Bumped. GO BRUINS. BN Eds.
Has the midseason implosion of the PAC-12 opened the back door for the Bruins to win the league?
This week's big news in PAC-12 Men's Basketball is Arizona's double overtime loss to ASU. U of A is in first with a 10-2 record, with the Bruins in sole possession of second at 9-3. The season-ending injury to Brandon Ashley coupled with Nick Johnson's (national POY candidate-give me a break!)scoring slump exposed Arizona's lack of depth and scoring options.
Here's Chris Foster:
UCLA players can now say they're in a Pac-12 Conference race. For nearly two months it was looking like a victory lap for Arizona, which entered the week with a two-game lead and the No. 2 ranking in the nation. The Bruins put together another strong second half, riding Jordan Adams' hot hand -- his shooting one -- for an 80-66 victory over Utah at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday afternoon. Adams made 10 of 14 shots and finished with 24 points. The victory left UCLA (20-5 overall, 9-3 in Pac-12 play) on the heels of Arizona, which lost in double overtime on Friday night to Arizona State. Of course, the Bruins can look over their shoulders and see those upset-minded Sun Devils and California one game back in third place. UCLA and Arizona each close the season playing four of their final six games on the road. The Wildcats hold the tiebreaker over the Bruins having won, 79-75, last month at Pauley Pavilion.
My take: We go on the road to Cal and Stanford while Arizona gets them at home. We need to go 6-0 while they go 4-2. Doesn't seem likely. That said, it's been three tight games in a row for the Wildcats.
In any case, I didn't think this is how we'd get here. You want to be dominating to make believers (let's ignore the coach thing for now) out of your fan base. Convincingly beat the low and mid tier, and compete closely on the road with the top 1 or 2 teams. Not quite how this season has gone thus far.
Last summer, I thought they may be that type of team. In the aftermath of the October open practice, I posted that I agreed with most prognosticators that we would likely finish in 2nd, mainly because Tony Parker hadn't panned out like I hoped, and we'd be starting both Wears. Then Jordan underperformed, we went without one marquee win, and we wound up in a six team race for second place. Now the season is shaping up kind of like last year's.
Anyway, here is Jack Wang on Saturday's win over Utah:
Adams finished with 24 points, knocking down all three of his attempts from downtown and shooting 10-of-14 overall. It was his highest point total ever against a league opponent, and the first time he finished with double-digit field goals since a November win over Morehead State.
To me, that was a pedestrian win that followed the recent script: tight first half against a mid-level team that slows it down and takes away our transition game by drawing the defenders back and away from the boards, but eventually wears down against our superior talent.
Jordan probably had his best game of the season. By the numbers: 10-14 from 2, 3-3 from 3, 1-2 from the line, 24 point, 4 rebounds and 3 steals. I give the play of the game to Norman Powell's dribble drive dunk straight through the lane and over Bachynski (at 5PM PST it was #2 on ESPN behind Oshie), but I give play #2 to Jordan. I mean his open court steal at 15:42 of the first half. Why that one? Well, for once, he didn't get blocked from behind and he didn't make any obvious attempt to draw a foul. He just (almost but not exactly) went straight to the hoop and scored the layup. That's actually mental progress. Later he came off a curl, got a pass from Kyle and knifed through the lane for another nice layup--no foul.
For those who are already saying he's back, I say cool your jets...0-9 at Oregon State was February 2. I will believe he turns the corner when he excels in the PAC-12 Tourney. You have to consider that the rise of Kyle and Norman has probably taken some heat and attention from him. But maybe that's just what he needs to get going again.
The others: Zach and Tony are seemingly getting demoted by the coach in the last three games. The big three (Kyle, who was quiet in the first half, Norman and Jordan) were all over 30 minutes. And then there is Bryce at 24 minutes.
I have to tell you, he's not a point guard. He's a spot up shooter. I will give him a little benefit of the doubt in that he comes from New Mexico where there is obviously no competition so he didn't learn, but for a coach's son, and dad was an ex-Olympian point guard at that, he has no feel for the position. That drive to the baseline, unless you are Steve Nash, is just so high school. It doesn't work now. And he turned it over twice Saturday, in very ugly fashion, doing just that for the millionth time.
OK, I'm done. I'm thinking of going to Jackie Robinson Stadium for Sunday's game. Great to live in Brentwood!