2014 CTC: The Pac-12 (3/15)

A nice bit of resurgence for a very proud conference that has been taking a beating (on and off the court) as they hit the perfect storm of coaching changes, early NBA entries, and just down programs.  But, they seem to be out of the doldrums and back on the national landscape as one of the absolutely elite conferences (personally, I think this was easily a Top 5 conference, possibly as high as 3rd).  Arizona is the real deal and then you have quality teams at UCLA, Arizona State, Cal, and even Oregon.  Colorado was excellent until they lost their best player, and Utah is has terrifying sleeper potential.

Not surprisingly, Arizona grabbed the majority of the CTC title support, but what was surprising is that the only two other teams picked (with 4 each) were #2 UCLA and #7 Oregon.  That’s right, 7 people like the Ducks to win the whole thing.  Utah is the lowest seed picked to reach the finals.  #12 USC is supported by one to reach the semis.  Doogan, Lazarow, and PapaCim all split the 2013 Pac-12 championship, so any of the 3 of them can claim back-to-back wins this year.  For Doogan, it would be his 3rd Pac-12 title, as he is currently the only one with multiple titles in this conference.

CHAMPIONSHIP (March 15th – 60 points)

#1 Arizona vs #2 UCLA
The Pac-12 finale is between the top 2 teams in the regular season, who both looked the part in the tournament.  Arizona has only given up 82 points in TWO games in this tournament, while UCLA also has back-to-back blowouts over Oregon and Stanford.  This is a sneaky good game on a busy Saturday.

Becks, GrossSr, Teddy, and WaTers are the only 4 with UCLA here.  17 people (Alexi, Bry, Caleb, Chris, Colton, Dave, Gersh, GrossJr, J, Mac, PapaCim, Primm, RDoc, Scoot, Stri, Stritts, Stumpf) have Arizona.  An Arizona win will give Mac the 2014 Pac-12 title.  A UCLA win will give GrossSr and Teddy a split title.

SEMIFINALS (March 14th – 40 points each)

#1 Arizona vs #5 Colorado
Colorado survived a bad USC team, 59-56, in the opening round, and then sent the Cal Bears to the NIT with another 59-56 win in Thursday’s quarterfinals.  Now, they take on an Arizona team that embarrassed Utah, 71-39 (ironically, San Diego State beat Utah State 73-39 at about the same time as this game yesterday).

No one has Colorado winning this game, though Becks and Lohse have already lost it with Utah.  The other 23 all have Arizona, 17 of whom took the ‘Cats to win this tournament.

Arizona 63 – Colorado 43

#2 UCLA vs #6 Stanford
If there was any doubt about Stanford’s at-large hopes, it was completely erased with a dominating win over Arizona State.  I wonder if this puts the Sun Devils on the bubble…  Anyway, Stanford moves on to face a UCLA team that is actually somewhat under the radar right now.  The Bruins manhandled Oregon on Thursday and look pretty good right now.

Dave and PapaCim still have alive a huge upset pick of Stanford going to the finals.  If they are right, they will pick up a cool 100 points here.  Surprisingly, only 9 people (Becks, Gersh, GrossSr, Mac, Scoot, Stritts, Stumpf, Teddy, WaTers) have 2nd-seeded UCLA winning this game.  Becks, GrossSr, Teddy, and WaTers all have them winning the tournament.

UCLA 84 – Stanford 59

QUARTERFINALS (March 13th – 20 points each)

#1 Arizona vs #8 Utah
The Runnin’ Utes took care of business against Washington on Wednesday afternoon and now get the ultimate test in the Pac-12, Sean Miller’s Wildcats.  Arizona looked, for much of the season, as the best team in the country.  And, I think they were before the Brandon Ashley injury.  Now, without their star big man, they are still very, VERY good and one of the solid picks to win the national championship this year.  I have said for three years now that Nick Johnson is the heart and soul of this team, and this year has been no exception.  He is fantastic.  When this team gets going, they are hard to beat because they suffocating defense is always there, so if they can get consistent offense, watch out.  These two teams met on Feb 19 when the Utes took Arizona to OT before losing 67-63, so the stage is set for a pretty solid appetizer to a nice day of West Coast hoops.  If Utah does win here, don’t they have to go into the bubble talk?  Or, am I crazy?

Becks and Lohse are the only two with Utah winning here – and they both actually have the Utes going to the finals.  Most of the field have Arizona winning this whole tournament, so anyone that doesn’t (Becks, Doogan, GrossSr, Lohse, Lynch, Teddy, WaTers) is probably rooting for Utah here regardless of who they have.

Arizona 71 – Utah 39

#4 California vs #5 Colorado
Time and time again, I have said that I want Tom Izzo for a season, Mike Kyzsdfasldkfjasdlfkjas for a tournament, Larry Brown for a practice, and Mike Montgomery for one game.  He is the best in-game basketball coach alive, in my opinion, and he is at his best with smart kids (Stanford before and Cal now).  He is not the recruiter he once was, so the Bears are probably not heading for any significant national attention any time soon, but they will always be relevant and in the tournament discussion because Montgomery is that good.  And, he put a team with Justin Cobbs and not much else into 4th place in the Pac-12 and a likely spot in the tournament.  Though, he might want to beat Colorado here in the quarters to make sure.  The Buffs survived a real scare from USC on Wednesday and should be in already.

Only 11 people (Bry, Colton, Dave, Doogan, Gersh, GrossJr, Primm, Scoot, Stritts, Teddy, WaTers) have Cal here.  GrossSr has already lost with USC.  The other 13 all have Colorado.  No one has either of these teams going further than this game.

Colorado 59 – California 56

#2 UCLA vs #7 Oregon
One of the marquee matchups around the country today is the quarterfinal between UCLA and an Oregon team that has refound its stride just in the nick of time.  The Ducks took care of Oregon State on Wednesday to set up this excellent quarterfinal.  UCLA has had a decent year – their first under Steve Alford – and has an interesting roster.  Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams – two outstanding holdovers from last year’s “incredible” recruiting class whose underachievement ended the UCLA career of Ben Howland (though the underachievement was mostly Shabazz Mohammad’s – Anderson and Adams saved 2013 for the Bruins) – are back and playing very well.  The Wear twins still patrol the middle along with Norman Powell, but neither of the twins ever really developed an offensive game.  And, then there’s the brilliant freshman off the bench who had NBA scouts salivating over his athleticism, Zach LaVine.  Oh, and big, fat Tony Parker and actually pretty good son-of-the-coach, Bryce Alford.  It’s a fascinating roster to see work together, and when they do work together, they’re phenomenal, but it just happens to tantalizingly rarely.

In a 5x conference, this game is about as big as a quarterfinal can get in the CTC.  13 people have the Ducks, while 12 took UCLA (Becks, Colton, Dave, Gersh, GrossSr, Mac, PapaCim, Scoot, Stritts, Stumpf, Teddy, WaTers).  4 people (Becks, GrossSr, Teddy, WaTers) have UCLA winning the whole thing, while 4 others (Doogan, Lazarow, Lohse, Lynch) have Oregon winning it all.  Colton, Dave, PapaCim, and Primm are the only 4 that don’t have one of these two teams in the finals.

UCLA 82 – Oregon 63

#3 Arizona State vs #6 Stanford
A fascinating game closes out the Pac-12 quadruple-header on Thursday, as two teams at the bottom of “in” battle it out for a spot in the semis and for a whole lot more comfort on Sunday night.  I think Az State is in regardless, and Stanford probably is too, though they are closer.  The Sun Devils have leaned on all-everything PG Jahii Carson just like they should.  And, if anyone knows what to do it’s another coach on the All-Underrated Team and that’s Herb Sendak.  Coach Sendak is a master at substitution patterns and set-plays – two areas where coaches absolutely can make a tangible impact.  If you stay up to watch this game, try and keep in mind how much better Arizona State is out of timeouts than Stanford.  The differential between the in-game coaching abilities of these two can be quite astounding.

The Sun Devils have very little support here as the 3-seed.  Only 8 people (Colton, Doogan,. Lazarow, Lohse, Lynch, Primm, RDoc, WaTers) have them winning this game.  Colton and Primm have them in the finals.  On the other hand, 17 people have Stanford here, including Dave and PapaCim, who have the Cardinal in the final.

Stanford 79 – Arizona State 58

OPENING ROUND (March 12th – 10 points each)

#8 Utah vs #9 Washington
The Washington Cougars are such a frustrating team every year – and, for that, I blame the coach.  I don’t know why everyone thinks Lorenzo Romar is such a good coach.  He’s a great recruiter, but what has he really done with all this talent?  Very little.  Now, they’re actually short on talent these days, too, which is a bad thing.  They open the Pac-12 tourney as the 9-seed against an up-and-coming Utah team that really looked like a tournament team in conference play (too bad their noncon SOS was pretty bad outside of a great win over BYU), but they are going to fall short.  But, watch out Pac-12 – if not this year, then next with their sensation JR backcourt of Delon Wright and Jordan Loveridge.  The winner of this game will get to face #1 Arizona.  If Utah wins here and then beats Arizona, I wonder if they get bubble consideration.

11 people (Colton, GrossJr, GrossSr, Lazarow, PapaCim, Primm, Scoot, Stritts, Stumpf, Teddy, WaTers) went with the mild upset of Washington.  Becks and Lohse not only were among the 14 with Utah here, but they both have the Utes winning on Wednesday, beating Arizona on Thursday, and then winning again on Friday to reach the finals.

Utah 67 – Washington 61
The surprising Utes season continues as another underachieving Washington season does not. The Utes got 28 from Wright and Loveridge and will now get to greet the #3 team in the nation in the quarterfinal opener on Thursday.

14 people got this right, and Becks and Lohse both keep alive a surprise finalist here.

#5 Colorado vs #12 USC
This season is about what could have been for the Buffs.  They have an excellent team that revolved around all-everything guard Spencer Dinwiddie.  But, when Dinwiddie tore his ACL short after the start of conference play, everything changed in Boulder.  They have still done enough to get to the Dance, but they really aren’t the team that they were before the Dinwiddie injury.  As for USC, well, it was an interesting first year of the Andy Enfield Experiment, which I would say has been not so great so far.  Any team that finishes behind Wazzu this year is bad.  The winner here gets to take on the best coach in the country in the quarters.

6 people (Bry, Doogan, GrossJr, GrossSr, Primm, WaTers) have USC with a big upset here.  GrossSr went with the Trojans again on Thursday to beat Cal.  A dozen people (Alexi, Becks, Caleb, Chris, J, Lazarow, Lohse, Lynch, PapaCim, RDoc, Stri, Stumpf) all have Colorado going to the quarters, but none have them in the semis.

Colorado 59 – USC 56
Without Spencer Dinwiddie, the Buffs have turned to Askia Booker to lead the way, and he came up huge on Wednesday avoiding what would have been a really bad loss.  The Buffs need to regroup in time for a date with Mike Montgomery’s Cal Bears.

6 people miss the upset here, while 12 people keep alive their shot at pulling off a Colorado over Cal upset.

#7 Oregon vs #10 Oregon State
“Chemistry” is something that the “advanced metrics” people don’t believe in – and, with hostility, will tell those who do believe in it that they are stupid.  And, it’s things like that that force me to distance myself from “those people” even though this turn towards analytics fascinates me.  Anyway, the reason I mention this now is because Oregon started the season without their point guard, Dominic Artis.  So, the Ducks threw in his backup, 5’8″ Jonathan Lloyd.  With Lloyd, Oregon started 13-0.  After a 4-game losing streak, Artis was rushed back into the starting lineup.  The Ducks went 2-4 with Artis as the starter (the 2 wins were against USC and Wazzu).  After being swept by the Arizona schools, coach Altman decided to go back to Lloyd and start bringing Artis off the bench.  7 straight wins later, including wins over UCLA, Arizona State, and the nation’s #1 team, Arizona, and the team is rolling once again.  Is it because of “chemistry?”  Maybe not, but I’m not ruling it out.  Now, the Ducks, with Lloyd as the starter, will take on their in-state rivals for the right to take on #2 UCLA in the quarters.

Bracket-buster potential here!  Doogan, Lazarow, Lohse, Lynch all put their Pac-12 champion at stake here in the opening round.  8 more (Alexi, Bry, Caleb, Chris, GrossJr, J, RDoc, Stri) have the Ducks reaching the finals.  Primm is actually the only one that has them reaching the semis and losing that round, but he does have them over ASU.  If you’re scoring at home, that is 13 people that are risking multiple game with 7th-seeded Oregon on Wednesday, including 4 that have them winning the whole thing.  Dave, PapaCim, Stumpf, and Teddy would love to see the brackets busted, as those 4 have Oregon State here.

Oregon 88 – Oregon State 74
The Ducks looked pretty good in dismissing their cross-state rivals in the opening round here in Vegas.  This is probably not what UCLA wanted to happen on this night, as they can’t be happy to face the Ducks in the quarters.  It will be interesting to see if the First Brother-in-Law will keep his job after another bad year in Corvallis.

Brackets were not busted here.  Doogan, Lazarow, Lohse, and Lynch all keep alive their champion.  8 more keep a finalist.  4 people missed a decent upset pick here.

#6 Stanford vs #11 Washington State
Coach Johnny Dawkins had a public ultimatum – go to the NCAA tournament or look for a new job.  Well, it looks pretty safe for Mr. Dawkins, as the Cardinal are sitting pretty comfortably in at-large position.  They would be well-served not to lose to Wazzu, though, as that would constitute a “bad” loss by any measure.  The winner here will take on #3 Arizona State on Thursday.

Wazzu is the only team in the bracket that was picked by nobody, as all 25 people have Stanford here.  17 people have Stanford winning again over Az State in the quarters.  Dave and PapaCim have the most on the line with the Cardinal, as they have them in the finals.

Stanford 74 – Washington State 63
The Cardinal – and Johnny Dawkins – were scared for a while, but finally turned it on to take care of a really bad Wazzu team.  It wasn’t promising, though, as they had 72 of their 74 points from their starters – that is not a recipe for winning four games in four days.  They go for two in two days on Thursday against Arizona State.

Everyone got this one right, including 17 that keep a semifinalist alive.  Dave and PapaCim keep a finalist.


Championship Picks

  • #1 Arizona (17)
  • #2 UCLA (4) – Becks, GrossSr, Teddy, WaTers
  • #3 Arizona State (0)
  • #4 California (0)
  • #5 Colorado (0)
  • #6 Stanford (0)
  • #7 Oregon (4) – Doogan, Lazarow, Lohse, Lynch

Biggest Upsets

  • R1 – #12 USC (Bry, Doogan, GrossJr, GrossSr, Primm, WaTers)
  • QF – #12 USC (GrossSr)
  • SF – #8 Utah (Becks, Lohse)

Previous CTC Champions

  • 2008 – Doogan
  • 2009 – Alexi
  • 2010 – Stri
  • 2011 – Lynch
  • 2012 – GrossJr
  • 2013 – Doogan, Lazarow, PapaCim

2014 Scores

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