Arizona played the Jayhawks in Las Vegas and held the lead inside 10 minutes to play, and stayed close until the final minutes. UCLA hit a game-tying three inside the last minute before an awful foul call gave Kansas the game winning free throw just before the buzzer. USC took on the Jayhawks in Kansas on Saturday and fell after Josh Shelby hit the game winning three pointer with 20 seconds left.
USC was led by inside duo of Alex Stephenson and Nikola Vucevic, who combined for 31 points on 13-23 shooting and 16 rebounds. Josh Smith kept things close by getting hot from behind the arc, hitting 5 three pointers. Jio Fontan had a solid debut with 15 points, though his turnover after Shelby's three was a painful mistake. What really kept USC close was their defense, which held Kansas to just 38 percent shooting . . . and yet Kansas still escaped with their home winning streak intact.
Is there any team out there that can take down the Big 12's best? A lone hero ready to restore honor to the Pac-10? Surely a team is ready to knock off the Kansas juggernaut . . . but who?
Around The Pac
In which we take a look at a few of the more interesting and/or important games that happened last week
UCLA 86, BYU 79
UCLA picked up perhaps the single best win for the Pac-10 so far this year with an upset win over Jimmer Fredette (if I remember correctly, that's french for tiny girl Fred) and his more normally named teammates. Reeves Nelson stepped up after some disappointing performances, and with another strong contribution from Tyler Honeycutt the Bruins held on for the victory in the Wooden Classic. Bruins Nation sees this win as an important step towards the NCAA tournament:
We've talked at length about the need to make the tournament this year, and why this game in particular was so important to achieving that goal. The Bruins not only pulled out a victory, and not only showed a lot of improvement in team play and smart decisions and effort, but they were able to do Coach proud in the game that bears his namesake.
Washington, Arizona and Washington St. are in halfway decent positions for an eventual tournament spot - UCLA's upset win at least adds the potential that the Pac-10 could sneak four teams in this year despite continued non-conference struggles.
Will UCLA win enough in the Pac-10 to earn a 4th tourney spot for the conference?
Butler 83, Stanford 50
Sure, Stanford has lost games to Murray St. and Tulsa, but those were relatively close, competitive losses. So I wasn't expected a graduation-weakened Butler to dominate the Cardinal quite to this degree. Stanford was dominated in essentially every phase of the game - shooting, turnovers, rebounds, etc. Only Josh Owens had a remotely efficient night and Stanford showed how vulnerable they are when Jeremy Green has an off-shooting night. A loss like this makes me wonder if Stanford's rebuilding is a bit futher behind than I would have guessed. In any case, Cal and Stanford's Pac-10 schedule opening game in Maples will likely be a face off of two teams badly needing a win.
Who rebuilds their program and reaches to the NCAA tournament faster: Johnny Dawkins or Mike Montgomery? Please be as biased as possible when you answer!
Virginia 63, Oregon 48 ; George Washington 87, Oregon St. 79
2010 Pac-10 basketball in Oregon could be ugly this year. Oregon managed to stick with a mediocre Virginia team into the second half but ultimately didn't have enough. The Ducks haven't had much to get excited about other than the continued excellent play of Joevan Catron, though to their credit they have managed to win nearly every game they are supposed to win.
The same can't be said of Oregon St., who fell to its fourth Kenpom 150 or worse rated team of the year. Only an insane amount of free throws (33-36) kept the Beavers close as George Washington had absolutely no trouble torching Craig Robinson's 1-3-1 zone.
How many combined wins will Oregon and Oregon St. get, not counting when they play each other?
By the time this article is published USC will have taken on Tennessee and perhaps earned the Pac-10 another excellent out of conference victory. Stanford will also be fighting hard to bounce back against a solid Oklahoma St. on the road. And Wednesday will bring Kansas's final Pac-10 showdown vs. Cal, plus Washington St. is in Hawaii facing a Mississippi St. team with a shiny record and horrible, horrible schedule strength.
There's not much else to hold interest - the rest of the conference is getting ready for league play with some tune-ups against low conference fodder. But that means that actual conference games are just around the corner. Next week's Around The Pac will take a look at all of the evidence the non-conference schedule has provided to help make BOLD PREDICTIONS!