Much gets made of this homestretch we’re in. I frankly don’t know when the homestretch began but I’m utterly flabbergasted that Vegas is eerily around the corner as my mom indirectly reminded us.
But we’re not there yet. There’s still some spicy games to be played and this Wednesday/Thursday has about as many traps as a Kevin McCallister house. From Arizona overlooking the previously demolished Trojans; to Colorado peaking at the East Bay before concerning themselves with the Peninsula; to a pair of historically relevant rivalry games (The Apple Cup and The Civil War) that happen to include two squads who are a combined 5-25 (OSU and WSU), there are indeed stumbling blocks galore. And while these games aren’t going to force you to cancel any plans, I’ll guarantee you’re updating some scores on your phone when you’re sitting at a Happy Hour at some suburban Chili’s that doesn’t get the Pac-12 Network. Confessional: last Thursday, when my mom was visiting and my brother and I were sitting down to dinner with her, we were surprised and grateful as she excused herself to the restroom with impeccable timing, allowing us to fire up the Watch ESPN as Justin Cobbs was setting up his dagger into the Ducks and costing us no mom time. She must truly love us. Or vice versa. All I know is she would not have known what sport we were watching.
Alas, give your parents a call and enjoy the weekend:
(more previewing on PacificTakes if you’re into that stuff)
GotW: I coined this the conference game of the year way back in January and by golly I’m sticking to it. In fact, I’m going to attend it. Yes, I’ll be hoping in the Red Dragon (below) and racing down I-5 to catch the Bruins and Cats inside Pauley alongside Game Day and UCLA’s maybe second sell out of the season. Los Angeles is a city that indeed recognizes big moments and captures them. Hosting the Wildcats in the brand new Pauley is one of those moments no matter the feelings surrounding the UCLA program. And Ray, people will come. I’ll come from San Francisco for reasons I can fathom (/Field of Dreams). But beyond name recognition, this game has some major, direct, Waterworld-budget-sized title ramifications. These two currently stand tied for second with the tie going to the Bruins. Assuming no forthcoming stumbling Ducks, this is a battle for second place and perhaps a top-6 seed in the Dance for UCLA and a two-seed for Arizona. Big game.
Game to Avoid: We are just two weeks removed from season’s end and so it’s hard to find any game to avoid. However, your Sunday afternoon is likely best spent at a bottomless mimosa or bloody brunch than watching the Apple Cup. Washington State is two-for-the-conference season and Washington ain’t playing for a whole lot more than an NIT birth which I now know from personal fan experience is a far less exciting tournament to watch during the year’s third month. Unless of course Ray Lewis pops into your locker room.
Something to Prove: Cal is as hot as a pistol and hosting Colorado and Utah. As a Pac-12 contender they should sweep the weekend, right? The answer is yes but I’ll be curious to see how Cal suddenly plays the role of the hunted. They haven’t exactly impressed against lesser competition (they beat Oregon State twice by a combined 4 points) and all five of their losses have come to teams behind them in the standings (save UCLA). And now they’re definitively wearing a target, hosting a hungry group of Buffaloes looking to seal up their own run to the Dance. Not to mention they’ll also play host to Larry K’s tough Utes who manage to stay in a whole lotta ball games. The Bears will need to prove their mettle as conference elite if they too want to dance with the big kids.
Something to Lose: The Colorado Buffaloes have a lot going for them as they sit alone in fifth place with four games remaining – two of which involve teams ahead of them in the standings, which is to say that their remaining schedule allots them the challenge and opportunity to climb. They’re also amongst the Top-25 RPI teams which grossly behooves their tournament chances. Aside from the computer stuff, their situation reminds me of ASU’s but A) Colorado is in the dance as of today, and B) They’re better suited to close their season hot. But what if they don’t? I did mention that this ending would be a challenge and to struggle would be, in a word, bad. Traveling to the Bay is about as tricky of a trip as the conference provides and the Buffs are approaching that very challenge on this homestretch.
The Jam: **NEW SEGMENT** Encouraged by my man Zach, I thought I’d toss in whatever current song I’m really in to. It’s a questioned I’ve proposed to a number of folks I’ve Q&A’d and I’m always open to discovering new music. So send it right back my way. The inaugural The Jam is “You – Ha ha ha” by Charli XCX. A little synth pop for your Wednesday morning with a nonsensical music video but plenty of energy. Let me know if you know a better music sharing strategy than YouTube links.
The YouTuber: Go say shuttlecock to someone without laughing. Do it.