Thursday night got weird on the west coast, as the Pac-12 seems to only get drunker and drunker as the season goes on.
1. UCLA IS IN FIRST PLACE IN THE PAC-12 RACE
One of the wildest stories in college basketball this season is that of the UCLA Bruins.
Just two months ago, UCLA lost at home to Cal St. Fullerton, a team that ranks in the bottom 100 in college basketball on every metric that we use to measure these things. It was the second time this season that the Bruins had lost a game to a mid-major opponent in Pauley Pavilion. It dropped UCLA to 7-6 on the season as the calendar turned, which was the same record on the same date that got Steve Alford fired a year prior.
And that wasn’t even the low point!
As of January 15th, UCLA was under .500 on the season. That’s what happens when you start league play by losing three of your first four games. Since starting the season 8-9 and starting Pac-12 play 1-3 and having half of the known world question whether or not he was the right hire for UCLA to make, Mick Cronin has reeled off 10 wins in 12 games. He’s swept Colorado in the last six weeks. He’s won at Arizona. And on Thursday night, the Bruins got a three from freshman Jaime Jaquez with 0.6 seconds left on the clock to knock off Arizona State, who was all alone in first place in Pac-12 entering the night.
I was bullish on UCLA entering the season, but I’ll be honest: I did not think that there was any chance that they could be two games away from winning a Pac-12 title.
But here we are.
2. THAT WASN’T THE ONLY INSANITY OUT WEST
Arizona had a chance to move into a first-place tie with a win at USC on Thursday night, but they weren’t able to get that done thanks to a double-double from Onyeka Okongwu and a 3-for-14 shooting performance from Nico Mannion. The Wildcats shot just 28 percent from the floor and 3-for-26 from three on the night.
And Colorado? They had the same opportunity, but they slept-walked through a half at Cal and ended up losing by 14 points. The only team other team that won with a chance to play their way into first place in the league was Oregon, who beat up on Oregon State despite the fact that they were playing without Chris Duarte.
As it stands, the Ducks and the Bruins are tied for first place. Arizona State is a half-game out in the win column while Arizona and Colorado are a game off the pace.
3. OH, AND WISCONSIN MIGHT BE GOOD AGAIN
The Badgers went into the Crisler Center and beat up on Michigan, who had a healthy Isaiah Livers at their disposal. D’Mitrik Trice had 28 points and Aleem Ford and Micah Potter both chipped in with 18 in the 81-74 win.