Tony Woods, Travis Wear

No. 21 Oregon moves into first in the Pac-12 with win at No. 24 UCLA

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It’s time for us to start taking Oregon seriously.

That much is obvious now that the Ducks have handed both Arizona and UCLA their only losses in the Pac-12 this season. On Saturday, Dana Altman’s team went into Pauley Pavilion and knocked off the Bruins 76-67 behind 18 points from Tony Woods and 12 points and 11 boards from Arsalan Kazemi.

And while it’s simple mathematics to say that Oregon is the best team in the Pac-12 — they’re in first place, they don’t have a loss in league play, and they have now handed Arizona their first loss of the season and beaten UCLA in Pauley — there is more to it than that.

The Ducks are the most balanced team in the conference, with five guys averaging between 10.1 points and 11.8 points. Their sixth-leading scorer, Arsalan Kazemi at 8.6 points-per-game, is also their leading rebounder, averaging 9.5 boards. They have the Pac-12’s deepest and most versatile front line, and a pair of freshmen guards in Damyeon Dotson and Dominic Artis that are as underrated as any back court in the country.

But was most impressive about their win over UCLA was the way Oregon was able to gain control by grinding it out defensively.

Much has been made of UCLA’s transition to a team that thrives in, well, transition. Ben Howland has embraced the talent level and lack of defensive desire of the players on his roster, opting to allow his blue-chip recruits to get out and run the floor at will. And in the second half, Oregon took the lead when they held the Bruin’s scoreless for more than six minutes during the second half. UCLA shot just 37.9% from the floor in the second half.

And they also happened to expose a potentially fatal flaw for the Bruins: the interior. Woods and Kazemi combined to shoot 13-16 from the field. The Wears, who played 53 minutes combined, had all of five rebounds, just two of which came on the offensive end of the floor. We knew that UCLA had some question marks with the defections in their front court. On Saturday, we got a glimpse of just how that can be exploited.

The Ducks are for real this year, and it looks like they will be here to stay.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: