The Pac-12 season is nearing its conclusion and we couldn't have asked for a more thrilling ending. Four teams are vying for the Pac-12 regular season title and it's down to the last week of the season to determine the winner. The last few weeks have completely separated the conference, with teams finally (and I do mean finally) finding a way to win on the road. The Trojans are in complete free fall and if the tournament started today, UCLA would be on the outside looking in. Let's take a look at the conference standings, declare our Pac-12 game of the week and highlight a few standout performances as this season nears a close.
Pac-12 Conference Standings (2/29):
Three teams separated by one win. Isn't it a glorious sight to see? The action starts off with Cal vs Arizona on Thursday evening which will be on national television. Oregon State has to win against USC and UCLA this week in order to put themselves in better position to break their multi-decade drought from the NCAA tournament. Former conference leader Washington has seen an incredible late season collapse and will try to stop the bleeding against the lowly Washington State Cougars.
Pac-12 Game of the Week: Utah over Arizona
What an incredible game this was. Not only was an eighteen year streak on the line, but the game itself had major implications for the Pac-12 regular season title. The Zeus-Poeltl matchup was as advertised and we got to watch two of college basketball's better big men go mano y mano on primetime. Allonzo Trier led the Wildcats with twenty three points and Arizona fans have to be wondering what their conference record might look like had he not gone down with an injury midseason.
As for the game, this had absolutely everything you could ask for from a basketball game. Arizona went down big early and was facing a double digit deficit at the half. The game went back and forth for the majority of the second half as Arizona kept feeding Zeus down low. While Poeltl won the stat sheet, Tarczewski was truly impressive with his strength and ability to finish in the paint. Arizona had a chance to tie the game late when they were down two, but Utah guard Brandon Taylor put the game out of reach with a devastating three pointer, which put the Ute's up five. Taylor put on a crossover that brought me back to the Kemba Walker days and essentially capped off the win for Utah. This game represented the Pac-12 quite well.
Pac-12 Standout Performances:
Zeus gets the Oscar for the standout player in a losing performance. He showed up big in this game with three huge blocks and this devastating dunk against Jakob Poeltl. As we mentioned before, Poeltl won the stat sheet for the night, yet Zeus deserves a lot of credit for his performance. Had Arizona came away with a victory, Tarczewski and Allonzo Trier would have been credited with saving Arizona's season. As we talk about so often, Arizona really hasn't had its team fully healthy all year long. While it will be nice to most likely have a change at the top come season end (knock on wood), the Wildcats are as dangerous as ever and could catch fire in the Pac-12 tournament. Guard play has really let them down of late and if that trend starts to reverse, watch out.
This isn't necessarily indicative of his performance against USC alone but more about his body of work over the last four years. Wallace's value to this team cannot be understated and Cal badly missed his scoring ability when he was out in the middle of the season. It is by no means a coincidence that Cal's improved play has started since Wallace's return. He is the leader of the team and is a threat to score from anywhere on the court. He gives Cal the balance that unleashes a variety of scoring options from other players. Reef covered Wallace's contributions beautifully in his post last Sunday night.
Let's take a minute to appreciate this entire play, which better have won Pac-12 play of the week. Wallace comes off a screen, immediately drives to the basket and is met by USC big man Nikola Jovanovic. Keep in mind that Jovanovic is 6'11, 235. Wallace uses his opposite hand and throws down a dunk we will see in highlights for decades. This is your point guard ladies and gentleman. This dunk will forever live on in the halls of Cal history as perhaps the penultimate moment of an undefeated season at Haas.