Pac-12 Basketball: One Shot Changed the Picture for UCLA, Oregon, USC
One shot -- a 22-foot three-pointer by USC's Jonah Mathews -- with one second left prevented UCLA from gaining a share of its first regular-season conference title since 2013.
One shot with one second left put UCLA in jeopardy of not making the NCAA tournament.
One shot with one second left prevented UCLA from going into the Pac-12 tournament with an eight-game winning streak, one of the longest in the country.
One shot with one second left provided Oregon with an outright Pac-12 regular-season championship.
One shot with one second left gave USC its third straight win, a tie for third place and perhaps assurance that it will make the NCAA tournament.
That one shot (seen below) gave the Trojans a 54-52 victory over the Bruins Saturday afternoon. And Oregon's 80-67 win over Stanford later in the day gave the Ducks the outright crown with a 13-5 conference mark, the most losses by a Pac-12/Pac-10 champion since UCLA won with a 13-5 record in 2013.
So that leaves the Pac-12 tournament bracket looking like this, according to the Pac-12.com website:
One team that seems to be fading into oblivion is Colorado, which was in first place two weeks ago, but lost to Utah 74-72 in overtime on Saturday for the Buffaloes' fourth straight loss. It leaves the Buffaloes as the No. 6 seed in the conference tournament, forced to play an extra game.
It causes me to look back at this video of Colorado guard McKinley Wright IV following last week's loss to Cal, the second of its four straight losses:
Cal also faded, losing to Oregon and Oregon State by a combined margin of 52 points, while Stanford played itself into NCAA tournament limbo by losing both games in Oregon as well. The Cardinal certainly needs to beat Cal in their Pac-12 tournament opener to keep their postseason hopes alive.
Oregon's Payton Pritchard poured in 29 points against the Cardinal, putting him in position for another conference player-of-the-week award and moving him up the ladder in national player-of-the-year discussions.
Arizona State earned a weekend split by beating Washington State 83-74 on Saturday, solidifying an NCAA tournament spot -- or so you would think.
But what should we make of Washington, which is suddenly playing like the team we thought it would be when the season began. The Huskies went down to Tucson and beat Arizona 69-63 two days after they knocked off Arizona State in Tempe.
Now Arizona must turnaround a play Washington again in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament, and nobody wants to face the Huskies, who have won three of their last four games following their inexplicable nine-game losing streak. Remember, Washington beat Baylor way back in November. Washington freshman Jaden McDaniels scored 20 points Saturday and lately has looked like the NBA lottery pick he was purported to be.
Presumably the Wildcats would still be safely into the NCAA tournament if they lose to the Huskies again. Uh, wouldn't they?