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, Jaelen Strong

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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How similar are Tulsa’s James Woodard and Stanford’s Chasson Randle?

Tulsa’s best player is unquestionably sophomore guard James Woodard, an All-Conference USA second-team selection who leads the team in scoring and rebounding.

Unsurprisingly, head coach Steve Alford pointed out Woodard as the main focus of the scouting report for UCLA’s Friday tipoff against the Golden Hurricane. Alford and Bruin guard Norman Powell compared Woodard to Stanford junior Chasson Randle, who combined for 51 points on 16-of-40 shooting in his three games against the Bruins.

Here’s how their stats measure up heading into the NCAA tournament:
Woodard, 6-3, 183 | 15.7 ppg, 44.2 FG%, 38.9 3P%, 78.2 FT%, 1.8 apg, 5.8 rpg, 1.0 spg
Randle, 6-2, 185 | 18.7 ppg, 48.5 FG%, 39.7 3P%, 76.5 FT%, 2.2 apg, 3.5 rpg, 0.9 spg Continue reading

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UCLA advances to Pac-12 title game with rout of Stanford

LAS VEGAS — Clear your schedules, everyone. The Pac-12 Tournament is going to end in style.

The two best teams in the conference will meet at the MGM Grand Garden Arena at 3 p.m. Saturday, with top-seeded Arizona matching up against No. 2-seed UCLA.

Stingy defense versus prolific offense.

On Friday night, the Bruins romped to an 84-59 blowout of Stanford — shooting a season-high 65.2 percent in the most lopsided game in league tourney history. Two hours earlier, the Wildcats had shut down Colorado, 63-43, holding the Buffs to a season-worst 29.4 percent shooting performance.

They marked the sixth and seventh of 10 games at the Pac-12 Tournament decided by at least 11 points. Continue reading

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UCLA clinches No. 2 seed in Pac-12 Tournament

UCLA hasn’t played yet this week, but games elsewhere in the Pac-12 sealed the Bruins a No. 2 seed in the conference tournament. The team will start its Las Vegas schedule with a 6 p.m. tipoff on Pac-12 Networks next Thursday.

Colorado helped UCLA by beating Stanford, 59-56, Wednesday night and knocking the Cardinal to 9-8 in league play. Arizona State also fell out of the race for second one night prior with a loss to Oregon.

The Buffaloes and Sun Devils are sitting at 10-7, leaving them 1.5 games behind the Bruins. Even if UCLA loses to both Washington and Washington State to end the season, it would head head-to-head tiebreakers against both in the event of a three-way tie.

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Facing hot-shooting Stanford, UCLA falters again on the road

STANFORD, Calif. — With just over a minute left, the UCLA defense broke down again. Josh Huestis, left all alone, flushed in an emphatic two-handed dunk.

Some 30 second later, the forward snuffed out the Bruins hopes again — this time by blocking Kyle Anderson at top of the arc. Maples Pavilion rose to its feet, cheering an 83-74 victory that never felt all that difficult.

UCLA’s window for catching Pac-12 leader Arizona got a little bit smaller as they filed another deflating road performance. Continue reading

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Notes and quotes: A look at Tony Parker’s career game

Tony Parker was the talk of last night, as his career-high 22 points helped power UCLA to a 91-74 rout of Stanford. The win gives the Bruins a chance to tie for second in the Pac-12 on Sunday, but marked yet another tantalizing effort in the big man’s uneven career.

In arguably his best college game yet, the 6-foot-9 sophomore created many of his own chances, grabbing five of his seven rebounds on the offensive end. It echoed his showing against Arizona earlier this month, in which he snatched five of eight there.

I’m still not convinced Parker can ever produce a 20-and-7 night on even a semi-regular basis, but his effort on the offensive glass has improved. A freshman season spent mostly on the bench saw him grab 6.5 percent of available offensive rebounds. This year, that mark is up to 13.6 percent. Among the conference’s significant contributors (minimum 40 percent of minutes played), that puts him second-best behind Oregon’s Elgin Cook.

“After the Utah game, I watched a lot of clips of Kevin Love and Zach Randolph, who are my favorite players, and I noticed that they stayed around the arc and were active,” said Parker, whose seven free throw attempts were also a career high. “So tonight, I decided to stay around the arc and I kept moving.”

The performance was so surprising that after the postgame press conference, teammate Jordan Adams looked at the box score and snickered at Parker: “You had 22?”

Before his joke about Parker’s clothes, head coach Steve Alford did have a, erm, interesting response when asked how he motivates players: “That’s always on players. The players play. We obviously hope.” Continue reading

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What to watch: Stanford at UCLA

Stanford (12-5, 3-2) at UCLA (14-4, 3-2)
When:
Thursday, 8 p.m., Pauley Pavilion
TV: Pac-12 Networks (Ted Robinson, Don MacLean, Yogi Roth)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

No. 1: Pace. UCLA’s halfcourt offense has been a work in progress all season, as both coach Steve Alford and his players have acknowledged at one point or another. The Bruins like to run, but despite chucking up 129 shots in their last two games, converted on just over 40 percent of them. The sharp drop from their season-long average (50.2 percent) may be due to opposing playbooks as much as the their own execution; freshman guard Zach LaVine said this week that more teams were trying to limit UCLA’s transition opportunities. Continue reading

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Pac-12 opponents vote Xavier Su’a-Filo top offensive lineman

If you ask those who play against him, Xavier Su’a-Filo is the best offensive lineman in the Pac-12. The UCLA junior won the Morris Trophy Thursday, an award voted on by opposing defensive lineman — and an honor that pushes him out of the shadow of another conference guard.

Stanford’s David Yankey has been widely regarded as the position’s standard bearer this season, not only in the league but arguably across all of college football. With a year of eligibility left, the 6-foot-5, 313-pounder earned unanimous All-American honors this year — the eighth player in Cardinal history to do so.

Su’a-Filo was a second-team AP All-American, but was forced to move from left guard to left tackle to help patch a battered Bruins’ line. He has not yet decided whether or not to declare for the 2014 NFL draft.

Arizona State tackle Will Sutton won the defensive Morris Trophy, as voted on by opposing offensive lineman.

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Pac-12 links: Who will head to the Rose Bowl?

– Why Stanford will beat Arizona State for a Rose Bowl berth, according to the Bay Area News Group’s Jon Wilner.

– Steve Sarkisian has already hired two members of his Washington staff. Might defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox be the next to head to USC?

– An older man kicked a younger man in the face at last week’s Territorial Cup game between ASU and Arizona. Continue reading

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