Gonzaga Keeps Moving Toward Top Spot, Pac-12 Battle with Arizona vs. UCLA
With the calendar turning over to March, it’s crunch time for NCAA hoops teams. Some are looking to solidify their conference tournament seeds while others are still teetering on the bubble for the Big Dance.
The Big Ten and the Big East are dominating headlines but from the West, there’s good teams sitting in the Top 25. This week Gonzaga (28-2, 15-0) is No. 2–a first in the school’s history. With Indiana’s loss against Minnesota this week, will the Bulldogs ascend to the spot on Monday?
They remain undefeated in the West Coast Conference and should continue this ride (-25.5) as they play Portland on Saturday (-26).
#14 New Mexico (24-4, 11-2) continues its march for ownership of the Mountain West Conference. The team has a No. 2 RPI in the country and is the leader by two games of the top-ranked conference as defined by RPI, according to ESPN.
The team is hungry to succeed but has 50 to 1 odds to win it all in April.
Over in the Pac-12, #11 Arizona (23-5, 11-5) has the higher ranking while #24 Oregon (23-6,12-4) sits in the top conference spot. In between the two is UCLA (21-7, 11-4) who is unranked and did not receive an AP votes last week.
For the Ducks, they have the weekend off after defeating the Oregon State Beavers on Thursday, 85-75. Their next game is on Thursday against Colorado and they’ll end season next Saturday against Utah. They have defeated both Arizona and UCLA this season.
But they face a tough road ahead for March Madness: they have 75 to 1 odds to win the National Championship.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats will take on the Bruins in L.A. on Saturday. Will they jump over them in conference standings or will the Bruins tie for the top spot?
Let’s take a look.
In their Jan. 24 meeting, Bruins won 84-73 and made a statement the team was coming together.
The teams will enter Saturday’s match up as the Pac 12’s top scoring offenses.
UCLA’s trio of Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson have been key to the team’s success and in Wednesday’s 79-74 OT win over Arizona State, they dominated in scoring: Adams led with 22 points, Muhammad contributed 21 and Anderson added 21 points and a season-high 15 rebounds.
They are also leaders in the conference. Muhammed has the second spot with his 18.3 point average with Adams averaging 15.4 points but he is at the top of league with his 54 steals. Anderson sits at the top of the nation in rebounding among guards at 9.1 per game.
The team is also expected to welcome forward Travis Ware back who missed two games from a foot injury.
For the Wildcats, they need to regroup after losing to USC 89-78 on Wednesday and giving up the greatest number of points this season. This can’t happen again as UCLA leads the Pac-12 with its 76.1 average points.
Wildcats coach Sean Miller said via ESPN of Wednesday’s game, “When you did what we just did, it’s not about winning (the) conference, it’s about winning a game. We are faced with an immense challenge on Saturday, and if we don’t play harder on defense I don’t think we will win the game, but it will be close.”
Playing on UCLA’s home court has been a challenge: the Wildcats have lost six of their last seven there.
The team will look for more scoring from Solomon Hill, who scored 21 points against USC while Nick Johnson will need to step it up: he had four points on Wednesday night against USC and in his previous eight games, he’s averaging 6.5 points. This comes after a 14.5 point average in his first eight Pac-12 games.
What the team needs is a repeat performance from his first UCLA game–23 points.
It may be tough as the home team gets the winning nod (-1, 147 o/u).
#11 Arizona vs. UCLA