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I swear Larry Scott has taken some of the Pac 12 TV money and used it to rig these games so that every one is close and drama filled. Everything about moving the tourney to Vegas has been better. Not only have we left that cavernous empty void of a stadium in the Staples Center behind, but we also left behind the boring, blowout, pathetic basketball games as well. The largest margin of victory has been 10 points and one of those was a 1 point game with a minute left to play and the other was an overtime thriller. The parity of the conference has been on full display this week and the overall level of basketball has been at its highest.
Let's look at the action from yesterday:
Ucla 80 vs ASU 75 - The day started off with Ucla getting everything they could handle from a weary ASU team. Ucla didn't lead until less than five minutes left in the game when it was obvious that ASU had run out of gas. The match up of Freshmen of the Year winners Shabazz Muhammad and Jahii Carson did not disappoint either. Carson is a lethal scoring machine. His handles and ability to get to and finish at the rim are some of the best in the country. He followed up his 34 point first round game with a 21 point effort yesterday. Muhammad struggled with foul trouble for most of the game but his breakaway dunk over Jordan Bachynski was a catalyst that propelled Ucla to take the lead.
Arizona 79 vs Colorado 69 - This was the marquee match up of the day. Not only because it pitted two teams that have a recent history of angst between them, but also because they have the two best crowds here in Vegas. The game did not disappoint either. If you want to know what the best thing about moving the tourney to Vegas was, you should have been at this game. It was electric. The crowd was easily two-thirds Arizona fans, but Colorado fans were not going to go unnoticed and when Askia Booker nailed a baseline 3 with less than 2 minutes to play to cut the Zona lead to 4, it was just as loud in there as any other time of the day. In the end though, I think this game is just going to be a prelude to the Ucla-Arizona match up later today. These two teams really don't like each other, and like most fans in LA, I'm sure their fans will be late to arriving.
Utah 79 vs Cal 69 OT - Ok seriously, where has this Utah team been all year? They are efficient on offense. swarming on defense. Watching them yesterday, it was easy to see why Oregon lost to them a week ago and why they have won 4 straight. In the second half they smothered Cobbs and Crabbe and didn't let them pull away. Jarred Dubois hit a fall away contested 3 with :09 to go to tie the game and in overtime Washburn and Loveridge finished them off down low. Unbelievable, I am not looking forward to playing the one of the hottest teams in the conference tonight for the second time in less than a week.
Oregon 80 vs washington 77 OT - One thing I did not make a big enough deal about in the recap last night was the play of Johnathan Loyd. That kid is all heart and plays like a badger that has had 5 Red Bulls. He harassed Uw's guards all night. Sometimes he got a foul called, but that didn't back him off. He made it difficult for Uw to find continuity in their offense. Someone asked in the game thread why Loyd was in late in the game instead of Artis. I think some of that has to do with Artis still not being 100%, but I think more of it has to do with the confidence that Altman has in Loyd. Confidence that paid dividends when Loyd stepped up and knocked down 2 free throws to put the game into overtime.
Plenty of good basketball on today, use this space to talk about the games, I'll have a preview of the Oregon-Utah game up later today.