Conference Catchups: Pac-12 takes three ranked teams, led by No. 8 Arizona, into league play

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source: AP
Arizona head coach Sean Miller (AP Photo)

College basketball’s non-conference season is coming to a close, and to help you shake off post-holiday haze and the hangover of losing in your fantasy football playoffs, we’ll be providing you with some midseason primers to get you caught up on all the nation’s most important conferences.

MORE: All of CBT’s Conference Catchups

Today, we’ll be taking a look at the Pac-12.

MIDSEASON PAC-12 PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tyrone Wallace, California

Wallace has been outstanding at the point for the Golden Bears, averaging 19.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. One of the most improved players in America Wallace has been asked to do a lot for Cuonzo Martin’s team, especially with Jabari Bird out of the lineup to to injury. And the junior from Bakersfield has delivered, resulting in the Golden Bears entering conference play with a 10-3 record.

THE ALL-PAC-12 FIRST TEAM

  • Wallace
  • Delon Wright, Utah: Wright’s averaging 15.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game for the tenth-ranked Utes.
  • Chasson Randle, Stanford: The senior guard is averaging 18.5 points and 2.6 assists per game for the Cardinal.
  • Joseph Young, Oregon: The Pac-12’s leading scorer, Young is ranked in the top ten in the conference in scoring (19.6 ppg) and assists (4.3 apg; 7th in the conference).
  • Stanley Johnson, Arizona: We’ll give this last spot to the most productive player (14.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg; leads team in both) on the league’s best team. But keep an eye on Washington State’s Josh Hawkinson (15.7 ppg, 10.5 rpg), as the conference names ten players to its season-ending team.

THREE THINGS WE’VE LEARNED

1. There’s still plenty of room for growth in Tucson. No. 8 Arizona was seen as the class of the Pac-12 entering the season, and they retain that status as conference play begins. However with that being said, there are strides that need to be made both offensively and defensively if they’re to reach the Final Four for the first time under Sean Miller. The Wildcats could stand to become a more consistent perimeter shooting team, with Gabe York, Stanley Johnson and Elliott Pitts factoring into the equation for a team that ranks fourth in the conference in three-point shooting (37.4%).

Also, while good this group isn’t as stout defensively as they were last season with Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon in the fold. In their lone defeat Arizona was attacked relentlessly by UNLV in isolation sets that got Rashad Vaughn and Christian Wood opportunities in one-on-one situations, and the Runnin’ Rebels were successful. That area needs to be tightened up moving forward.

2. Washington’s Robert Upshaw is one of the most impactful transfers in the country. What a difference a change of scenery has made for Upshaw, who has been the interior presence the 21st-ranked Huskies lacked a season ago. The former Fresno State big man is averaging 10.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and a Pac-12 best 4.6 blocks per game, and his presence allows Lorenzo Romar’s guards apply more pressure on the perimeter. Of course, Washington’s improved depth in the paint has been a factor in their 11-1 start, with Shawn Kemp Jr. playing better basketball and Jernard Jarreau back from a torn ACL. But the addition of Upshaw has had the greatest impact on Washington thus far.

3. Utah is every bit the contender they were expected to be entering the season. Larry Krystkowiak’s tenth-ranked Utes are off to an 10-2 start, and that’s with Jordan Loveridge playing in just five of those games due to a knee injury. Senior point guard Delon Wright has impacted games in a variety of ways this season, and a crop of newcomers led by freshman 7-footer Jakob Poeltl has contributed as well. Now that Loveridge is healthy Utah is at full strength heading into Pac-12 play, and they’re the greatest threat to Arizona when it comes to winning the conference title.

THREE STORY LINES TO FOLLOW

1. UCLA’s attempt to overcome a serious lack of depth. Losing Jonah Bolden before the season began really hurt the Bruins, who don’t have a great amount of depth as a result. Seldom-used Wanaah Bail is academically ineligible for the remainder of the season, but the fact that freshmen Thomas Welsh and Gyorgy Goloman need a lot of time to develop puts even more on the shoulders of Kevon Looney and Tony Parker inside. UCLA has more options on the perimeter, but they have to figure out a way in which Bryce Alford, Norman Powell and Isaac Hamilton enjoy a more even distribution of the shot attempts.

2. Whether or not anyone join Arizona/Utah/Washington in the Pac-12 race. There’s certainly room for another team or two to join the mix, but the question is which team(s) is best equipped to do so. Stanford relies on the experienced perimeter tandem of Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown, and Stefan Nastic has been improved in the middle. But how will they account for the loss of freshman Reid Travis? Like UCLA, California has depth issues especially as long as Jabari Bird remains sidelined. And Oregon’s been the best offensive team in the Pac-12 thus far, but the development of 6-foot-10 forward Michael Chandler is something to keep track of due to their lack of interior depth.

3. Colorado looking to rebound from what’s been a disappointing start. The Buffaloes were expected to be one of those teams in the “who can best challenge Arizona” discussion, but things haven’t worked out that way thus far. The main players in the rotation, led by guard Askia Booker and forwards Xavier Johnson and Josh Scott, have plenty of experience playing but for some reason things haven’t clicked in Boulder. Can Colorado find the level of consistency needed to make another trip to the NCAA tournament?

THREE PREDICTIONS

1. Five Pac-12 teams get into the NCAA tournament. Right now four teams (Arizona, Utah, Washington and Stanford) would be considered locks for the 68-team field, but who joins them? UCLA, Oregon, California and even Colorado have the talent needed to make a run in conference play and earn a bid. According to RPI Forecast, Cal currently has three Top 50 wins, with the other three teams having two apiece.

2. The Freshman of the Year race is more entertaining than many expected it to be. We’ve already seen some of this in non-conference play, with Utah’s Jakob Poeltl emerging as one of the league’s top freshmen. He’ll be part of a race that many conceded to Stanley Johnson before the season began, with Oregon’s Dillon Brooks, UCLA’s Kevon Looney and USC’s Jordan McLaughlin all players who should find themselves on the league’s all-freshman team come March.

3. Arizona wins the Pac-12, with Utah coming in second and Stanford third. Not making any waves with that prediction, as the Wildcats were picked to win the league back in late October. And while Washington’s off to an excellent start, look for the Cardinal to slip past them by the end of the season.

POSTSEASON PREDICTIONS

  • NCAA: Arizona, Utah, Stanford, Washington, Oregon
  • NIT: UCLA, California, Colorado, Arizona State
  • OTHER/NO POSTSEASON: Oregon State, USC, Washington State

Colorado State sorry for ‘Russia’ chant at Ukrainian player

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Colorado State has apologized for a group of fans who chanted “Russia” at a player on an opposing team who is from Ukraine during Saturday’s game.

Utah State’s Max Shulga is from Kyiv and was shooting free throws when TV cameras picked up the chant from the student section during the game in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago.

“On behalf of Colorado State, we apologize to the student-athlete and Utah State. This is a violation of our steadfast belief in the Mountain West Sportsmanship Policy and University Principles of Community,” Colorado State said in a statement.

“Every participant, student, and fan should feel welcomed in our venues, and for something like this to have occurred is unacceptable at Colorado State.”

Utah State beat CSU 88-79.

Duke edges North Carolina 63-57 behind Roach, Lively

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
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DURHAM, N.C. — Jeremy Roach scored 20 points, Dereck Lively II had career highs of eight blocks and 14 rebounds and Duke defeated North Carolina 63-57.

Kyle Filipowski added 14 points and Tyrese Proctor 11 for the Blue Devils (17-6, 8-4 ACC), who won their third straight and beat the Tar Heels (15-8, 7-5) for the first time in three meetings, including in last year’s Final Four in the NCAA Tournament.

North Carolina’s Armando Bacot had 14 points and 10 rebounds for his 63rd career double-double, extending his own program record, Leaky Black had 13 points and 10 rebounds, Caleb Love added 12 points and RJ Davis 11.

Roach scored eight of Duke’s final 10 points, including the last four after Lively’s tiebreaking dunk with 1:35 to go. North Carolina missed its last five shots, including a trio of 3-point tries in the final minute.

The Blue Devils’ six-point winning margin matched their largest lead.

Neither team reached 40% shooting but Duke outscored North Carolina 20-2 off fast breaks and was 11 of 15 at the free-throw line to only 2 of 3 for the Tar Heels.

The stat sheet was fairly even at halftime when Duke led 33-32 except for one telling stat, a 16-0 advantage for the Blue Devils on fast-break points as they scored repeatedly off transition.

A 14-5 run erased a seven-point North Carolina lead — the Tar Heels’ largest — and put Duke in front 26-24 with just under four minutes left in the half. A Proctor 3-pointer broke the fourth tie before Bacot cut it to the one-point margin at the break. Bacot had 12 points in the first half. Roach had 10.

The game matched two men who played in this rivalry and are now leading the programs they played for: first-year Duke coach Jon Scheyer and Hubert Davis, in his second year for North Carolina.

The teams will meet again in their regular-season finale at Chapel Hill on March 4. Duke plays at No. 23 Miami on Monday. North Carolina is at Wake Forest on Tuesday.

No. 13 Iowa State rolls past eighth-ranked Kansas 68-53

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
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AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes scored all 15 of his points in the second half as No. 13 Iowa State rolled past No. 8 Kansas 68-53 on Saturday.

Osun Osunniyi added 13 for the Cyclones (16-6, 7-3 Big 12), who stayed within at least a game of front-running Texas in the conference standings. Tamin Lipsey added eight rebounds and 10 assists.

“Today, we came out and played desperate,” Holmes said.

Jalen Wilson led the Jayhawks (18-5, 6-4) with 26 points for his sixth straight game with at least 20. No other Kansas player had more than 8 points.

“It’s not a formula for success for us,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “We need balance from our starting five. If one guy feels like he’s got to go do it all on his own, it crashes the offense.”

The Cyclones led for all but 1:14 of the game, building a 34-16 scoring edge in the paint. Kansas struggled early, making just two of their first 10 shots and committing 11 turnovers in the first 20 minutes.

Iowa State shot 46% for the game.

“From the beginning, we gave them some easy buckets,” Wilson said. “That’s something we’ve struggled with (defensively) … the easiest way to get comfortable is easy buckets, layups, stuff like that.”

Iowa State was up 33-21 at the break.

Holmes missed all four shots in the first half, but after getting sick at halftime, he helped the Cyclones stretched the lead to 42-31 early in the second half with a 3-pointer and layup.

“I felt a little nauseous the whole day,” he said. “I’ve been dealing with some sickness over the past week and a half.”

BIG PICTURE

Kansas: The Jayhawks dropped to 3-4 during a stretch in which six of its seven opponents were ranked. The lone unranked foe was Kentucky. … Kansas committed a season-high 20 turnovers Saturday. … The loss to Iowa State was Self’s first in five meetings with second-year Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger.

Iowa State: Improved to 12-0 at home this season and 5-0 in the Big 12. It was also the Cyclones’ fifth win over a top-10 opponent in the past two seasons.

UP NEXT

Kansas: Hosts No. 10 Texas on Monday.

Iowa State: Travels to West Virginia on Wednesday.

Bishop helps No. 10 Texas rally past No. 7 Kansas State, 69-66

Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports
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MANHATTAN, Kan. – Christian Bishop was as frustrated as anyone in a Texas jersey in the first half Saturday. He’d been held without a point by Kansas State and, not surprisingly, the No. 10 Longhorns were facing a double-digit deficit on the road.

Maybe that’s why he punctuated every bucket in the second half with a fist pump.

Bishop poured in 14 points after the break to lead the Longhorns’ comeback, including the go-ahead lay-in with 37 seconds to go, and the new Big 12 leaders held on for a 69-66 victory over the No. 7 Wildcats on Saturday.

“Christian’s been working really hard over the last couple of games to get him back to the level he was playing four or five games ago,” interim Texas coach Rodney Terry said. “He really came out and rebounded and gave our team an incredible lift the way he played the second half.”

Red-hot guard Sir’Jabari Rice also had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Longhorns, and it was his two free throws with nine seconds left that forced the Wildcats into needing a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime.

After a quick timeout, the Wildcats’ Ismael Massoud got an open look from the wing but came up well short of the basket, allowing the Longhorns to hold on for their fifth win over a Top 25 team this season.

Tyrese Hunter and Marcus Carr added 10 points apiece for Texas (19-4, 8-2), which took over sole possession of first place in the rough-and-tumble Big 12 by avenging its overtime loss to the Wildcats (18-5, 6-4) early last month.

“Our league, we don’t have any bad teams,” Terry said. “To come in on a home court against a top-10 team and have this kind of performance, I’ll stack it up with one of the best wins I’ve been part of in 30 years of coaching.”

Keyontae Johnson struggled through foul trouble but still had 16 points to lead the Wildcats, who have lost back-to-back games for the first time this season. Desi Sills scored 11 points and Markquis Nowell had 10, but he also had six turnovers, including one with less than a minute to go and Kansas State down by one.

“I don’t want to wash this one. I want to live with this one for 36 hours,” Wildcats coach Jerome Tang said. “Everybody in our arena did our job except the coaches and players on the floor.”

Kansas State and Texas played one of the most entertaining games of the season in Austin, when they went bucket-for-bucket through regulation and into overtime. The Wildcats eventually escaped with a 116-103 victory.

Early on Saturday, Texas looked as if it would struggle to score half as much.

With the Wildcats clamping down on the perimeter, the Longhorns kept throwing the ball away, and at one point had seven turnovers against just five made shots. They also went a stretch of more than 7 minutes with just one field goal.

Kansas State took advantage of their offensive malaise.

Despite the sure-handed Nowell’s turnover trouble, and leading scorer Johnson picking up his third foul with 5 1/2 minutes left in the half, the Wildcats steadily built a lead. It reached as many as 14 before Texas made three free throws in the final second to get within 36-25 heading to the locker room.

It was the spark the Longhorns needed: They made their first six shots of the second half, and their run spanning the break eventually reached 17-4 while getting them within 40-39 with 15 minutes left in the game.

“There were points in the second half we did get rushed,” Nowell said, “and it led to turnovers and fast-break points.”

Rice’s 3-pointer a few minutes later gave Texas its first lead since the opening minutes. And when the Wildcats went on a nearly 5-minute scoring drought, Bishop began to assert control, the Creighton transfer scoring 11 points over a 6-minute stretch and punctuating each of them with a roar and a fist pump.

Just like their first meeting Jan. 3, though, the rematch Saturday was destined to go down to the wire.

“There’s no blowouts in our league,” Tang said.

BIG PICTURE

Texas could do nothing right in the first half and nothing wrong in the second, shooting 57% from the floor over the final 20 minutes. Most of the success came in the paint; the Longhorns were just 4 of 16 from the 3-point arc.

Kansas State couldn’t overcome 19 turnovers, including six by Nowell, who had 36 points, nine assists and eight rebounds when the teams met in Austin. He had just six rebounds and three assists on Saturday.

UP NEXT

Texas heads down Interstate 70 to face eighth-ranked Kansas on Monday night.

Kansas State wraps its homestand against No. 15 TCU on Tuesday night.

James leads No. 2 Tennessee over No. 25 Auburn, 46-43

Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Josiah-Jordan James scored 15 points and 14 rebounds to lead No. 2 Tennessee to a 46-43 victory over No. 25 Auburn on Saturday in a game in which every point was difficult and nothing flowed.

“Both teams played as hard as they could,” said Tennessee coach Rick Barnes. “Every possession was a grind.”

The Volunteers (19-4, 8-2 Southeastern Conference) shot just 27% from the field and 9.5% from the 3-point line. They were recovering from a Wednesday loss to Florida in which they shot 28%.

Tennessee had a 47-42 edge on the boards and 15-8 on the offensive glass.

“A game like this shows a lot of character,” said James. “I knew coming in (rebounding) was what I’d be called to do. I had to use the body God’s given me.”

“Both teams did a fantastic job,” said Auburn coach Bruce Pearl. “To hold Tennessee to 27% … It doesn’t get any better than that.”

“I don’t think there’s a more physical league in the country,” said Barnes.

The Tigers (17-6, 7-3) were led by Johni Broome with 11 points and nine rebounds and K.D. Johnson off the bench with 10 points. Auburn managed only 24% from the field and 11% from the 3-point line.

Jaylin Williams made two free throws with 2:47 to play cut Tennessee’s lead to 40-38. Santiago Vescovi hit his first 3-pointer of the game and got a four-point play out of it for a 44-38 lead. A 3-pointer by Wendell Green Jr. cut the advantage to 44-41 with 30 seconds left.

A turnover on the inbounds play gave Auburn the ball with 23 seconds to play. Broome got a tip-in to make it a one-point game, and Zakai Zeigler made two free throws.

Green’s last-second 3-point to tie clanked out.

“At the end, Wendell Green got the shot off and got fouled,” said Pearl. “Nothing got called.”

Auburn scored eight straight points to start the game. Tennessee followed with a six-point run and an eight-point spurt early in the second half. Those were the longest runs of the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Tennessee was in the No. 2 spot in the poll for two days before falling at Florida. Under Barnes, the Vols now have 25 wins over teams ranked in the Top 25. . Auburn had been clinging to the elite at No. 25 this week. The Tigers have been ranked as high as No. 11, coming in the fifth week of the season.

STAT SNACKS

Since statistics started being kept in 1999-2000, Tennessee is on pace to be the all-time leader in field-goal percentage defense (.348; Stanford, 1999-2000, is second .352) and 3-point defense (.225; Norfolk State, 2004-05, is second .253). . Through 22 games, the similarities between last year’s Vols point guard Kennedy Chandler (now with the Memphis Grizzlies) and this year’s Ziegler are striking (points per game: Chandler 13.5, Ziegler 11.4; rebounds: 3.0, 3.0; assists: 4.95, 5.05).

UP NEXT

Auburn: The Tigers will host Texas A&M on Tuesday night.

Tennessee: The Vols will tackle in-state rival Vanderbilt in Nashville on Wednesday.