UCLA secured a No. 6 seed on Selection Sunday, but the celebration was somewhat muted.
The Bruins were happy more or less happy with the number, though coach Ben Howland said he expected a four- or five-seed. They were fine with playing No. 11-seed Minnesota on Friday, a team they still need to study on film.
But the location? Those 1,300 miles to Austin, Texas, wasn’t what the team wanted — especially not as two other Pac-12 schools were slotted in California. Howland said last week that he was more concerned with the location than the seed, and stuck true to that sentiment after the bracket was released.
“Honestly? I’d rather be Cal right now, playing in San Jose,” he said. “I’d rather be a 12-seed right now, playing in San Jose. Absolutely. Especially for the fans.” Continue reading →
Two days after UCLA won an outright Pac-12 title, Shabazz Muhammad became the eighth player in program history to win Pac-12 Freshman of the Year — sharing the honor with Arizona point guard Jahii Carson.
The star swingman, who ranked third in the Pac-12 with 18.3 points per game, is the first Bruin to win since Kevin Love in 2008. Muhammad also made the 10-man all-conference first team with senior point guard Larry Drew II, while freshman point forward Kyle Anderson was a second-team selection.
Muhammad and Drew both generated some talk for the conference’s Player of the Year Award, but that went to Cal guard Allen Crabbe. Oregon’s Dana Altman won Coach of the Year, and had his Ducks positioned for a conference title before losing the last two games of the season.
Muhammad and Anderson also made the All-Pac-12 Freshman team, but guard Jordan Adams missed the cut for the five-man list. He averaged 15.2 points per game, eighth best in the conference, and was an honorable mention for receiving at least three votes.
1. Oregon (23-6, 12-4) — The Ducks are the best team in the Pac-12 as long as Dominic Artis is healthy, but he only saw 12 minutes in a win at Oregon State. Oregon should get its first conference title since 2002 if its point guard’s foot injury is no longer a problem. Damyean Dotson also has a hip injury, but is expected to play.
2. Cal (20-10, 12-6) — Cal’s defense had held locked down opponents to 33.7 percent shooting through a seven-win streak, but couldn’t stop Stanford in their season finale. Allen Crabbe and the Cardinal’s Dwight Powell also started a scuffle that ended with the ejection of two players and three assistant coaches — including Mark Madsen.
3. UCLA (22-8, 12-5) — The Bruins lost to Washington State for the first time in 20 years. Washington State was missing its second- and third-leading scorers. Oh, and UCLA forward Travis Wear re-aggravated his sprained right ankle. A share of the Pac-12 title is within reach if Oregon loses, but what an awful night for this team. Continue reading →
1. Arizona (23-4, 11-4) — Visits from the Washington schools didn’t provide the stiffest challenges, but Arizona took care of both the Huskies and the Cougars with ease last week. Defense is an issue at times, with coach Sean Miller describing it as “terrible” after beating WSU 73-56. The Wildcats allowed Washington State to shoot 52.2 percent in the second half, and would have been in more trouble had the Cougs shot better than 14 of 28 at the line.
2. Cal (18-9, 10-5) — Conference-leading scorer Allen Crabbe has gone a bit cold lately, but Justin Cobbs ensured that a Bear would be named Pac-12 Player of the Week for the third straight time. In his past six games, Cobbs is averaging 16.6 points on 53.4-percent shooting, his best stretch since November. Cal plays its last three games at home and is at least slightly favored in each.
3. UCLA (20-7, 10-4) — The Bruins’ offense is syncing again three bumpy weeks, helped in part by better ball movement and shot selection. They’ve made 6 of 12 from beyond the arc in each of their past two games. UCLA is likely without forward Travis Wear (sprained foot) for at least another game, which is a troubling prospect as it prepares to host ASU and Arizona. Continue reading →