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 hangs on at Stanford, moves into third place in Pac-12

UCLA played stretches of good basketball and stretches of bad basketball, and bits of basketball that hung on little more than good fortune.

Somehow, it added up to a 69-67 win at Stanford on Thursday night, the Bruins’ first outside of Los Angeles since Thanksgiving weekend.

It was a victory that moved UCLA (14-9, 6-4) into third-place tie in the Pac-12, and one that represented the team’s first significant road win of the season. It was also one that saw the Bruins — who attacked and defended well through the middle swath of the game — melt down in the final minutes, going without a field goal after 5:19 after leading by as much as 22 points.

The Cardinal (15-7, 6-4) had a chance to win on Chasson Randle’s desperation heave at the buzzer but it clanked off, leaving Arizona and Utah looking like the only teams in the conference locked into NCAA tournament berths.

UCLA took control of the game late in the first half, and stayed in the driver’s seat for several minutes. The Bruins took its first double-digit lead with 4:57 left in the opening period, having gone on a 10-2 run in just over two minutes. They also held the Cardinal scoreless for well over five minutes, their zone scheme flustering the home squad. Continue reading

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At a glance: UCLA at Stanford

UCLA Bruins (13-9, 5-4) vs. Stanford Cardinal (15-6, 6-3)
Tipoff: Thursday, Feb. 5, 6:05 p.m., Maples Pavilion
TV: ESPN2 (Dave Fleming, Bill Walton)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

Scouting report: UCLA has won just one game outside of Los Angeles this season. Notching a victory at Stanford tonight would help preserve what slim chances at the NCAA tournament the Bruins have left.

Arizona is the most talented team in the conference, but the Cardinal would probably be the runner-up. (UCLA has better top-end talent, but Stanford has more depth.) Head coach Johnny Dawkins saved his job with a Sweet 16 run last season, and was also rewarded with what has been a Pac-12 Player of the Year type of season from Chasson Randle. The senior is a score-first guard, but he fills that role well and is scoring 20.8 points per game on 43.1 percent shooting. He also hits more than 40 percent from beyond the arc, and is averaging 3.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists.

Randle is also accompanied by fellow sharpshooters in Anthony Brown and Rosco Allen, both of whom can light it up from outside. UCLA did a poor job defending the perimeter, which seems to trace back to a philosophical flaw in Steve Alford’s playbook. The second-year head coach said last season that he isn’t as concerned with allowing 3-point attempts versus easy shots in the paint. That makes the Bruins susceptible to teams that get hot from downtown. Continue reading

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UCLA 86, Stanford 81: Head coach Steve Alford

UCLA head coach Steve Alford talked about the Bruins’ 86-81 double-overtime win over Stanford, one that snapped the team’s five-game losing streak. Freshman Kevon Looney set career highs with 27 points and 19 rebounds, helping UCLA survive a barrage of 3-pointers by the Cardinal.

“I could not be more proud of that group of young men,” Alford said.

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After loss to Stanford, where does UCLA football go now?

Paul Perkins (24) reacts late in the second half of UCLA's 31-10 loss to Stanford at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 28, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Paul Perkins (24) reacts late in the second half of UCLA’s 31-10 loss to Stanford at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 28, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

To get an accurate measure of how this season went for UCLA, there’s no better person to turn to than Jim Mora himself.

“We’re not trying to be average,” the head coach told his players back during training camp in San Bernardino. “We’re not after good. Nobody in here is going to be satisfied when, at the end of the year, people say, ‘Oh, they’re a good football team.’

“Great. Every single day, everything we do, that’s got to be our focus: great.”

By that standard, UCLA’s third year under Mora was a tremendous disappointment. There’s no masking that after a 31-10 loss to Stanford ended the Bruins’ chance at a Pac-12 Championship, though the team deserves some credit for not letting the season spiral out of control after losses to Utah and Oregon. At midseason, the Bruins were teetering. The way the team looked after ugly wins at Cal and Colorado, a nine-win season looked optimistic.

But in notching impressive wins over Arizona, Washington and USC, UCLA pushed the bar back up. Expectations rose again to a “New Year’s Six” bowl, or even the College Football Playoff.

The Cardinal ended those dreams, shaping into the Bruins’ schematic Kryptonite even in a down season. It was an outcome that should have seen Mora shouldering more blame, something I recall him emphatically doing only once this year. Continue reading

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