We were a three pointer by a struggling if not disinterested first teamer from having the 10, 11, and 12 seeds advance. That’s contrary to the norm. The least tightly contested game featured the two most closely ranked teams. That’s contrary to the norm. Dan Kingma had nine points. That’s contrary to the norm. Of course we didn’t come to Vegas expecting chalk or things to go precisely according to plan (although I did remember to bring my ID to the airport for this trip. Big win.).
So what was Day 1 like? Maybe we call it a practice run? The MGM Grand Arena wasn’t quite bubbling to the top but – and this needs to be said – the PA guy called 4 games with unwavering enthusiasm. And he’ll be back at it again for Day 2. As for the basketball?
#8 California vs #9 Washington State
I was honestly giving the Cougs a shot in this one. Cal basketball has lent itself to a remarkably unpredictable nature: win a cluster, lose a chunk, win a mess, lose a bevy. Of course they’d pieced everything together more frequently than Washington State necessarily had, but they’d also lost to WSU at home when we still thought Cal could be in things like bubble talk (i.e. 11-3 with a win over a then ranked Washington team, oh what a difference a conference season makes). Well Cal most certainly put things together and deconstructed an unconstructed WSU defense. Onward for the Bears.
A Stat: 1.35 points per possession was Cal’s most on the season. Sure WSU isn’t much of a defense but it’s not like Cal is much of an offense. Impressive effort.
And another stat: 28 points was a career high for David Kravish, a senior, playing in his last Pac-12 tournament.
Observed: Halftime entertainment – the first of the tourney – sang “We Are the Champions.” Felt premature – ya know – on Day 1, Game 1.
Up Next: Cal now plays Arizona whom they’ve lost to twice and by a combined 62 points.
#5 Arizona State vs. #12 USC
Time and again we’re reminded that sports is unpredictable and this is March and blah blah blah. Usually we watch games far removed from the realities of things like “real human feelings” and “imminent graduation” and “hard-work-that-then-all-seems-for-naught-because-you-lost-improbably.” That stuff happens and then I saw it on Bo Barnes’ face. Game, set, match, tournament, career. Post-game he was understandably despondent and it felt like a full cycle of collegiate eligibility before he ever answered a question. I don’t even know what the inquiry was. Historically my fandom has been associated with schadenfreude for Arizona State. That one just looked really shitty. The trials of March.
A Stat: 22-4 was the run the Trojans went on to knock off the tournament’s (fortuitous) five seed.
And another stat: 27 points was a career high for Trojan freshman Elijah Stewart. Thoughts, Herb?
“We held him to 27 points.” Herb re: Elijah Stewart
— Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) March 11, 2015
Observed: A blockoff win:
Oh MY! Nikola Jovanovic’s game-winning swat is the USC vs. ASU Play of the Game presented by @ishares by @blackrock: http://t.co/NBahbNQ540 — Pac-12 Networks (@Pac12Networks) March 11, 2015
Up Next: For USC it’s a classic rivalry game against UCLA who’s not all too happy to be playing such an “inferior opponent” with their NCAA tournament prospects dependent on picking up quality wins. Nevertheless, the Trojans have cut the deficit in each of their four losses to UCLA under coach Andy Enfield. Do they crack through today?
#7 Oregon State vs. #10 Colorado
As we approached tip off of this game, I was coming around to the thought that each of our Day 1 match ups were stylistically perfect. WSU and Cal would move some, similar to USC and ASU, then CU-OSU would knowingly grind, and the Card-Dawg nightcap would be a coin flip. In hindsight, I realize I was just blinded by the excitement of an improbable 14-point comeback by the generally hapless Trojans. And then Colorado and Oregon State covered the over in just 30 minutes (+117). The halftime score was 38-37. There was no grinding and Colorado continued a streak of never losing a Pac-12 tournament opening round game.
A Stat: 24-26 or 92% was what the Buffs shot from the free throw line. Oregon State is a terrific defensive unit, 12th in the nation. But you can’t guard free throws.
And another stat: Double-double OR 16 and 14. I’m not sure if Josh Scott is 100% healthy but he certainly looks to be in a better place. He score 12 points in the first half and dominated the glass in the second. Obviously a huge part of what the Buffs are trying to do.
Observed: Coach Tinkle said he’d consider invitations to tournaments starting with the letter “C” and that he had been contacted by them. But he may also need to evaluate the state of his team; a group comprised of very few regular contributors. And as for the state of your team, Tad Boyle on tournament runs:
To make a run: Mental toughness. Refuse to lose. Play imperfectly and still win. Gotta get stops when you need ’em. Chip on shoulder (Boyle) — Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) March 12, 2015
Up Next: The Buffs advance to play the seconded seeded Oregon Ducks who won their only head-to-head in Eugene, 73-60.
#6 Stanford vs. #11 Washington
Look, noon-to-ten hoops is a lot. After Chasson’s shot fell I had to sit there and try to figure out what I’d just watched. Because for 39.5 minutes, it seemed like the Stanford Senior was about as interested in playing that game as a senior who knew his team had underachieved and he would not be going to the NCAA tournament for neither the second straight year nor the second time in his coach’s seven year tenure. That kind of disinterest. But he hit the big shot despite shooting 2-10 to that point and taking just 3 shots (missing all of them) in the first half.
A Stat: 0-3. That was Washington from the free throw line. For the entire game. Andrew Andrews missed two free throws and made 4 threes. Collectively, the Dawgs made 13 threes.
And another stat: 0-1. That was Dan Kingma from the free throw line. He’s the infrequently used 5’10” 155 lbs freshman walk-on who suddenly saw first half minutes and no shot he didn’t like. He rained 3-4 from deep and even took Anthony Brown on the drive (missed the runner). I was prepared to make him the central piece of this whole thing but Chasson decided to show up.
It’s not limbo lady but… A video posted by Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) on
Up Next: Stanford now has a rematch with the struggling Utah Utes. Last they played the Utes rolled the Card in Salt Lake and Chasson shot 2-11 afield. Will he be invigorated by beating the buzzer?