Depending on your perspective and university allegiance, the second day of the Pac-10 Tournament was either an incredibly exciting affair or a major letdown. Heading into the postseason affair, only Cal, led by Pac-10 player-of-the-year Jerome Randle, was guaranteed a birth in the field of 64 if it failed to earn the conference's automatic bid. For that reason, a lot was at stake on Thursday, as four games took place at Staples Center with the NCAA Tournament hopes of several teams hanging in the balance. Here's a recap of what went down:
UCLA 75 Arizona 69
For twenty-five consecutive seasons, the Arizona Wildcats had earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament, but on Thursday afternoon, UCLA, despite a roller coaster season of its own, ended the 'Cats hope of earning yet another bid to the Big Dance. With the return of freshman forward/center Reeves Nelson, who finished with game highs of 19 points and 10 rebounds, the Bruins played one of their best games of the season with the start of a "new season." But nonetheless, even with their strong effort, the only way Howland's bunch will be able to punch their ticket to the tournament is if they're able to win their next two games, bringing home the conference title. It's a rather unlikely scenario, but there is no question that the Bruins had one of their better outings against Arizona. They not only shot over fifty percent, but were a little tougher on the defensive end, holding the Wildcats to just 40% shooting and 21% from behind the arc. They're not incredibly talented or even a legitimate contender, but they certainly looked much better on Thursday.
California 90 Oregon 74
Looking to extend his coaching tenure at Oregon for at least one more game, Ernie Kent was hoping his Ducks could surprise the top seeded California Golden Bears, but in total honesty, UO isn't a particularly good team at the moment and was clearly no match for Mike Montgomery's bunch. Over the past few weeks, it is clear that Cal has been peaking at the right time, potentially playing themselves into a 6th seed in the tournament, and as a result, it was a disappointing end to Kent's time in Eugene. The Ducks were just no contest to the top-seeded Golden Bears, who were led by senior guard Jerome Randle who finished with 22 points on the evening. But as seen by the team's 90 total points, there was plenty of scoring to go around. Patrick Christopher finished with 21, along with Jamal Boykin, who had 15 of his own. A high-octane offense made it tough on an Oregon bunch that can certainly score points in its own right, as evident by Tajuan Porter's 26 points.
Stanford 70 Arizona State 61
With 22 victories on the season and second place finished in the Pac-10, there have been many bracketologists nationwide that have called Arizona State a series candidate to earn an at-large bid to the Big Dance next week. Nonetheless, there have been others who have been arguing that the Sun Devils need another win or two to solidify their tournament hopes. If you subscribe to the latter theory, then Stanford's upset over Herb Sendek's bunch may likely crush ASU's chances at earning a postseason birth. And at the end of the day, it is the Sun Devils who only have themselves to blame as they fell behind early, making a comeback all the more difficult. Granted they did make a push early in the second half, but they had already spent so much energy that they ended up watching the Cardinal go on a big run led by Landry Fields, who finished with 17 points, later in the half. The end result served as just another unpredictable night of Pac-10 basketball, and most importantly, it likely means ASU will be squaring off in the NIT when the postseason kicks off next week.
Washington 59 Oregon State 52
Much like Arizona State, Washington needed another victory or two in the conference tournament to solidify their place in the field of 65, but unlike the Sun Devils, the Huskies held up their end of the bargain. Despite trailing by 9 points at halftime, Washington scored 37-second half points to earn a big win over the pesky Beavers, thus strengthening its chances for an at-large birth. It wasn't easy though, as the Huskies' offense proved to be rather sporadic at times. Through the first 25 minutes of the contest, UW had just 23 points, but looked nearly unstoppable for the remainder of the game with point guard Isaiah Thomas leading the way with a team high 15 points. While it wasn't their best game possible, the victory puts Washington in a good position heading into the semi-finals, as they avoid playing second seeded Arizona State after the Sun Devils were upset by Stanford. Provided, they can edge the Cardinal and punch their ticket to the finals, than the Huskies have an excellent chance at earning a trip to the Big Dance.