Doomsday scenario for Pac-12?

697400.jpg

Doomsday scenario for Pac-12?

Programming note: Watch the Pac-12 Conference Tournament semifinals tonight on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Oregon State faces Arizona at 6 followed by Cal vs. Colorado at 8:30 p.m.

LOS ANGELES -- Clearly the Mayans were college hoop fans. Who knew that when they predicted Armageddon in 2012 they were referring to the Pac-12 conference?

All season, pundits have spouted off about the "Doomsday scenario," in which only one team from this downtrodden conference would get in to the NCAA Tournament.

As recently as five days ago, that permutation seemed silly. No fewer than four squads had legitimate at-large chances. Then Arizona lost to ASU, Cal lost to Stanford, Washington lost to Oregon State and Oregon lost to Colorado.

Dogs and cats, living together, mass hysteria.

Now we have a situation in which Cal -- by virtue of Thursday night's revenge win over Stanford -- is comfortably in the field of 68. Oh sure, Nervous-Nelly Bear fans will be sweating it out on Sunday but with 24 wins and an RPI of 35, Cal is locked in.

The rest of them however ...

Let's take them one at a time.

Arizona: The loss to ASU (RPI 250) was an absolute killer. It lowered the Wildcats' number to 78. For reference sake, the lowest RPI team ever to receive an at-large bid was USC last year at 67. And it's not like the 'Cats have any good non-conference wins on which to hang their collective hat. Wait, that's redundant. The entire Pac-12 has no good non-conference wins (except, believe it or not, Stanford over Colorado State), which is why we are in this predicament. Good news for Arizona is, it's still alive at the Staples Center.

Oregon: The Ducks were the hot team heading into the conference tournament, but they could ill afford last night's one-point loss to Colorado. Oregon's RPI is 63. The NCAA Tournament is not out of the question, but not likely.

Washington: Here's where it gets tricky. The Huskies were in good shape, having won the regular season title. And that will still carry some weight with the selection committee. But the opening round Pac-12 loss to Oregon State dropped Washington's RPI to 68. Below the unofficial Mendoza Line.

Bottom line: I still believe somehow, some way, the Pac gets two teams. Sadly, the best case for the conference is Cal not winning the tournament, forcing somebody else in. But it does remain a very real possibility that this "power conference" is a one-bid league. So prepare for Armageddon. As if that will do any good.

Hermanson scores 17, No. 22 Saint Mary's beats BYU 70-57

saint-marys-byu.jpg
USATSI

Hermanson scores 17, No. 22 Saint Mary's beats BYU 70-57

PROVO, Utah — Saint Mary's knows all about the raucous atmosphere at BYU. The Gaels hadn't won in Provo since 2013 and had only come out on top in three of their previous 12 trips.

Make it four out of 13.

Calvin Hermanson scored 17 points and No. 22 Saint Mary's cruised to a 70-57 victory over BYU on Saturday night, snapping a three-game road losing streak to its West Coast Conference rival.

"It's definitely one of the tougher places to play for us," Hermanson said. "Coming in here we know it's a huge crowd and we know they can get riled up on any 3-point shot or any run they make. We wanted to try to limit their runs and their big plays.

"The second half was pretty unbelievable how quiet the crowd was. It felt great for us."

With two games remaining on the regular-season schedule, the Gaels (24-3, 14-2) clinched a second-place finish in the conference standings behind top-ranked and undefeated Gonzaga.

Saint Mary's controlled the game most of the night, riding its staunch defense on one end and running efficient offense on the other. The Gaels were able to get to the rim consistently, but also knocked down 10 3-pointers.

BYU (19-10, 10-6) shot 39.7 percent from the field and connected on four 3s.

Evan Fitzner had 15 points for Saint Mary's, including 11 in the second half.

"We didn't turn the ball over and we shot the ball well," Gaels coach Randy Bennett said, "and were able to get some separation and then it made it tough on them. We kind of just wore them out after that.

"We're a little different team with Fitzner out there. He spaces the floor," Bennett added. "We just play a little different with Fitzner out there versus Jock (Landale). It's nice to have a Plan A and Plan B."

Saint Mary's took a 41-30 lead into halftime thanks to Hermanson's hot shooting and plenty of that trademark defense. The Gaels began the day ranked second in the nation in scoring defense, then held the Cougars to 37.9 percent shooting from the field in the first 20 minutes.

Saint Mary's shot 57.1 percent at the other end, including a 3-for-4 effort from Hermanson from behind the arc.

"I feel like we're better than we showed tonight," BYU guard TJ Haws said. "That team made a lot of runs on us. Tough defensive and offensive team. Very poised and disciplined.

"I want our team to just fight. When they punch us in the face, I want us to punch them right back."

BYU kept Landale under control in the half — and in foul trouble throughout — but Saint Mary's scored 22 of its 41 first-half points in the paint.

Eric Mika had 18 points for BYU, and Yoeli Childs added 13.

"The key to the game was that they were comfortable the entire time in our gym," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "That's on us. We need to be ahead. We need to get them to speed up a little bit because they're a little bit uncomfortable.

"But the game went pretty much exactly how they wanted it to go and we couldn't flip it. We couldn't get on top."

BIG PICTURE

Saint Mary's: The Gaels will be the No. 2 seed in the WCC tournament. No. 1 Gonzaga secured the regular-season title Saturday with a win over Pacific. An early December defeat to UT-Arlington is the Gaels' only bad loss this season, with the other two coming against Gonzaga.

BYU: The Cougars likely needed a win against the No. 22 team in the country to make an argument for the NCAA Tournament off their regular-season credentials. BYU has lost all three games against ranked opponents by double digits, including to Saint Mary's twice, and doesn't have a signature win. The Cougars get one last chance against Gonzaga next Saturday.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

No. 22 Saint Mary's might find itself moving up a bit after No. 17 Florida State and No. 21 South Carolina lost on Saturday.

UP NEXT

Saint Mary's: Travel to face Pepperdine on Thursday.

BYU: Play at Portland on Thursday.

Pickens, Travis rally Stanford past rival Cal for upset win

reid.jpg
USATSI

Pickens, Travis rally Stanford past rival Cal for upset win

BOX SCORE

STANFORD -- Dorian Pickens scored 23 points, Reid Travis had 19 with nine rebounds and Stanford held on to beat California 73-68 on Friday night.

Marcus Allen added 11 points for the Cardinal, who overcame an early 12-point deficit to beat their cross-bay rivals for the 21st time in the last 24 meetings between the two teams at Maples Pavilion.

Stanford (13-13, 5-9 Pac-12) won for only the second time in seven games and split the season series with California.

Pickens had nine points, including a pair of 3-pointers, as part of a 20-5 run in the second half when the Cardinal pulled away.

After California closed within 62-56 on Grant Mullins' 3-pointer with 4:54 remaining, Allen made two free throws and Pickens scored on a jumper from the free-throw line as he was falling backward onto the court.

Jabari Bird scored 23 points and set a career-high with seven 3s for the Golden Bears (18-8, 9-5). Ivan Rabb added 16 points and 13 rebounds after being slowed by foul trouble in the first half.