or Indiana State? I don’t suspect that to be the case but I also don’t see the Bears staying very long in this tournament. That’s not an indictment on their talents, but rather a recognition that they’ve already the filet, they don’t want the chuck.

Best/Worst:

  • Win the National Invitational. They’re still good enough to make a run like that.
  • Out before first tip on Wednesday

#5 Utah Utes

Opening Remarks: Whereas an NIT invite was a let down for Cal, Utah has been on a different trajectory. No one has asked Utah to do anything except join the Pac-12 since 2009. Pardon, they went to the Sun Bowl, but I think we’re walking in stride here. It hasn’t been the sexiest three seasons in the Conference of Champs for the Utes. So garnering this invite was a big deal no matter how illegal what Arizona did to them is in Utah. Now, did I think they’d be a higher seed? Yes. Did I think they’d get to host a game? Yes. Neither is happening for the Utes. But sometimes, when you haven’t really demonstrated a track record of success (in recent history! I know all about Utah as the 11th winningest program) you don’t get treated preferentially. So, they’ll travel to win this thing.

First Opponent: Utah will return to the Bay Area to face the St. Mary’s Gaels. The first thing I want to note is that the last time they traveled to the Bay (2 weeks ago) they beat Cal for their second road win (big accomplishment) and gave everything they had for 39 minutes and 30 seconds to Stanford. Mal-execution cost them the Bay sweep but the overarching sentiment here is that the Utes set a precedence for A) Winning on the road which they had not done all season, and B) Winning in the Bay area. Moraga, CA is just 13 miles from Berkeley. This is familiar territory for the Utes particularly considering they’re basically playing a slightly better version of Washington State: slow as a turtle, threes like preschool. Of course WSU beat Utah which is seemingly inexcusable and perhaps an aberration. That weekend sweep in Washington were the Utah’s only losses to non-tournament teams. Enough revisionism. You knew I wasn’t going to get through a Utah bit without mentioning shots at the rim, right? St. Mary’s allows the 214th highest percentage of shots at the rim (38.8%). Hello, Delon.

Stories: The tale here is that Utah is in the post-season. Here is a program trajectory graph I created used highly advance statistical models to understand what Larry Krystkowiak is trying to do:

UtahBasketballOh, that’s just wins you say? Well I’ve long said it’s my favorite statistic and it doesn’t lie very often. Utah is headed in the right direction, a post-season invite is proof of it. A five seed in the NIT is proof they hadn’t been in the right direction. But that’s what March is for. Prove somebody wrong.

Best/Worst:

  • Second Round – Look, they’ve had problems traveling. So going from the Bay, back to SLC, to Minnesota doesn’t exactly sound like an auspicious position to be beating the tournament’s #1 seed.
  • First Round – Lose to what’s a pretty decent little SMC team.

#1 Oregon State

Opening Remarks: The Beavers are going to pay $35k to host their first round game. Is this basically the plot premise of Her? This is their fourth time in the CBI. They won it in 2009 and lost in the semifinals to Washington State in 2011. All of these stats I had to look up because I really don’t know anything about the CBI and it will probably remain that way. I’ll peripherally keep an eye on the Beavs but this could be the extent of it. My eyes are on North Texas.

First Opponent: This tournament puts a new spin on the phrase “cost of winning” as advancing means OSU will pay $50k to host the quarters; $75k to host the semis. Whatever the case, the Beavers have drawn Radford who has the 329th best defense in the nation. Oregon State has the 49th best offense. Plus, it’s Radford and what I really want to do is mix in a Tim Floyd wakes up in El Paso reference because UTEP is in the CBI and USC isn’t. But Andy Enfield is still waking up in Los Angeles and so is Isaac Hamilton (albeit UCLA not USC).

Best/Worst:

  • Tournament champions. They’re one of just two high major teams, they’ve won it before, and they’re a senior laden squad. Probably should win it.
  • Participation?

Half the Pac Dances: Previewing It All

Let’s just get this part out of the way: here is a printable bracket. Now how about it? We’re here, March, with half the conference of champions dancing. That’s the most since 2009 (when it was the Pac-10) but let’s not harp on circumstance.

Madness:

#1 Arizona Wildcats

Opening Remarks: For one reason. That’s what I said this season was about in November and that’s what it’s about today. It’s been no secret that this would be Sean Miller’s best team and it has not disappointed. Of course this is the point in the year when it becomes lasting disappointment – the kind that scars and hurts like the pretty girl’s “I have a boyfriend.” But there’s that instance that she says “yes” and so we love this tournament.  After losing to UCLA in the Pac championship game (his third such loss in five years), Miller had this to say:

If we won this championship, it’s about next week. If we lost this championship, it’s about next week.

Next week is now and the selection committee seems to have given Arizona a pretty favorable draw.

First Opponent: First up are the Weber State Wildcats who will try to become the first ever 16-seed to beat a one. SPOILER: They won’t but so much Wildcats. Weber State is a pretty classic profile of the David mold: good at threes (14th best 3FG% in the nation), slow (272d adjusted tempo), and offensively carried by one dude (Davion Berry has near top-50 usage). I probably don’t need to explain why Arizona will win but if you really need one, it’s because Weber State’s best defensive attribute (of which they have few) is that they limit threes. To which the Arizona varietal of Wildcats will kindly oblige, not shoot, and likely dunk. Yes, the Ogden based Wildcats stand little chance but I wish them luck as my boss hails from Ogden. Oh, and I’m far from buying this Oklahoma State hype.

Stories: It remains one of my all-time favorite times as a fan. We were buried deep in the guest bedroom of my parents house. Eight of us surrounding a shitty television by even the standards of a household that didn’t have cable until just a year prior. But it was the television we needed. And with every Wildcat success, a new superstition was born. There was face paint, squatting positions, gestures, noises, assigned seats, reassigned seats, and yelps until we willed Blake Stepp’s gimme out of the hoop and into Luke Walton’s arms. Rick Anderson would later call it the greatest game he had ever played in. Arizona had beaten Gonzaga in thrilling double-overtime fashion. The stage is set, let’s run it back.

Best/Worst:

  • National champions. It’s that or bust.
  • Third round. I’ve been dogging Oklahoma State but any team with a first round point guard in this tournament stands a chance.

#4 UCLA Bruins

Opening Remarks: Well now that the Bruins are a four-seed, me lauding them as a top-15 talented team doesn’t really mean much. The committee’s megaphone is greater than mine and means a lot more. Good work, guys. Further, the Bruins have the deadliest back court in the country. But y’all know this (aside from the Cougars AMIRIGHT?!?). But did you realize that UCLA has never lost a tournament game (of any non-preseason variety) when both that horrifying backcourt has been intact. Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams are undefeated when playing together in tournament games (5-0). This is the champion of the championship we needed and deserved; a nomination that drew some debate on the twitter. The primary argument being big dance success is where the real ‘respect’ is earned. I can’t disagree with that.

First Opponent: I don’t think these Tulsa Golden Hurricanes are version of Danny and the Miracles. Led by Kansas great, Danny Manning, the Golden Hurricanes (GH moving forward ’cause that’s a lot of letters) are a pretty tough defensive squad. They’re top 30 in defensive efficiency and while you might see this as a strength, I don’t. Arizona, the best defense in the world, couldn’t stop these Bruins. The Wildcats were about to have to shoot their way to victory and nearly did (with a wildly improved defensive effort in the second half). Tulsa touts just an average offense which should allow an opportunistic UCLA defense to get enough stops to outscore the GH. Plus, who the hell guards Kyle Anderson? No seriously, I pose this question to the entire nation.

Stories: Unlikely but worth noting, New Mexico is in this region. An Alford-UNM matchup wouldn’t occur until the elite-eight but wouldn’t that have some heat. I mean, just imagine the Bruins Nation reaction to that loss. And speaking of potential melt downs on a certain web site, run through this scenario: a second round matchup of UCLA and VCU. Shaka Smart was on fans’ shortlist of UCLA head coaching candidates. Could a UCLA win here finally get people on the Alford train? It’d be second sweet-sixteen and most certainly his first when he was expected to get there. Of course, the converse…? And if we’re going to harp potential match ups, let’s look at the most likely. How sweet would a UCLA-Florida sweet-sixteen game be? Two of those three great Howland Final Four teams were dismissed by Billy D’s dominant Florida squads. They’d go on to win back-to-back titles. UCLA would fire Howland. This iteration of the rivalry would be awesome, featuring a top offense (UCLA) versus a top defense (Florida) and I imagine it’d play out a lot like the Pac-12 title game which was just fantastic. Hooray sports!

Best/Worst:

  • Final Four. They have the guard play and talent to pull it off.
  • Third round. VCU poses a unique threat and Steve Alford has only been out of the first weekend once.

#7 Oregon Ducks

Opening Remarks: I saw the quote via twitter and can’t find the link to it so I’ll paraphrase Johnathan Loyd’s quote:

We’re very thankful to be in this position, a month ago this wasn’t a possibility.

That’s the absolute truth. And as I watched him and his squad streak into the Dance, I can’t help but think they could make some noise. The swag they re-generated in winning all those games didn’t disappear in one fell swoop from the Bruins. It’s still there, this team can shoot with anyone in the nation, and on a given night can outscore just about anyone. If Oklahoma State can garner as much Cinderalla attention as they’ve received, why not Oregon?

First Opponenet: If NC State was unanimously the most shocking invite, BYU has got to be the second most startling. They were in just 89 of the 100 brackets aggregated at BracketMatrix which was the second fewest to the Wolf Pack who were in just two of the 100 brackets (the aggregated total may have changed since publish). Alas, this doesn’t change the fact that Oregon will indeed be playing the Cougars so let’s make a Vegas line out of it: Over/under 20,000 points in this one? These two have already played one game this season and combined for 196 points. Hell, they combined to score 28 points in the five minute overtime. BYU’s offense is faster than a message board thread turning weird, quicker than a live-look in at a 16-seed’s second half lead. The Cougars gets shots up like spring break. They score the third most points per game in the country. Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino (the Cougar backcourt) do a great job of getting up and down the floor, leading the third highest percentage of transition offense in the nation. Oregon, meanwhile, takes the 25th highest amount of shots in transition, score the 11th most points per game, and 12th most efficient offense going. Want to see some kids run around a basketball court? Tune into this.

Stories: I think the Ducks outscore BYU and have a shooter’s chance to knock off Wisconsin. The Badgers are touting what everyone keeps calling the “best Bo Ryan offense ever.” Isn’t that any oxymoron? My point is that Oregon has a shot (pun) at their second straight sweet sixteen which could potentially have them facing the Creighton Blue Jays, Dana Altman’s old school. An establishment he never took to the Sweet-16. So this would play out like one of those awkward times when you run into your ex-girlfriend while you’re on a date at the ballet but the ex was always pissed you would never take her to the ballet. Hey, new girl gets new things. Rest assured, break ups happen for a reason.

Best/Worst:

  • Elite eight. They can out offense just about anyone but they’re not beating Arizona again.
  • Second round. Live by the three; die by it.

#8 Colorado Buffaloes

Opening Remarks: My gut was that I kind of liked what I saw for the Buffs. They were playing Pittsburgh who I’ve long sensed has a propensity to not score and who ultimately hadn’t really played anyone all season. But we can discuss that next. Now let’s just note and appreciate that Colorado has made three consecutive NCAA tournaments. Arizona and UCLA haven’t done that. This isn’t the team the Buffs thought they’d be this time of year but the fact of the matter is the Buffs are doing plenty of believing. I sincerely think they made this tournament because they believed they were supposed to and so they did. That reads pretty simplistic but this invitation is a very strong indication of Colorado’s culture shift.

First Opponent: So as I noted, my gut thought this was a good matchup. My research doesn’t really support that. First of all, it’s in Orlando. That’s clear across the country for Tad’s crew which is hurdle number one. Secondly, Pittsburgh is efficient on both sides of the ball, a pretty well rounded team. The Buffs, meanwhile, haven’t broken the 1.00 point per possession barrier in more than month (2/16 at USC, the conference’s worst defense). But the Buffs can defend and the Panthers take their sweet offensive time (271st in average  possession length). If Colorado stands a chance, it’d be in forcing those long possessions into some uncomfortable looks, create some bad shots, board like Buffaloes, and get run out on those D-boards.

Stories: I haven’t really found anything too interesting about where Colorado stands today. They’re a little bit over-seeded all things considered but they’ve also been shipped across the country to play in a quadrant built as Gator bait. But maybe getting an eight is a hat tip to the direction of the program? That’s something to smile about and hope for the best. In the meantime, Daytona Beach is supposedly a great Spring Break spot.

Best/Worst:

  • Third round. They can squeak past Pitt particularly if Pitt allows the game to be close. But Florida in Orlando?
  • Second round. They could also not squeak past Pitt.

#10 Stanford Cardinal

Opening Remarks: They made it! It only took six years for Johnny Dawkins to do what Dana Altman did in year three, Sean Miller and Tad Boyle did in year two, and Steve Alford did in year one.   Hell, Herb Sendek did it in year three. Quite the leash but NIT titles evidently buy you time in Palo Alto. The invitation came through, no matter how you want to criticize, and sometimes that’s all that matters.

First Opponent: They draw the New Mexico Lobos. One thing I did hear Doug Gottlieb quickly note on the Selection Show was that UNM struggles with the stretch four. I have no idea how to quantify this other than to note that UNM was 2-1 against SDSU who seems to have an entire roster of stretch fours. Well so too does Stanford, as Gottlieb’s proclamation would seem to be a great scenario for Huestis and Powell. But I think the main reason Gottlieb was suggesting this was because the Lobos do a generally good job of keeping teams away from the rim. Teams 32% of their offense from beyond the arc against UNM – the 19th highest percentage in the country. Good news for Stanford! Despite all of their size, they love going nowhere near the rim, content taking the 294th lowest percentage of rim shots. It’s from mid-range and out where Stanford can cause damage (I see you Anthony Brown) and New Mexico might let them.

Stories: Honestly, what more do you want beyond the fact that this team is in the tournament? More? OK. Well I’m kind of intrigued by the idea that this New Mexico team used to be Steve Alford’s. What if they make it further than UCLA? What if every team with a loose affiliation with UCLA (Iowa, UNM, VCU, Boston Celtics) makes it further? I’ve wildly digressed but I’ve struggled to dramatize this Stanford team all season. They do such a good job of it themselves. So maybe if I say enough bad things about Stanford, like how they’re not the best corner-back in the game, maybe Richard Sherman will come get them all pissed off for greatness?

Best/Worst:

  • Third round. They have the size and pieces to get past New Mexico but not Kansas (of course it is Kansas in March).
  • Second round. Many think that UNM is under-seeded which doesn’t bode well for the Cardinal.

#10 Arizona State Sun Devils

Opening Remarks: James Harden isn’t about to walk through that door, but even he couldn’t get the Sun Devils out of the first weekend. Nope, ASU’s season is perennially over by mid-March. They were the last Pac-12 announced, the selection committee with a cruel jest certainly not saving the best for last. They did, however, manage to escape a play-in game which I think is a good thing. And while Harden isn’t walking through that door, Jahii Carson most certainly is. He’s their must watch TV and March is must watch television. In skimming this amusing tourney guide, I was intrigued to find out that Jahii averages 20.8 points in 30 career neutral court games. That’s neat.

First Opponent: Rather than break down my thoughts on Rick Barnes and that beacon of mediocrity, let’s highlight Isaiah Taylor. I’ve only seen a handful of Texas minutes played this season but he was about as exciting a guard as I saw play all season. He did as he pleased in games against Kansas (23 points) and Iowa State (26 points). His FTrate is a threatening 58% which ASU doesn’t do a particularly good job of limiting. But what’s most interesting about this shifty little guy, is that he takes just 5.4% of his shots from deep. This means, Taylor is breaking down defenders and getting to the rim. And who’s he going to meet at the rim? Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Jordan Block-chynski. In general, there isn’t too much that jumps off the page about either of these teams offensively. I kind of like the idea of it becoming a battle of best players and ASU actually has the best player in this one. They also have Jonathan Gilling.

Stories: Steve Patterson isn’t the most well liked guy but neither are Texas or Arizona State. Patterson, naturally, just left ASU after less than two years in Tempe to be the AD in Austin. In trying to learn more about this, I came to find out that ASU president, Michael Crow, was upset about Patterson’s departure. And then I got to the line in the article where they noted that Crow was paying him about $450k and Texas was offering $1.4M. Are you kidding me Michael? I’d cheer Rick Barnes results for $1.4M a year, too.

Best/Worst:

  • Third round. It’s Rick Barnes in March and ASU has one of the best players going. But ASU-Michigan is not a match up I like if we’re looking for ways the Sun Devils advance.
  • Second round. Texas ain’t bad.

Our Final Pac-12 Game: Arizona. UCLA.

Here it is and I’m excited like Sean above. Our final Pac-12 game of the year and it involves the two most successful programs in conference history. It’s the title game that we need and deserve. All the season long we proclaimed that the Pac was back and for years now I’ve lauded that the return of these two programs would be paramount to this return to glory. In the past handful of years, you’d be hard pressed to find a better Pac-12 season, a better crop of talent and teams, than this 2013-14 group.

And it all comes down to UCLA and Arizona. Color me tickled!

Rather than dive into the history of these two (35-40 UCLA advantage) let’s stay in the present and look at what a fun matchup this is on paper. It’s the league (and nation’s) top defense against the league’s top offense (14th in the nation). Fire and ice.

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 8.11.41 AM

 

We’ve discussed a good chunk of this but here it is visually. Arizona’s entire defense is built to force teams to shoot the high-risk, low-reward two-point jumper. Notice about that 51.9% of shots against the Wildcats are of this variety. Well 40.4% of the time, when UCLA is taking that variety of shot, they’re making  it. That’s the 29th best clip in the land and third best in the Pac-12. I’ve long been a fan of UCLA’s mid-range game – namely Anderson and Adams with spattered frustration at the Wears’ ability to hit that shot. Kyle takes nearly 60% of his shots there and makes 46% of them. Apologies because I can’t contextualize it but that’s the highest such FG% on the team. The D-1 average is 35.7%.

In January against the Wildcats, UCLA’s rim/2/3 shooting breakdown looked like this:

Rim: 24.6%                2pt: 55.4%           3pt: 20%

If you need a reminder as to what the AZ defense forces, it’s: 21.2/51.9/26.9. You get what the Wildcats allow you. The catch here – and it’s why I showed you UCLA shooting percentages – is that UCLA can make these shots. They’re a terrific shooting team and will not shy away from what they’re given. Or what they take.

The Bruins have the 4th highest steal percentage in the nation which they use to get moving. A little more than a quarter of UCLA’s offense comes in transition (27.2%). That the thirty second highest such percentage in the nation. They rank sixth in the nation in percentage of first FGAs coming off of a steal. Jordan Adams is UCLA’s All-Time single season steals leader. Theft is a significant part of their game and in January, UCLA stole the ball 12 times from Arizona and forced 17 turnovers – easily the most steals any team has collected against AZ. You saw that the Wildcat defense got what it wanted, but UCLA’s defense fed its offense.

Of note, in Arizona’s last eight games, TJ McConnell – Arizona’s point guard – has 47 assists to just 8 turnovers. More fire. More ice.

And now you see why I’m fascinated by this game. I was back then (STATS and Q&A) and now – with the stakes at their highest – I can’t wait for 3pm. I could dive further into this, but it’s 70-degrees here in San Francisco and if I’m going to be in a bar all afternoon, I gotta get outside.

HeTouchedTheBall1-560x290

A Review & A Preview: Expect the Unexpected

The combined score differential yesterday was 75 and no one saw that coming. Noting such would suggest that it wasn’t a great day. Ben told me he felt gypped. Free throws aside, Utah didn’t score for 692 seconds. Oregon missed all of the threes and the Pac-12’s defensive player of the year? Good job and good effort. Stanford posted the highest offensive efficiency against the Sun Devils of anyone this season. You can also read that as ASU’s worst defensive effort.

Point being, yesterday was March. We asked for the unexpected and we got it. Utah had lost 10 games prior to Thursday by a combined 41 points. Then lost by 32. Oregon and UCLA had previous battled to the tune of even double overtime and last second Wear. Wasn’t Thursday’s case. Oregon had been shooting 47% from three in their previous nine games. Shot 30% last night. ASU’s defense.

And with that context, our worst game was Cal-Colorado (not our worst game). These two played almost the identical game as they did on Saturday, so much so that Colorado scored the exact same number of points in regulation (59). Cal couldn’t quite get there so, naturally, they lost. Justin Cobbs had two chances at Cobbsicles but missed. I hate watching seniors lose.

So we asked for the unexpected and we got it. We asked for the dramatic and the final shots and we got it. Pretty nice little Thursday.

PREVIEWS!

There are two games before it comes to fruition and I’m a big fan of this:

But there are two games. Arizona will attempt to achieve the double trifecta – defeating a team three times in one season – which I cannot confirm as a first or not. However you slice it, the assumption is that it’s difficult but then Arizona beat Utah by 32. I suppose there’s a precedence both ways. However you slice it, Colorado has won three of four (all wins coming by a score of 59-56, odd) and is playing about as Colorado as it gets: effective and opportunistic offensively (transition, Josh Scott, and hot shooting), solid defensively (0.91 ppp allowed in Vegas). But solid and effective aren’t enough to beat what appears to be the most focused Arizona has been all season. Utah looked the Wildcats in the eyes and Medusa turned them to stone. Colorado tried that once, too. Didn’t work out too well (-27 at home).

The evening slate pits Stanford and UCLA. They split the season series, holding home court in both instances. We could rattle off more speak of Stanford’s seniors or UCLA’s transition game, but these are topics we’ve exhausted. What we need to note here is that the games they split, were both rather lopsided. In Westwood, the Bruins won by 17. In Palo Alto, the Cardinal won by 9. Now margin of victory doesn’t always tell us much but – as we noted at the top of this page – it may be fair to expect something lopsided. If these two have played two games that they each ran away with, who’s to say we won’t see a tight one tonight? I’m not opposed. KenPom predicts it at as a 76-75 game, Bruins edge. Tony Parker went off in blowing out the Cardinal. Can he do that again? Stanford shot 62% to beat the Bruins. Can they do that again?

I predict more of exactly what we want: college basketball in March.

The Pac-12 Mascots Death Match: Round 2 Commenceth

I’ll be blunt: round 2 got delayed in the excitement of sports. Sometimes big fights get put on hold for other stuff. And sometimes other stuff gets put on hold for big fights. We’re back in action with some fresh perspective on the first rounders and some new names. The top seeds in the game. But first we must note, and hope, for the best for Ms. Adamson. Does she realize she dove into a DEATH MATCH?

 

ROUND TWO COMMENCETH:

#1 Wilbur vs. #8 Swoop

WilburSwoopWilbur from Roommate Pete of That Poor Architect
Wilbur ‘Paws” Wildcat – When the kitties down south are surveying the court after a 10-0 run capped off by a Rondae ‘he-looks-so-out-of-control-he-must-be-in-control’ Hollis-Jefferson posterization, they look no further then everyone’s favorite ferocious Wildcat, Wilbur to turn up the volume. His antics are cheeky and his hijinx unrivaled, “Paws” would spurn his own mascot gf Wilma if it meant raising the McKale Center roar just one more decibel. He’ll kiss babies and pose for pictures. He’ll put a cactus up your ass if you ask him nicely.  The heart of the most raucous crowd west of the Mississippi has a name. That name is Wilbur and you WILL hear him roar.

Swoop from Leah Beckmann of All of the Internet and long-time friend of the program who, like many other such friends, doesn’t pronounce pac-hoops, but rather pa-choops
The hawk. This hawk, Swoop. This is the name of the ferocious skybeast who lords over all with a fistful of knives and a piercing, fearsome shriek. It roams unrestrained; the hawk has no master, the hawk knows no cage.  Imagine you’re a cat. You’re dead. Imagine you’re a tree. You’re clawed. Imagine you’re a horse? You’re pecked. Imagine you’re a beaver or a duck with a poncy little maritime fettish (Why that duck wearin a sailor outfit with no pants?). You my friend, are DEAD.

#1 Wilbur vs. #8 Swoop

  • #1 Wilbur (54%, 115 Votes)
  • #8 Swoop (46%, 99 Votes)

Total Voters: 214

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#4 Oski vs. #5 Ralphie (not Chip)

OskiRalphieOski from Nick Kranz of California Golden Blogs
Why is Oski a badass? Confidence. Pretty much every single other mascot in the Pac-12 is the same. An anthropomorphic animal hyped up on some form of stimulant, wearing a football or basketball jersey depending on the season. They’re all the same, they’re all boring, they are all overcompensating for a lack of confidence or past failures in their youth. Oski don’t care. Oski doesn’t need to convince everybody he’s awesome by pretending he’s on the team or by waving his arms like a drug addict. He’s calm, composed, and dapper. But when push comes to shove he’ll take down a tree or throw a cake at Gary Payton’s mom. Don’t mistake a calm attitude and classy style with a fear of doing what needs to be done.

Ralphie (not Chip) from Ben Burrow of Rumblin Buff
Well, I guess Ralphie thundered past poor old Traveler.  My condolences to the family of the deceased, but the glue factory’s quota must be met!  Now onto Oskie, which, as far as I can tell, is some kind of pervert bear.  Now, I don’t know about you, but if given the choice between the noble symbol of the American West and furry bait for Chris Hansen, I’m taking the buffalo.  Free choice, and all, but I think we all know the right choice here.

#4 Oski vs. #5 Ralphie (not Chip)

  • #5 Ralphie (not Chip) (84%, 199 Votes)
  • #4 Oski (16%, 37 Votes)

Total Voters: 236

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#2 Joe Bruin vs. #10 Puddles

JoePuddlesJoe Bruin from Luc of The Stoop Kids
To the Oski lovers out there eager to point out that Joe Bruin is his younger brother; of youthful, bear-cubbish disposition, let’s be real. Oski may have a few years on Joe, but by the looks of it, Oski stopped hitting the gym after graduation, has put on a few pounds, and now rocks a baggy mom-cardigan to hide his ever-expanding gut. Joe, on the
other hand, is eternally in the prime of his youth, filling out his Bruin jersey nicely
but appearing generally more kid-friendly than the open-mouth graphic bear head
of UCLA Bruin logos past. I digress. We’ve all watched Planet Earth late at night over
many cups of noodles, and you’ve seen what a bear does to salmon in a river. While
there may not be any fish mascots across the PAC-12, it’s not hard to imagine the
fate of a duck, beaver, etc. in the clutches of the Mighty Bruins. As for the Trees, we
thank you for your services. And no matter the outcome of the fight, Joe gets to go
home with Josie, which makes him the real winner here.

Puddles from Yours Truly
Many of these commendations have noted the ability of the anthropomorph to woo a woman. Above notes Josie and Butch has a ‘Hey Girl’ campaign. SportsCenter even once showed Bucky the Badger lusting over Wilma (Wilbur’s girl). I’m not above that. Puddles is the appetizer to the entree, the aperitif to the amuse bouche, the foreplay to…look at this point if you don’t know that I’m talking about the Duck cheerleaders then you’re not paying attention to me and you’re not paying attention. You can go home with another anthropomorph – they have conventions for that – and that’s your prerogative. No judgement, bro. I just set my sights a little higher. Quack with me now.

#2 Joe Bruin vs. #10 Puddles

  • #2 Joe Bruin (58%, 143 Votes)
  • #10 Puddles (42%, 105 Votes)

Total Voters: 248

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#3 Sparky vs. #11 Butch

SparkyButch Sparky from [went unclaimed so I’m just going to note the below tweet from someone who was trolling my tweets about Vegas and favorited something of mine and then I discovered this gold]

Butch from Michael Preston of Coug Center
Butch T. Cougar has advanced to the second round past some shrubbery which is somehow the mascot for a school who takes their nickname from a color. He faces off now against a solar being from the underworld of some kind and all I know about those creatures is that they go to the South looking for spirits to extract from country singers. Butch embodies everything about a mascot you should love. He’s beloved my children and their grandparents who all want a picture with what is arguably the most recognizable mascot west of the Mississippi. He combines the perfect about of ferocity and loveable-ness. He shows up in more pictures with alumni than any other mascot in the conference and there’s a reason for it: WSU is extremely proud of their mascot. Bonus info: the T. in Butch T. Cougar stands for…anyone, anyone?…”The”. So…there’s that too!

#3 Sparky vs. #11 Butch

  • #11 Butch (94%, 445 Votes)
  • #3 Sparky (6%, 26 Votes)

Total Voters: 471

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Session 4 Preview: Ducks, Bruins, Devils, Card

You know the great fallacy of men is that we don’t like drama. We’ve bro’d out over so many fresh coldies citing how much we hate and don’t need drama as the conversation turns to how excited your are to watch this month. The mystique is in the unknown, the drama. The unexpected becoming reality, narrative unfolding and collapsing before us. We don’t like drama. We crave it. Just don’t date it.

Here’s the evening’s preview of drama.

#7 Oregon vs. #2 UCLA, Yes Please O’Clock at Get to a TV Standard Time
The Scoring Game

Before Oregon started this little eight gamer, we allowed ourselves some optimism because they had arguably the toughest stretch of their schedule upcoming: @UCLA, ASU, AZ. And then news broke that Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams did something likely sophomoric (another intended pun) and would not participate in that game. This. Because when you start 13-0 and then go 2-8 we start to care less about how you’re winning and more about whether or not you ever will again. The Ducks are and I can’t agree more with this Ernie Kent quote:

The scariest thing is that they’ve got their swag back.

I wouldn’t even call it scary. I’d call it Errol Childress. This is a group of transfers – a team that spent the middle portion of their season playing uninspired, lackadaisical basketball – who came to Eugene to Just Do It. And now they have their swag back!? We criticize the system of aggregating these castoffs and are quick to highlight its faults as this team faltered. But now they have their swag back. Because for all of the chemistry flaws we could cite that caused their near collapse, we can redefine those – certainly now – as strengths. Their strengths are their weaknesses. SWAG.

Damyean DotsonOf course while we’re on this narrative kick, did you see the ass kicking UCLA just endured? I haven’t really discussed it much but note that teams were putting up 1.16 points per possession against the Cougs in the thirteen games since they’d last held a team below 1.00ppp. So naturally WSU would hold the conference’s best offense (1.15ppp) to 0.82ppp. Only Mississippi Valley State and San Francisco State fared worse against the Cougs. All of which is to say that game was literally an aberration. You couldn’t run that through a simulator a gajillion times and never get an event remotely close to that. Which is to say UCLA would seem to be pissed and far from defined by that game/outcome. Furthermore, UCLA has lost 3 of 4 to the Ducks and probably thinks they should have won the Wear family miracle so that both David and Travis could stake claim to last second heroics in defeating Oregon. Alas, stories aside, this is a great match up.

Our first stop down match up lane is with Oregon’s offense. I’ve called them a mid-major with a budget and I’m going to stick to that. Yes it’s important for them to get defensive stops but it’s not their strength (SWAG). The three point shot is important to them. During this eight game win streak, they’ve maintained 33% of their offense from distance (their season average) but are shooting a blistering 46% from deep. Aside from these eight games, the Ducks shot a great 37%. But 46% as a team? Compare that to their losses where we find the Ducks taking 56% of their shots from deep and connecting on just 33% of those shots. Fair to say the Ducks live by the three and die by it? Now consider the fact that UCLA allows teams to shoot 41% of their offense from deep and begin to make your game considerations. Of course if Oregon is going to try and outscore you, UCLA is the team that can counter by outscoring them. They lead the conference in offense and they do that by getting into transition. They get into transition by stealing basketballs (Jordan Adams is the school’s all-time single season steals leader). UCLA is sixth in the nation in creating fast break offense from a turnover. Meanwhile, Oregon ranks fourth in the conference and 41st nationally in TO%. It means they take care of the ball pretty well and limit opponents to the 12th lowest percentage of transition offense from a steal, 4.1% (IT’S MARCH AND I’M DEEP DEEP DEEP DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE). In some regards, it would seem Oregon has the transition antidote, but collectively, the Ducks are an average (128th) team in limiting transition attempts. In summary: 

DUCK SWAG AND SHOOT. BRUIN MAD AND RUN

#3 ASU vs. #6 Stanford, Do you actually think this game will tip remotely close to its scheduled tip after three games, three intermissions, and a clearing of the venue? PST
The What’s Stanford Going to Do Game

If you were watching the Stanford-WSU game then you definitely don’t live on the East coast (I see you, CE). But you also heard Don MacLean exhaust the Stanford-must-win narrative. Now, to be fair, it was his fourth game of the day – a marathon. I imagine he did well at XS last night but that’s probably a tale we won’t soon hear. On that note, how much do you think KO is hating being relegated to the SF studio show when – you know – Vegas? Digression. Stanford needed to win that game – obvs – and they did. Post-game, Dwight Powell dropped the rare truth-and-reality bomb when he noted that he had never been to the NCAA tournament. Now I already mentioned that MacLean exhausted it and I already mentioned that I didn’t want to exhaust it when discussing Cal. But in Stanford’s case, this may be nonexhaustive. They’re the class that stayed – nary a one transferring or leaving early, a rarity these days. And they’ve never been to the NCAA tournament. So where are they today? Who cares. The Card need a few less f**ks given and some more of the Ernie-sais-quais: SWAG. Matt said it great on WANE yesterday, “…they don’t do anything easy. Stanford does things the hard way.” Which I thought was the easiest way (see what I did there?) to describe the Cardinal. In diving further into it, I got to thinking about how we make things easier for ourselves. Usually, when I want to make something easier, I’ll ask a friend. I’ll seek help. I’ll look for an assist! AHA! So I looked at Stanford’s assist rate and – low and behold – it’s the lowest in the conference. They have two First-Team All-Conference performers (Powell and Randle), an All-Defensive stud (Huestis), and the most improved player (Anthony Brown) in the conference. It’s a team littered with talent working in silos. Which would explain how/why Stanford has no bad losses (aka teams less talented than them) and really only a handful of quality wins (@ UConn, UCLA, Oregon). They’re 4-8 against the RPI top-50.

But maybe that’s enough about the Cardinal. Because they’re playing Maroon and a few contemporaries of mine like ASU to make a run into the championship game. They’ve got the right pieces – play making point guard, shooting off-guard, game changing big – and the venue is neutral which means it’s not a road game. The Herbivores were just 2-7 on the road this season. And there’s further data to suggest that the MGM serves as Jahii’s friendly confines. In last year’s Pac-12 tournament, Carson averaged 29 points on 61% shooting. He mixed in 11 assists and 9 boards while he was at it. So is it worth noting that Carson averaged 25ppg on 61% shooting against Stanford this season? Probably not (sarcasm font). But what we should note is that the Cardinal are pretty big up front. The third component of ASU’s projected success – game changing big in the form of a Bachynski – was a moderate factor in losing to Stanford (36 minutes, 7 points, 10 boards, 2 blocks) and a non-factor in beating them (15 minutes, 2 points, 3 boards, 0 blocks, 4 fouls). Is he a factor in this game? Hard to say. Stefan Nastic isn’t afraid to bump and Jordan isn’t afraid to flop. For all their size, however, the Cardinal make little effort to get to the rim. They rank 304th nationally in percentage of shots at the rim, begging the question – if we haven’t asked it already – is Bachynski a factor in this game? I mean, having an NBA prospect man the paint never really hurt anyone but it would seem that this will be the Jahii show. And he’s not afraid of that.

Pac-12 Mascots Death Match: Round 1 Complete

And like that, we’re four anthropomorphs and a horse lighter. Some battles were fierce and others had the feel of the ms vs. the Vegas buffet the morning after – no winners. But there were advancers to whom we owe congratulations and spa treatment. Here’s how it shook out. Round 2 shortly.

#8 Swoop 154, #9 Dubs 102

I’m often asked – because many of my talents allude to the fact that I might have them – which super power I’d choose should I be given the choice. “Flying,” I say, without hesitation, because it’s the coolest. Well Swoop can’t necessarily fly because he doesn’t have wings but in theory he can and in reality he beat up the cutesiest of pups. I mean you’re truly a cutthroat killer to take this out:

blog_Dubs_10_weeks

As it was described, “laser hawk eyes…ain’t nothing to play with.”

#5 Chip (Ralphie) 255, #12 Traveler 41

This became clear – and certainly as Buffalo nation adamantly corrected me – that this was the lone matchup featuring live creatures. It was the horse rendered extinct, a fate Ralphie’s ancestry avoided and beat. And you never mess with someone who doesn’t fear death. Ben lauded that the conference “come at [him] with your anthropomorphic plush toys” which will have to wait. Ralphie dismissed a horse remembered for ultimately being hollow.

#7 Puddles 118, #10 Benny 116

DOES THIS LOOK CIVIL TO YOU?

Me either. They won’t soon patch things like Rust Cohle and Marty Hart, but these two also aren’t hunting bayou psycho-pedophiles. They’re just cheering intercollegiate athletics so a little rivalry ain’t gonna hurt. But hurt it did as Benny, in narrow fashion, was laid to rest like a spaghetti monster with green ears.

#11 Butch 119, #7 Tree107

That was an incredibly appealing argument for victory. “…the Tree will roll up a fatty, smoke one of his own kind and win by attrition.” But attrition can’t beat sex appeal. Butch matches memes with Gosling and so it was. I’d argue that Butch out-attritioned the tree by caring so little about the Tree and going for right at Gosling. Furthermore, it’s rumored that Eva Mendes left Gosling for Butch. Internet speculation but if confirmed…

Session 3 Preview: Wildcats, Utes, Bears, Buffs

Moving forward, we shall call three-pointers made in the final minute Dakari Ices. Fading jumpers at the horn are still – and always will be – Cobbsicles. Back to the action. Because the real action begins today. I mean no offense to the games played already, they’ve been great. There has been a lead change in the second half of each and the first session was as March as it gets. Byron Wesley had a fair look at his own version of a frozen treat. It rimmed out.

But the real drama – games with Big Dance implications – begin today. We’re about to run through the lineup – some previews – but just take inventory for yourself. What are you doing for lunch? How can you find the Pac-12 Networks? Have you called Doug at Hooters San Bruno and heard him lament his DirecTV? I have. Today is the kind of four game slate that had me polling the g-chat brain trust whether naming my price on round trip airfare and bailing on two days of work like an obsessed super fan was rational. It’s not. So I’ll preview and stream, head to John’s – local deli with P12N – for lunch. Like an adult. I hate it.

Arizona vs. Utah – Noon PST
The Trifecta Game

Arizona swept the Utes this season which means about as much as a Frank Underwood hand written letter. Completing such a trifecta is rare and difficult [insert the number of times it’s happened because mining three seasons of conference data isn’t in the cards tonight]. UCLA managed to pull the trifecta on Arizona last year; and it cost their coach his job! So clearly the stakes are high.

But diving into the match ups, Utah is a terrible match up for the Wildcats. They have the size to force Arizona into two things they don’t like to do: shoot and not rebound. Apologies for the double negative and now let’s address the former. In Tucson, the Cats walked away with what looked like a relatively cozy win – 65 to 56 – but Arizona shot a sub-par 40%. The Utes forced more than 80% of the Wildcat offense away from the rim. Comparatively, Arizona usually takes 31% of their shots there. Utah forced the Wildcats to shoot and they missed. But they also rebounded, offensively (pun intended). In that game, Arizona grabbed 50% of the available offensive rebounds and subsequently turned those efforts into a win. Utah managed to flip the script in SLC, limiting the Wildcats to a minuscule 31% OR% (compared to their normal 38%). That game saw the Wildcats take 25% of their shots at the rim (better) and shoot the ball better (42% from distance).

ArizonaUtah

But ultimately, that game came down to two teams matching wills, a game the Utes had all but locked up. Until they didn’t. Should this game follow the aforementioned suit, TJ McConnell – for all of his facilitating glory – will need to hit some shots. Notice all that red space on the right pie? McConnell leads the team in FG% on 2-point jumpers. Utah is daring him to beat them. It’s obvious that All-American Nick Johnson (I like saying that) will need score, too. But the X-factor (and it was the case in Salt Lake and the guy we’ve kept an eye on all season) is Gabe York. The sharp shooter took his spot for the first time post-Ashley against Utah and promptly scored 15 points. Arizona would need every one of them to win in overtime and they’ll need every one of them again to advance.

To fulfill the Utah narrative, what would a win here mean? In short: lots. Larry Krystkowiak said his team would win this tournament. He has a terrific back court (everyone’s favorite and the most critical in March) and that aforementioned front line that has the ability to limit what Arizona does, offensively. Utah came out of the gates like a sorority girl out of a breakup: destroying cupcakes. They led us to believe, in pounding the second worst non-conference SOS in the nation, that their offense was their strong suit. They were scoring more than 80 points per game and lead the nation in 2pt FG% (I see you, Delon). But enter conference play and we saw the Utes’ true colors: the under-talented-but-hard-playing team Larry K told us they’d be in November. They’re the third best defense in the Pac-12 and the 29th best in the nation. How do they do it? To be honest, nothing particularly stands out about them. Statistically speaking that is. But they seem to do everything pretty damn well which, in my estimation, further fulfills the playing hard narrative K kicked all of this off with.

But do we really need to be discussing this much defense? Maybe the question is not so much can the Utes stop the Wildcats but rather outscore them? Probably not considering they’re the top defense in the land. But let’s just say this thing remains a scoreless battle (average 0.94 points per possession which is about equal to the offensive output of 7-23 Rice University). Where does Utah stand a chance in scoring? Delon Wright gets to the rim – in case I’d never mentioned it – but Arizona protects that space as well as anyone. Raising the topic Tony Jones and I discussed on the Twitter: spot up shooting. It’s a nice thing to have (Arizona doesn’t really) and a great thing to have with a creator like Wright. Brandon Taylor has filled that role effectively (40% on threes) but if he’s the only shooting threat on the floor (Loveridge 30%, Wright 25%) then it’s not terribly effective. But Dakari Tucker (Dakari Ice) can stroke it (38%). He doesn’t get the most tick (50.4% minutes) but he poses a threat perhaps otherwise unknown from Utah. And you saw Jason Calliste shoot Arizona out of Eugene coming off the bench. And you saw Dakari Ice do it to Washington yesterday. There’s a precedence for making hitting threes to beating Arizona. Is Tucker the answer? And because we discussed 2-point jumpers so much already, it’s worth noting that Arizona forces the highest percentage of 2-point jumpers in the country (51.7%) and Utah doesn’t want to take that shot. They rank 204th in percentage of 2-point jumpers taken and 133rd in FG% from there. Utes offense comes at the rim. Like their defense, they don’t overwhelm in one area of their offense, but when they do get to the basket, they’re making it – fifth nationally in FG% at the rim. Arizona, on the other hand, protects the rim as well as any team in the conference country.

Look, I tried to paint a positive picture of offense but it just might not be there. Does Utah have the size (again) and the shooting (first time for everything) to avoid the trifecta? Could we see some Swoop magic as Jordan Loveridge and Dakari Ice get hot from deep? Trifecta averted?

Or will Arizona just go on being the tournament’s odds on favorite?

Colorado vs Cal – 2:30pm PST
The Golden Goal Game

Let’s get this out of the way early because I’m not the type to live in conjecture or bracketology. This game is for Cal’s NCAA tournament-lives. They lose this game and they don’t deserve to be in the tournament, resume be damned. By no means is losing to Colorado a blemish but they’re just 7-8 since late January and you can only cling to beating Arizona for so long. This game ultimately embodies all of the drama of March considering these two couldn’t have played each other any closer than they did last week. Look at this roller coaster:Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 11.06.21 PM

This was played into free basketball with fourth place or eighth place on the line for the Bears. Playing Colorado with significant ramifications is nothing new to Cal. But the same can be said for Colorado facing Cal. In 2011 – when all of the #RollTad got rolling in Boulder – Colorado defeated Cal twice in the course of two weeks en route to winning the inaugural Pac-12 tournament. Is it time for Cal to return the must-win favor? Or will this confidence shine through:

The Buffs – confident as it were – are pretty comfortably in the NCAA tournament. I’m not entirely sure what that means for them beyond the fact that they just played about even with the worst team in the Pac-12. But if we’ve learned anything about the Buffs, it’s a propensity to play to their opponent. We can take a Vegas theme to this and note that they’re 17-14 against the spread. Certainly they’re above .500 but not by much. They play right about to expectations. Nothing wrong with that so long as the left column is the one you’re filling up. Of course, per KenPom, Colorado is expected to win this game by just one point suggesting we’re in for a good one.

But not worthy here is the seniority factor. This, above all of our other four previews, is the one I lean the least on for statistical analysis. Neither team is easy to figure out and each has plenty going for and against them. Which leads me to Cobbs and Solomon. They’re the only contributing seniors on the floor in this game. The only affecters to be potentially playing their final game. That means something in March. It means something that Cobbs has scored 19 or more points in four of Cal’s last five wins including 21 points and 4 assists (0 TO) in beating Colorado last week. Richard Solomon added a double-double in that must-win for the bears. And once again these seniors are faced with a must win. Pay attention.

WANE: Eugene Wins, Las Vegas Gets Spencer

Ben Carter dismissed a Nick Johnson shot and then Washington State beat the hell out of UCLA and now Vegas. Those were the waning moments of Pac-12 regular season basketball and we had Matt from Addicted to Quack on WANE to discuss that Oregon game and everything forthcoming in Las Vegas.

Give it a listen, we go deep:

 

The Table:

0:00 – Matt’s work all over that intro

0:40 – Spencer admits that Eugene is different when you’re not an undergrad, but no-less fantastic.

1:38 – Really strange moment where everyone admits they’re not really sure what’s going on with regards to recording and logistics. You learn a little about how we make this happen.

2:20 – Things get existential

3:26 – We are going to handle this podcast by asking questions and then we note that Utah vs. Washington is an awesome way to kick this thing off.

4:33 – Tangent on Washington State and Spencer admits he was a little butt hurt to see the Wildcats lose in Eugene then poses a great argument for said WSU upset of UCLA.

7:40 – WHO IS THE MOST DANGEROUS TEAM – OUTSIDE OF SAY….ARIZONA – IN THE PAC-12 TOURNAMENT?

18:57 – WHICH TEAM HAS THE MOST TO GAIN?

24:24 – DOES ARIZONA STAND TO HAVE THE MOST TO GAIN…A NUMBER ONE SEED?

29:41 – WHO IS THE PLAYER TO WATCH?

38:14 – Money, sent to me in a won bet with my father, arrives.

39:37 – THIS IS HOW YOU DEFINE STANFORD. BRAVO, MATT!

41:42 – After diving into the number of ridiculous guards in this conference, how’s about the big kids?

47:10 – Adam with a major buzzkill on his stance on conference tournaments

48:02 – WHAT IS THE BEST POTENTIAL MATCHUP IN THE PAC-12 TOURNAMENT?

57:26 – Spencer, the only of us going to Vegas, with the last word