Pretty good time to be a Pac-12 blogger if you ask a Pac-12 blogger. Three teams are tasting the sweetness of March while another three ended their seasons. And even two of those defeats were in spectacular fashion. Actually, all three of the departed left in spectacular fashion – Colorado’s case was just a little…different than the others?
General Thoughts: If this doesn’t stir up some dust in whatever room you’re in then I’m not entirely sure we’ll get along.
This is real life Field of Dreams but on a basketball court without racist ghosts. This is life’s simplest and universal beauty – father, son, ball – on the biggest stage we can conjure. They both called it special and I’d venture to call it perfect. Thank you, McDermotts.
And while we’re on the topic of perfection, Wichita State-Kentucky. That ranks amongst the greatest games I’ve ever seen played. I hate that we think this somehow legitimizes or otherwise the Shockers. One game does not define a team or a season. It doesn’t define a conference or a schedule. But it can tell you a helluva lot about what’s underneath a jersey. That game was all guts. It was onions and stones and ice. If WSU was going out it was tooth and nail. If Kentucky was going out it was as the team we thought they’d be. And if you still need rationalization for the legitimacy of Wichita State, I challenge you to find a better game Kentucky has played all season. It took a roster of 4-7 first round draft picks playing their best game of the season to knock those kids off. Read this. That game was everything we could’ve wanted. Yeah, I wanted banked threes and Cleanthony steal-n-dunk and that Young three. Perfect. Also, how wrenching is 35-1? Can’t even imagine.
#1 Arizona Wildcats
You guys want to talk about Arizona’s free throws? Yeah, me either. I’m off the pageantry wagon. This is the time of year when you survive and advance. Survival isn’t about looking cute, it’s about not dying. Aron Ralston cut his own god damn arm off to not die. He drank his own piss. So if Arizona beats a sixteen seed by 9 and misses a handful of free throws in doing, I’m not going to lose sleep over it. Because they could also turn Gonzaga over on nearly 30% of their possessions and thunder their way into the Sweet Sixteen. We know what teams can and can’t do at this point. Arizona can roll you and wants to:
“I don’t like the term `survive and advance,’ “ Gordon said. “I like the term `dominate and advance.’”
#4 UCLA Bruins
I could dive into the Bruins’ two wins – look into the terrific play of Jordan Adams and what an ex-factor Norman Powell is. I could note that UCLA is yielding less than 1 point per possession. The kind of defense the supplements perhaps the most high octane offense remaining in this tournament. Could get into some Steve Alford love as he heads to his second ever Sweet Sixteen (kudos). But ultimately UCLA’s games were uninteresting, only briefly competitive, and played against Tulsa and a school seemingly named after a Wrestler and TV character (though 32-3 is a very impressive season). I’m passing on all of that and ignoring that this is a review because I’m so excited for that UCLA-Florida game on Thursday. The Bruins are on a three game March losing streak to the Gators. The Bruins are a phenomenal offensive team. The Gators are a phenomenal defensive team. Will Yeguete guarding Kyle Anderson. The Wear family guarding Patric Young. Gimme this game.
#10 Stanford Cardinal
Johnny Dawkins going full Steve Lavin on us I see. But credit where it’s due: our guy, JD, outcoached Bill Self. He has the talent to do it but to exact a plan that gets Andrew Wiggins just six shots and four points is impressive. It was the second fewest shot attempts he’d take on the season. Sunday was not coming up Wiggins though I watched some of the weirdest basketball transpire in that game. There was a sequence where it seemed Stanford committed four straight turnovers and gave up three offensive rebounds in the process of trying to break KU’s press. Kansas came out of that sequence with no points and Stanford managed an Anthony Brown breakaway layup plus harm. Johnny Dawkins did well but Kansas was not meant to win that game. Also, I can’t tell if I love or hate the fact that Robbie Lemons – a walk-on with the 2010 class of Powell, Huestis, etc. – gets crunch time tick. I suppose it’s growing on me because it’s March and my emotions are heightened and so I’m really hooked on this idea of the underdog. Besides, there’s so much fun to be had with his last name. Because when life hands you lemons, you beat Kansas and go to the Sweet Sixteen.
#7 Oregon Ducks
Close only counts in horse shoes, hand grenades, and meeting Jennifer Lawrence, but man was that one close. The Ducks looked the better team for much of that game and delivered blows, absorbed blows, and came up just short. Joseph Young was terrific and it was a treat to watch Jason Calliste and Mike Moser – the traveled and hungry seniors – refuse to let their careers end. It unfortunately came down to another senior exacting his own will to not retire, Ben Brust. We already talked about learning about what’s underneath the jersey – guts and heart – and these Ducks were all of that across the season’s final month-and-change. That was one helluva run.
#8 Colorado Buffaloes
I mean…tough. We knew it was a mis-match and that things really weren’t stacking up in Colorado’s favor. But that was rough. Pittsburgh did and got whatever they wanted, the Buffs seemingly took it, and went back to Boulder in lopsided fashion. I ultimately think it’s a great learning experience for the program. I thought CU was given something of a favorable seed for their accomplishments over the past few years. A perhaps earned honor but one that could bite them in the ass. And it did. But like I said, learning experience. The tournament is never given to you. No matter whether you’re playing a sixteen or a one, sixty-eight teams are here to compete. If you’re not ready, that can happen to you. There is plenty of good hoop ahead for this Colorado program, the Pitt game was not a set back, but a warning flare that this is some very real stuff.
#10 Arizona State Sun Devils
You all know how I pretty much don’t like this school. I’m from Tucson and grew up understanding that we hate the Sun Devils. But this? I can probably joke about it in a few months – maybe years – but can’t right now. This image is every reason why we love this tournament. No, not because it’s ASU losing, but because the thousand words this picture tells us is the thousands of hours that went into even getting into that moment. To have your career leading shot blocker have one more opportunity to dismiss a game winner; to furiously come back from down a dozen. All of these opportunities for shining moments. And sometimes it doesn’t shine.