Pac-12 notes: Mike Leach thinks Connor Halliday is better than your quarterback

Connor Halliday is the best quarterback in the country, according to Connor Halliday’s coach.

After talking up the Pac-12′s depth behind center on Wednesday, Washington State’s Mike Leach said he would take his redshirt senior over just about anybody else.

“You might be rooting for your guy, and I don’t care what you think,” Leach said. “He’s better than your guy is.”

Some other Pac-12 Media Day highlights from the conference’s most quotable coach (as well as other coaches and players) …

» Asked how he would pick a bear-hunting partner between Washington coach Chris Petersen and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham: “We get a large bag and we stick in Coach Petersen, Coach Whittingham, and we shake that bag up really high and really hard.”

» On his fishing trip this summer: “My staff and I went fishing up in McCall, Idaho on the Snake River and got a huge 9.5-foot, 350-pound sturgeon, probably 95 years old. Of course, turned him loose so he could pull somebody else’s boat around for a while next time.” Continue reading

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Oregon picked to win Pac-12 title over UCLA in preseason poll

Oregon and UCLA are both overwhelming favorites in their respective divisions, but for the fourth time in five years, the Ducks are the preseason pick to win the Pac-12.

Media members gave Oregon 24 votes to win conference title game at Levi’s Stadium on Dec. 5, nearly double the 13 votes UCLA received. Stanford and USC also received one vote each to win the league, though they only combined for three votes to take their respective divisions.

The preseason poll has correctly picked 28 of 53 conference champions, and 11 of the last 14. Continue reading

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Which players have the best names in the Pac-12?

By now, you’ve read many of the lists that have proliferated in college football’s dry summer months. The best 100 players. The freakiest players. The best coaches, best offseasons, best uniforms.

But this? This is the most important of them all. With Pac-12 Media Days — schedule here — kicking off this morning, I have compiled the five best names from each team in the conference.

Without further ado …

Arizona: Sir Thomas Jackson, Antonio Smothers, Tra’Mayne Bondurant, Brogan Kemmerly, Abraham Mendivil

Not great depth here, as the latter two names sacrifice catchiness in favor of length. Still, Sir Thomas Jackson alone is an MVP candidate.

Arizona State: Ezekial Bishop, Demetrius Cherry, Zane Gonzalez, Jaxon Hood, Philip “Scooby” Wright III

Would be better if Scooby’s real first name weren’t Phillip, but otherwise still a solid quintet that lacks a superstar.

Cal: Hardy Nickerson, Avery Sebastian, Bryce Treggs, Brennan Scarlett, Maximo Espitia

A nice throwback in Hardy Nickerson, bookended by a name that makes me want to re-watch Russell Crowe take on a despotic Joaquin Phoenix. Continue reading

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UCLA blows out Oregon in Pac-12 quarterfinal

LAS VEGAS — UCLA’s high-flying offense is back.

A week after shooting 33.3 percent in an ugly loss at Washington State to end the regular season, the Bruins couldn’t miss in a 82-63 blowout of Oregon.

In what was arguably the most highly anticipated of the Pac-12 Tournament’s second day, UCLA turned a quarterfinal matchup into its own personal billboard. Continue reading

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Five questions: What does UCLA need to do in its Pac-12 tourney opener?

UCLA will open its Las Vegas schedule against a red-hot Oregon team that has won eight straight games. If nothing else, the matchup between the Pac-12′s two top offenses could result in the most entertaining game yet at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Here are five key questions heading into Thursday’s 6 p.m. quarterfinal.

1. How will Jordan Adams play? UCLA’s top scorer has run hot and cold this season, most recently following up a career-high 31 points against Washington with seven against Washington State.

The sophomore’s point totals have ebbed and flowed along with the Bruins’ wins and losses. Continue reading

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UCLA to face No. 7-seed Oregon in Pac-12 quarterfinals

UCLA will open the Pac-12 Tournament against Oregon, setting up a rubber match on Thursday after a split regular-season series.

The Ducks earned a spot in the 6 p.m. quarterfinal after putting on an offensive clinic against Oregon State on Wednesday night. The conference’s most prolific offense had a 21-4 run in the first half, and a 17-2 run in the second. It shot 80 percent after halftime, outscoring the Beavers 47-34.

Dana Altman got 46 points off his bench, with 27 coming from Jason Calliste and Dominic Artis. The latter had arguably his best game of the season, notching a 10 points and a season-high six assists.

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VIDEOS: Bruins talk to media after double-overtime loss to Oregon

Head coach Steve Alford, after the Bruins forced double overtime without their two best players: “I don’t know if I’ve been more proud of a basketball team during a regular season game.”

David Wear walks through his buzzer-beating 3-pointer, one that came off an inbounds pass from twin brother Travis with 1.2 seconds left in regulation. Continue reading

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UCLA forces double-overtime thriller in 87-83 loss to Oregon

Pauley Pavilion nearly saw a miracle.

With 1:01 left on the game clock, UCLA was down seven points and missing its two best players.

The Bruins clawed their way through 11 more minutes, eventually falling 87-83 to Oregon in double overtime. Along the way, they left fans with arguably the most memorable game of the season.

Three hours before the 8 p.m. tipoff, the team had announced the suspensions of point guard Kyle Anderson and leading scorer Jordan Adams.

With little time the prepare, UCLA (21-7, 10-5) went almost the entire first half without an inside bucket and walked into the locker room in a 12-point hole.

No matter. With 1.2 seconds left in regulation, David Wear snuck behind the Ducks’ defense and streaked upcourt for a wide-open three. He caught an inbounds pass from his twin brother, Travis, and drilled a shot from some 30 feet away. Continue reading

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Alford talks up Oregon’s speed

UCLA’s Thursday trip to Oregon will pit the Bruins against the team most capable of matching their pace. The Ducks are 21st in the country in adjusted tempo, second in the conference to Steve Alford’s squad (15th).

“They play a lot of guards,” Alford said. “They usually have four guards in their lineup. Sometimes it looks like they have five guards in their lineup. … Our transition defense is going to come to a test.”

Oregon, which has lost four of their last five, rank 15th in adjusted offense — five spots above UCLA — but rank 130th in adjusted defense. Only Washington and Oregon State are worse in the Pac-12.

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