The Pac-12 supposedly got disrespected by the NCAA Tournament committee on Selection Sunday. Oregon, which won the Pac-12 tournament, only earned a 12 seed. Cal, which snuck into the tournament after losing two of three to end the season, was also was given a 12 seed, behind Akron and Bucknell.
The Ducks and Bears won impressively Thursday, as if raising a middle finger to the selection committee. Toss in the Arizona thumping of 11th seeded Belmont and the conference went 3-0. UCLA plays Minnesota Friday and Colorado plays Illinois, so the Pac-12 could go 5-0.
Oregon throttled Oklahoma State from start to finish, winning easily, 68-55. I was extremely disappointed in the Cowboys, who I thought had the talent for a deep run in the tournament. Oklahoma State turned the ball over 14 times (only 12 assists) and generally looked wretched on offense, while Oregon was faster, more aggressive on the glass (14 offensive rebounds), and had terrific balance (Dotson, Emory, Artis and Kazemi were in double figures).
Cowboys’ star Marcus Smart struggled in trying to do everything – 14 points, nine rebounds, five steals – but he also had five turnovers and looked tired from ball handling and consistently being harassed by the pesky Johnathan Loyd. Smart, who kind of reminds me of James Harden, still be a Top 10 pick in the June NBA draft.
The Ducks are 3 1/2 point underdogs against Saint Louis Saturday. I like Saint Louis, but Oregon seems to have at least five or six guys capable of going for 15 points, and shouldn’t struggle against the pressure with Loyd and Artis.
Cal playing surprisingly-suffocating defense on UNLV, and held on for a 61-58 triumph. The Bears threw a 2-3 zone at the Rebels, and UNLV coach Dave Rice apparently had never seen one before. The Rebels couldn’t score (31 percent shooting), jacked bad 3-pointers (6-of-21) and even soiled themselves at the foul line (17-of-26). An 11-minute stretch in the second half without a bucket nearly turned the game into a rout, but Cal missed enough free throws late to keep it interesting.
For reasons that remain unknown, star freshman Anthony Bennett refused to attack the basket, didn’t react well to double teams, and didn’t feel compelled enough to demand the ball when he had position. He scored 15 points and took 11 rebounds, but he missed seven of 11 shots in probably his last college game.
Allen Crabbe, the Pac-12 player of the year, had a 19-8-5 effort, and looked like a complete enough player to perhaps warrant a look late in the 1st round of the draft. Bullish center Robert Thurman made six baskets – all on dunks. Wonder if the Bears will throw a 2-3 zone at Syracuse Saturday with James Southerland lurking on the perimeter.