Stanford, UCLA, Arizona wins send three Pac-12 teams to Sweet 16
Thanks to a 6-0 slate on Friday and Sunday combined, the Pac-12 is sending three teams – Arizona, Stanford and UCLA – to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. As such, the Pac-12 is tied with the Big Ten and SEC for sending the most teams to the second weekend of the tourney. Let’s take a look at each school’s tournament run through the first weekend:
Arizona was far from its best in the opening game, beating a pesky Weber State team 68-59 – not the kind of spread you would expect in a 1-16 matchup. However, if there were any questions about the Wildcats’ ability to make a deep run in March, Sean Miller’s kids quickly erased the doubt with a resounding 84-61 thumping of eighth-seeded Gonzaga on Sunday, a game in which the 'Cats forced the 'Dogs into 21 turnovers. Those giveaways led to many an Arizona transition bucket, and Aaron Gordon found himself touching the rim quite a bit. Now the Wildcats head back to SoCal Thursday night – Anaheim this time – to take on a San Diego State team they beat on the road earlier this season (7:17 p.m. PT, TBS).
Stanford said it wasn’t just happy to be there, and it certainly showed. While many people across the nation had seventh-seeded New Mexico handling the Card in the round of 64, the Farm Boys raced out to a 20-4 lead and made key plays defensively in the final stanza to advance with a 58-53 win over the Lobos. (Also, clutch free throws from Robbie Lemons helped the cause) Next was a date with a Joel Embiid-less Kansas Jayhawks team that many thought would play deep into the tourney. It certainly wasn’t the biggest upset of the weekend, but Stanford’s zone completely flustered Kansas and Chasson Randle made sure the Jayhawks knew who he was as Nerd Nation booked a date with Dayton Thursday in Memphis (4:15 p.m. PT, CBS) with a 60-57 decision over Bill Self’s group.
UCLA has won two tournament games for the first time since Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook were on campus after the Bruins knocked off a couple of double-digit seeds in Tulsa and Stephen F. Austin. The Golden Hurricane was within five with 4:54 to go, but UCLA made sure Danny Manning’s kids never put a super serious scare into the proceedings with a 76-59 triumph. Then the Bruins had to face a Lumberjack group that was fresh off an overtime thriller with VCU and sported a 32-2 record heading into Sunday. The Southland champs would stay at “2” in the loss column no more as UCLA put in a workman-like performance, never letting the Lumberjacks make a game out of it with a 77-60 win. Now the Bruins take on the top-seeded Florida Gators in Memphis (6:45 p.m. PT, CBS), and if they can get past the hottest team in the country (how does 28 straight wins sound to you?), they might get a fourth battle with the Cardinal in the Elite 8. First things first, though: Get revenge on the team that knocked you out of the 2011 Big Dance.
The Forks checked out of Heartbreak Hotel Thursday night after a gut-wrenching defeat to Texas. The Surgin’ Sendeks completely erased a double-digit deficit and Jordan Bachynski could not be stopped down low (try 25 points on 9-12 shooting), but Cameron Ridley’s putback at the buzzer sent the Longhorns to the round of 32 with an 87-85 triumph over Arizona State.
There wasn’t a whole lot to like Thursday if you’re a Buffs fan. Playing in one of the first games to tip off in the second round, Colorado dug itself into a 13-0 hole against Pitt and never made it a game. The Panthers’ defense smothered the Buffs into submission, leading to a 77-48 trouncing of a Colorado team that deserves credit for making its way into March Madness without the services of Spencer Dinwiddie.
The Quacks were certainly entertaining in their two games on Thursday and Saturday in Milwaukee, but unfortunately that’s all she wrote for Altman U. Oregon pulled away in the second half to comfortably beat 10th-seeded BYU 87-68 behind a season-high 23 points from native son Elgin Cook, setting up a third-round affair with No. 2-seeded Wisconsin. It was all Ducks in the first half, but the Badgers quickly erased a 12-point halftime deficit and snuck out of town with an 85-77 victory, a scoring margin that doesn’t indicate just how close the game was down the stretch (Oregon was down 79-77 with 22 seconds left, but Wisconsin sealed the deal with free throws).