March - n. - A time of year where insanity becomes the norm.
March descended on Vegas with a crashing bellow yesterday, with all four games defying expectations. Overall, it was a rough day for the overachievers, as Washington State, Arizona State, and Oregon State - teams that all finished above their predicted place - fell out of the Pac-12 Tournament to teams that had underachieved this season.
For the Buffs, that meant a win over the OSU Beavers, and it took an extra special dose of Askia Booker to make it happen. The senior spark plug, who had struggled in the first half, came alive over a three minute stretch in the second. Out of the under-twelve timeout, with the Buffs trailing 52-50, Booker hit on a pair of free throws to even the score. He then proceeded to nail a trio of three point attempts and a slashing layup to sling-shot CU into a nine point lead. It was a lead the team would never relinquish, skating home with a 78-71 final.
The previous meeting in Corvallis was a fit of frustration, as Colorado never found traction against the Oregon State zone. Yesterday, however, CU played particularly well on offense, using incisive passes to carve up the Beavers. Eventually, OSU had no other option but to ditch the zone for man-to-man, as CU shot 50% from the floor against one of the nation's best defenses. That effort was supported by fantastic free throw shooting, with the Buffs getting near full value out of their 26 attempts. Just an outstanding performance all around.
For Booker, his 20 points lead the team. He had been off his game in the first half, finishing without a made field goal, but still found a way to contribute by repeatedly catching the Beavers in the air on pump fakes. Josh Scott, continuing his recent run of strong play, was vital in support, posting a 16/14 double-double against zero turnovers.
This was a tight game from start to finish. Back-and-forth action made for a very engaging affair, and Ski's three minutes of insane brilliance were the only difference. The Buffs now move on to face Oregon in day two, looking to claim a Beaver State sweep.
In the day's other action:
- Cal crushed Washington State 84-59 in a game DaVonte Lacy played little to no part in.
- USC stunned everyone by storming back in the second half to clip Arizona State 67-64.
- Stanford survived 71-69 in the day's best finish, thanks to senior Chasson Randle's three pointer in the waning seconds.
Just a bonkers day in Las Vegas, as the muddled middle scrapped for the spoils. This is a top-heavy league, however, and the behemoths hit town this afternoon. It's about to get real.
- #1 Arizona vs #8 Cal - 1pm MT, Pac-12 Network -
The red horde is about to wash over the Strip, as the league champions finally start their run. It's hard not to expect some serious noise from the Wildcats, who dominated competition this winter, winning 16 conference games. It would take a near-perfect effort from Cal to beat them on their worst day, and I'm not expecting that sort of shenanigans. Give me the 'Cats.
- #4 UCLA vs #12 USC - 3:30pm MT, Pac-12 Network -
A surprise LA showdown in the second game won't be much fun for those in attendance. For all the faults with the Bruins, they should have no difficulty with their cross-town rival. Give me UCLA, big.
- #2 Oregon vs #10 Colorado - 7pm MT, Pac-12 Network -
We saw in Eugene what happens if the Buffs try to get into a track meet with the Ducks. It's not a pretty sight. Colorado's best chance this afternoon is to bring #TadBall to Vegas, and turn this one into a grind-it-out clencher. I've been told I can no longer pick CU to win this season, however. Fair enough. Ducks and the over.
- #3 Utah vs #6 Stanford - 9:30pm MT, ESPN -
This one could be interesting, as the Chasson Randle/Delon Wright matchup is fantastic, and Stefan Nastic will be able to use all his wily veteran skill against freshman Jakob Poeltl. I'm expecting another close finish in the night cap, with the Cardinal covering in a close loss.
GO BUFFS! PROVE ME WRONG, AND BEAT THE DUCKS!