Just one week ago the variables were too plentiful, the possible Pac-12 Conference scenarios too unpredictable, to lay them all out in a succinct notes column.
There remain plenty of suitors for the final two spots in the Pac-12’s top four, which comes with a bye for the first round of the conference tournament next week in Las Vegas. Yet for the Colorado Buffaloes, the end of a crowded road has at least grown clearer.
If the Buffs can win their final two regular season games this week against UCLA and USC, one of two things needs to happen in order to sneak into one of those coveted top four spots. Either Oregon State has to lose both of its final two games on a trip through Washington, or Utah has to lose at least one of its final two games as the Trojans and Bruins visit Salt Lake City.
After beating Utah on Saturday to move to 8-8 in the Pac-12, the Buffs gained traction on Sunday while watching the league’s two games from home. First, Washington’s narrow win at Stanford dropped the Cardinal to 8-9, giving the Buffs the edge against Stanford if they finish the week with two more wins. Additionally, Arizona State’s win against Oregon State left the Beavers another step closer to possibly squandering a position in the top four that seemed somewhat secure before the weekend.
“I was watching,” CU head coach Tad Boyle admitted. “I stopped cheering years ago. When I cheer everything goes against us. But I was watching.”
The race for the top-four spot could very well go down to the last game on the last day of the Pac-12’s regular season Saturday. In addition to OSU’s visit to Washington State (1 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Network) and the Buffs hosting USC on Saturday, Arizona State visits Arizona (2 p.m. MT, CBS); UCLA visits Utah (5 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Network); and Washington hosts Oregon (8 p.m. MT, ESPN).
Player of the Week
UCLA sophomore guard Jaylen Hands won the first Pac-12 Player of the Week honor of his career and the first for the Bruins this season.
Hands was the key figure in a 93-88 overtime win against cross-town rival USC, a victory that kept the Bruins in charge of their own fate in the race for the league’s top four spots. Hands recorded his fourth double-double of the season against USC, finishing with 21 points and 10 assists. Hands went 5-for-10 from 3-point range, knocking down a go-ahead 3-pointer late in regulation and adding another with 21 seconds left in overtime that gave the Bruins a four-point lead.
Hands also became the first UCLA player in three years (Bryce Alford) to record 10 assists without a turnover.
Despite a loss against UCLA, USC senior Bennie Boatwright grabbed a career-best 15 rebounds…Arizona’s 47 points in a loss Saturday at Oregon was its fewest during coach Sean Miller’s 10-year tenure in Tucson…As expected following its loss at Cal, Washington dropped out of the AP top 25. The league’s pecking order in the NCAA Net rankings to begin the week is UW (32), Oregon (64), Arizona State (68), Colorado (75), USC (84), Arizona (85), Oregon State (88), Stanford (100), Utah (105), UCLA (109), Washington State (190), and Cal (247).