How is the 2015 Pac-12 Tournament field shaping up?

p12 tourney

The Pac-12 Tournament is a little more than a week away, so it’s a good time to look at how the bracket will shake out heading into the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Below are the current conference standings, along with each team’s outlook and remaining schedule (plus kenpom.com win probabilities). The tie-breaking rules are here, if anyone wants to figure out all the possible scenarios in the Pac-12’s weird, muddled middle.

1. Arizona (14-2) — 3/5 vs. Cal (97%), 3/7 vs. Stanford (92%)
Arizona has already clinched the top seed in the Pac-12 Tournament.

2. Utah (12-4) — 3/5 at Washington State (91%), 3/7 at Washington (86%)
Utah’s chance at a regular-season title slipped away when it lost to the Wildcats last Saturday. The Utes remain a strong bet to finish second barring an unthinkable collapse on its final road trip.

3. Oregon (12-5) — 3/4 at Oregon State (55%)
The Ducks have clinched at least third, and still have a chance to steal the No. 2-seed away from Utah. If they finish with the same record, Oregon holds the head-to-head tiebreaker due to its 69-58 upset of the Utes on Feb. 22.

4. UCLA (10-7) — 3/4 vs. USC (87%)
Even if the Bruins somehow implode in their regular-season finale, they will likely remain in fourth place due to their head-to-head tiebreaker against Stanford.

5. Stanford (9-7) — 3/5 at ASU (43%), 3/7 at Arizona (8%)
Even if Stanford wins out, it wouldn’t move up in the standings unless UCLA also loses to USC. If the Cardinal split their Arizona trip, they will stand alone in fifth. If they lose out, a few tiebreaker scenarios would emerge. Continue reading

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UCLA gets beaten in the paint, on the boards in loss at Arizona State

UCLA looked like it had a chance at Arizona State, Isaac Hamilton pulling up on the right wing for what could have been a game-winning, buzzer 3-pointer. But even that was likely a mirage — just another ill-conceived play in a 68-66 loss, one that delivered a gut punch to the Bruins’ NCAA Tournament hopes.

Hamilton’s shot wasn’t reviewed, since all it drew was back iron and the sighs of UCLA fans hopeful for a late-season surge. On the replay, however, the sophomore’s fingertips looked like they were still on the ball as the backboard lit up red. With 6.8 seconds left, UCLA likely hadn’t created a viable last shot.

The Bruin offense had looked disjointed for much of the second period, missing 11 of its first 14 shots after the break to lose what had been a 36-32 halftime lead.

Norman Powell led the team with 16 points, but didn’t score a second-half point until the final 92 seconds. Big man Tony Parker was a non-factor, fouling out with 9:42 left on the game clock; he finished with just two points and one rebound, his worst showing of the year.

But what really sank the Bruins was lackluster rebounding and indifferent defense. Arizona State dominated them on the boards, 39-27, and sank an array of shots at close range. The Sun Devils shot 54.5 percent on 2-point attempts, and scored 36 points in the paint — 14 more than UCLA. Continue reading

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At a glance: UCLA at Arizona State

UCLA (16-10, 8-5) at Arizona State (13-12, 5-7)
Wednesday, Feb. 18, 6 p.m. PT, Wells Fargo Arena
TV: ESPN2 (Dave Pasch, Bill Walton)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

Scouting report: ESPN College GameDay is heading to Tucson for No. 7 Arizona’s Saturday game against UCLA, but the Bruins’ tourney bubble status should keep them from overlooking Arizona State tonight. Steve Alford and company simply can’t afford to lose more than one of its final five games.

The Sun Devils have not been a particularly good team, but they are at least average in most areas and can do enough to upset more talented teams (ex: an 81-78 upset of the Wildcats on Feb. 7). However, despite its “Curtain of Distraction,” ASU has also been unable to string together two straight home wins since December, when it held off Harvard and Detroit. The team is coming off a 10-point win over Washington last Sunday.

In its ninth season under Herb Sendek, Arizona State has been very, very good at one thing: defensive rebounding. The roster doesn’t have much size outside of 6-foot-10 big man Eric Jacobsen, but manages to clean its own glass with a good amount of support from guards and wings. At the top of that list is junior Gerry Blakes, a JUCO transfer who is not only averaging 20.8 points in his last three games, but also leads the team with in defensive rebounding percentage (19.1). Continue reading

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Four-star defensive tackle Joseph Wicker commits to Arizona State

UCLA started National Signing Day with a bang, but it wasn’t able to pull a clean sweep on ESPNU’s loaded slate of announcements.

Four-star defensive tackle Joseph Wicker committed to Arizona State over the Bruins and Texas Tech. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound lineman is a top-100 national recruit who is ranked No. 12 at his position by Rivals.com. He was UCLA’s only chance to add an interior defensive lineman in the 2015 recruiting class.

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UCLA’s Takkarist McKinley scouts Colorado offensive line

Colorado has only given up 12 sacks this season, good for the second-best mark in the Pac-12.

UCLA defensive end Takkarist McKinley said the key to besting the Buffs is to rely on get-off and speed rushes — as well as using his hands to avoid chop blocks.

“When they try to chop block you, they try to tear your ACL,” McKinley said. “To me, that’s dirty. To them, it’s their job. But to me, it’s pretty dirty.”

Asked if he’d noticed any other Pac-12 teams use chop-blocks, McKinley pointed out Utah — which beat UCLA 30-28. Oregon and Arizona State, on the other hand, weren’t major offenders. “Cal, their running backs did it a lot,” he continued. “I’d come in there full speed, and their little running backs just might go straight for my legs. So did the little tight ends they have.”

RELATED:
» A couple of Bruins are already familiar with Colorado receiver Nelson Spruce.
» Brett Hundley’s turnovers have been particularly untimely for UCLA.

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