It’s too bad the stink of the FBI college basketball investigation is lingering so heavily over the Pac-12 Conference. On the court, it will be a fight to the finish for the regular season crown.
The two teams that have bookended the season with embarrassing arrests and allegations from the still-unraveling FBI probe, Arizona and USC, have all but locked down the two spots at the top of the standings. Which order they finish, however, remains to be seen.
Despite all sorts of off-court issues, the beleaguered Arizona Wildcats remain in the driver’s seat, even while the fate of head coach Sean Miller remains in limbo. Mille reportedly remained away from his team on Monday, three days after an ESPN report alleged Miller was caught on an FBI wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to freshman Deandre Ayton with agent Christian Dawkins, one of the figures arrested in the FBI’s initial round of arrests last fall (as was now-former UA assistant Emanuel “Book” Richardson).
Miller didn’t coach his team during the Wildcats’ loss Saturday night at Oregon, and his absence overshadowed the fact that star guard Allonzo Trier missed his second consecutive game, reportedly due to a failed PED test. It is the same issue that kept Trier sidelined for the first half of the 2017-18 season.
Nevertheless, Arizona remains atop the standings with a 12-4 league mark and finishes the regular season this week at home against third-place Stanford (Thursday) and last-place Cal (Saturday). Since the Wildcats own the head-to-head tiebreaker against USC (12-5), Arizona needs just one win to secure the regular-season title.
Arizona dropped from No. 14 to No. 19 in this week’s AP top 25.
USC ends the regular season Saturday night in a home finale against UCLA. The Trojans would need to lose and watch Stanford win both games in Arizona in order to be supplanted from a runner-up finish. Stanford, the Bruins, Utah, Oregon, and Washington all remain in contention for a top-four finish, which includes a first-round bye at the league tournament.
The Pac-12 announced its annual Hall of Fame class on Monday, a group highlighted by women’s basketball great Cheryl Miller (USC) and five-time Olympic swimming gold medalist Matt Biondi (Cal).
The Pac-12 continued its curious habit of honoring former CU athletes who never actually competed in the league, this year giving the nod to former track All-American Bill Toomey, who won a gold medal in the decathlon at the 1968 Olympics.
Also set to be inducted on March 9 in Las Vegas are former Arizona basketball star Michael Wright; longtime Arizona State women’s golf coach Linda Vollstedt; former Oregon track and cross country great Andrew Wheating; Carol Menken-Schaudt, a former women’s basketball great at Oregon State; five-time beach volleyball Olympian Keri Walsh Jennings (Stanford); two-time Olympic decathlon medalist Rafer Johnson (UCLA); former Utah gymnast Missy Marlowe; former Washington quarterback Sonny Sixkiller; and two-time league discus champion Laura Lavine (Washington State).
After leading Stanford to critical home wins against Washington and Washington State, Cardinal junior forward Reid Travis was named the Pac-12 Conference Player of the Week.
Travis began the weekend by scoring a career-best 33 points in the win against Washington, going 11-for-17 from the floor and adding nine rebounds. Travis recorded his 10th double-double of the season against WSU, going 7-for-13 from the field and 6-for-6 at the free throw line before finishing with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Travis moved past the 1,300-point mark in his career and moved into the top 15 of Stanford’s all-time scoring list.