With 11 minutes left in the 2nd half of their weekend games, conference leaders Cal and Washington both were on the ropes. On the road against motivated opponents on senior day, both faced double digit deficits. Both teams mounted comebacks in desperate attempts to preserve their conference title runs.
Washington St. would only score 8 more points in the last 11 minutes of the game. Amidst a flurry of turnovers, missed free throws and airballs, the Huskies clawed their way back into the game after looking absolutely dead in the water. In contrast, Colorado maintained their effort and didn't flinch when Cal hit three three pointers in three minutes. Colorado's 13 point win put Washington again in the driver's seat for the regular season title in what has been one of the closest races I can recall. Neither Cal or Washington has fallen behind the other by more than a game all season long.
When things are that close, it's those goofy 10 minute sequences, those weird random variables like free throw shooting, that can decide titles. Some of us find that frustrating, some find it poetic. Guess which side I'm on right now?
The overlooked impact of Colorado's mild upset win is that it further tightened the race for the last two first round byes in the Pac-12 conference tournament. Cal and Washington are both locked into top four seeds, but Arizona, Colorado and Oregon are all tied in the loss column. Arizona only needs to beat Arizona St. to clinch their own top four spot. As a result the final spot will almost certainly come down to Thursday's game between the Buffs and Ducks in Eugene.
Conference Tournament rooting interests
Obviously we all want Cal to earn the #1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament. But who would you like to play in the tournament? I suppose it's a somewhat subjective question, and at this point I don't really feel like playing Washington, Arizona or Colorado. And that last Oregon game was pretty scary too.
If Cal does earn that #1 seed, they will play either Washington St. or Oregon St. first unless something really weird happens. If Cal earns the #2 seed, they will probably play Stanford first (again, unless something weird happens, like Stanford losing to ASU. If Cal earns the #3 seed then that means we lost to Stanford and I'll be too depressed to care about the Pac-12 tournament.
As for projecting a potential 2nd round opponent? That's almost impossible because Cal could end up on either side of the bracket, and as a result any team in the top half of the conference besides is conceivable. Just cross your fingers and hope for good luck.
More Player of the Year thoughts
One leading candidate scored zero points in a crushing road loss. Another candidate's coach drew up a game deciding play for a player with 14 FG attempts in 16 Pac-12 games this season (True, that's not Motum's fault. But come on Bone, what the hell was that?) Another candidate is the leader of a team that is on a five game losing streak. Another candidate actually has a below-average offensive rating.
Let's just give it to Derrick Williams again.
I'm going to try to put together my picks for post-season awards next week (first & second teams, defense, freshmen, etc.). Any and all reader thoughts would be appreciated. If there's ever a year to think outside the box, this is the one.
Utah at Oregon State, 7:00
Washington St. at UCLA, 7:30
Washington at USC, 7:30
Colorado at Oregon, 7:30
Washington at UCLA, 11:00, CBS
Colorado at Oregon State, 1:00
Washington St. at USC, 3:00
Utah at Oregon, 3:00
Arizona at Arizona St., 12:30
Cal at Stanford, 2:30, FSN/CSNBA
There are really only three games that are both relevant and somewhat in doubt barring a massive upset. For reasons stated above, Colorado at Oregon is worth a glance on Thursday. And then the two games that will decide the conference.
On Saturday the Huskies will visit the Bruins and CBS will be there to torture us throughout. I'm sure CGB will have a thread so that we can all get over the heebie-jeebies associated with rooting for UCLA together.
And on Sunday the Bears will conclude Pac-12 regular season play in Palo Alto. #occupymaples.