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Pac-12 rewind: Washington State splits in the desert, Cal sweeps at home and Arizona remains on top

Pac-12 rewind: Washington State splits in the desert, Cal sweeps at home and Arizona remains on top

Recapping the weekend action across the Pac-12 …

Theme of the week: State of the race

Despite a slew of upsets, the top tier of the conference standings looks the same today as it did when the week began. Arizona holds a one-game lead on Washington State, which holds a one-game lead over Oregon, which holds a one-game lead over UCLA. The only difference is the Bruins are tied for fourth place (with Colorado), not alone in fourth. Well, there’s another difference: WSU now owns the tiebreaker with Arizona if the teams finish deadlocked for first place.

Theme of the season: NCAA Tournament outlook

It’s not a pretty picture, folks. Only Arizona is a lock. WSU stands on the right side of the bubble and could have secured an at-large bid with a desert sweep, but the loss at ASU leaves the Cougars with work remaining: They would not survive a poor finish to the regular season and an early exit from the Pac-12 tournament. Utah and Colorado are on the NCAA bubble; Oregon is not; and UCLA has no shot at March Madness without a Pac-12 tournament title. The Hotline’s Over/Under for total bids (automatic and at-large) remains at 2.5.

Game of the week I: WSU 77, Arizona 74

The showdown for first place lived up to its billing with 10 ties, 13 lead changes and plenty of clutch baskets. The biggest came courtesy of WSU forward Jaylen Wells, who drained a 3-pointer from the left corner despite a foul on Keshad Johnson. The resulting four-point play with 24 seconds remaining gave the Cougars a 75-74 lead that held up through the final seconds as WSU completed a season sweep of the Wildcats and won in McKale Center for the second consecutive season.

Game of the week II: Washington 84, ASU 82 (OT)

We haven’t seen a wilder matchup this season than the rollicking affair that unfolded Thursday in Tempe. The Huskies led by 25 points early in the second half, only to let the advantage waste away as ASU pulled even on Frankie Collins’ layup with seven seconds left. Somehow, UW regrouped in overtime — and swept the season series with ASU — thanks to Braxton Meah’s free throws.

Coach of the week: Cal’s Mark Madsen

It was a rare week in the Pac-12 in that only one team recorded two wins. Even more unusual: That team was Cal. With their sweep of the Oregon schools, the Bears climbed over .500 in conference play and (if you can believe it) have a chance to claim one of the top four seeds in the Pac-12 tournament. Madsen would be a lock for Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors any other season but has WSU’s Kyle Smith directly in his path.

Player of the week: Arizona G Caleb Love

Love strengthened his case for Pac-12 Player of the Year honors with a 55-point weekend (plus 11 rebounds and 10 assists) against the Washington schools. His efficiency, an important piece of the Hotline’s weekly assessment, was first rate: Love scored his 55 points on just 39 field goal attempts. We also considered WSU’s Wells and Oregon State guard Jordan Pope.

Predictable win of the week: Arizona State

Credit the Sun Devils for playing well in their 73-61 victory over Washington State, especially coming off the overtime loss to Washington. That said, this was a prime letdown situation for the Cougars after their breakthrough two days earlier at Arizona, one of the biggest wins in program history. The result in Tempe, in other words, was easily foreseen based on the trends of both participants.

Predictable loss of the week: UCLA

The Bruins’ 62-56 faceplant at home against USC came as a surprise only to those who have not tracked this rivalry in recent years. Regardless of any disparity in talent or record, the Trojans usually play their best against UCLA — they have won eight of the past 13 meetings — and are quite comfortable in the backyard-brawl style the Bruins prefer. UCLA shot 21 percent from 3-point range and had far more turnovers (15) than assists (nine). “We were awful,” coach Mick Cronin said.

Bad loss of the week: Stanford

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As it often does, the Cardinal is fading at just the wrong time. It has dropped four in a row and became the first Pac-12 team this season to lose at home to Oregon State. Even worse, Stanford wasn’t competitive down the stretch as the Beavers broke open a close game, outscoring the Cardinal 26-15 over the final eight minutes. It was one of the worst results of the Jerod Haase era — and there have been a lot of bad ones.

Fade of the month: Utah

The promising start to conference play has morphed into a difficult finish for Utah and third-year coach Craig Smith, whose team has yet to figure out how to win consistently on the road (1-7 away from home in conference play). The 89-65 loss at Colorado on Saturday marked the Utes’ sixth defeat in the past eight games. Once a contender for an opening-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament, Utah is now closer to last place than first.

Stat of the year: Cal

The Bears have nine conference wins, one shy of their combined total for the previous three seasons.

Game of next week: Oregon at Arizona (Saturday)

Third place visits first place on the penultimate weekend of the regular season in what could be a must-win for both teams, depending on the mid-week results. Arizona won the first meeting decisively in Eugene as Love blitzed the Ducks for 36 points. Tipoff is 11 a.m. Pacific on ESPN or ESPN2.

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