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Pac-12 Basketball: Oregon Rises As Cal, Washington, Arizona Stumble


In a weekend where a conference needed its big teams to put up some signature wins, almost all teams fell flat on their faces. The Pac-12 didn't do itself any favors for its NCAA bracketology, and now almost every team will be in a free for all to try and win the tournament outright, because nothing is guaranteed for any of them.

The Washington Huskies backdoored their way into a Pac-12 championship after deciding to stop playing smart basketball against the UCLA Bruins, converting on three of their final 16 field goal attempts and turning the ball over five times. Washington looked overwhelmed at the thought of winning their conference, and simply made too many errors in judgment to pull out a victory.

It was the same type of painful performance that Pac-12 basketball has produced all year--teams that lack focus, energy, or good coaching. Washington seemed to forget how to run set offense down the stretch, and often ended up with one pass, one shoot looks that rarely made impact.

The Arizona Wildcats had a chance to move into the top 50 RPI this weekend, but they absolutely submarined their chances when they blew their rivalry contest against a putrid Arizona St. Sun Devils squad. ASU hit double-digit wins on the season with this victory, which would mean this loss would've meant nothing if this game was played in mid-December. It's pretty much a disaster for this to happen in late March.

It was a totally lethargic effort, and those results could be seen all the worse on the defensive end. Arizona gave up 85 points to ASU. ASU has hit 70 points only five times this year. The Wildcats sure played like a team that had locked up their tournament bid and felt the only way into March madness was winning three games in three nights.

For a long time, the California Golden Bears had the best chance of earning an at-large bid, but they are fading to the finish after losing a chance to share the Pac-12 title against Stanford. Cal looked rushed, overwhelmed by the moment, and mistake-prone, and they dropped two contests in a row in unimpressive fashion. The Cardinal defense shut off all of Cal's passing lanes and disrupted their usual crisp offense, providing them with too few options with which to create good looks and get easy buckets.

For a team that lacks a marquee win, a third loss in a row by Cal next Thursday could put them in that confusing murky bubble where they could be in or out come Selection Sunday.

Only one team made life a little bit easier on themselves this weekend: The Oregon Ducks.

What a remarkable job Dana Altman has done down the stretch. If not for a second half stretch where Cal's defense finally shut down the unstoppable Oregon attack and a terrible, terrible, TERRIBLE late call in Boulder, Oregon might be hitting the Pac-12 tournament on a nine game winning streak. Oregon ripped off an incredible second half performance in dispatching Colorado before sending Utah to the next dimension. They have played themselves into tournament contention and are the hottest team in the conference by far.

However, Oregon can't count on anything. They're 0-5 against teams with a top 50 RPI, and beating teams in the Pac-12 might not be quite yet good enough. Arizona might have had a chance to climb up, but it's close to nil that they'll be a top 50 team even if they win the tournament.

It's that type of year for Pac-12 basketball. No one can feel safe until Selection Sunday.