Pre-tourney look at Pac-12


Pre-tourney look at Pac-12

Well class, we havent had a chance to sit down and talk about Pac-12 basketball in a while, have we? Remember when we said -- back in November -- that the league was down a bit this year?

Guess what? The leagues not down its downright taken root. It's required by the NCAA that the conference tournament winner be selected as a leagues representative to its postseason dance, but beyond that there are no guarantees for anyone -- up to and including the conference champions. And, while I never thought Id see the day that the Pac had just a single representative in the NCAA Tournament, this could possibly be the year.
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To start, the Pac 12s non-conference winning percentage is lower than the cost of a share of stock in a Nevada silver mine. That is to say worthless.

That in itself will drive the selection committee to say, Lets see, shall we take Oregon or Seattle Pacific? Well, Seattle Pacific is a D2 school -- but they beat Arizona. Lets go for them.

Heres a pre-tournament rundown of the Pac 12 -- through jaded eyes.

Mike Montgomery has been masterful in what hes done with this team. They play hard, theyre tough, theyre experienced and theyre one player short. They can win any game. Or lose any game. Pretty much like the rest of the league.

Too many good players, not enough basketballs. Tony Wroten is the freshman of the year, a one-and-done guy, one of the best players in the conference -- and the Huskies would be better off without him. I get the sense that Lorenzo Romar -- one of my favorite guys -- would rather be watching a colonoscopy than what he sees from a talented bunch of players and one really selfish one.

Youthful, athletic, wonderful young men who seem to be in every game and just cant find a way to close the deal. I sometimes get the sense that Johnny Dawkins is asking for volunteers.

This team is big, soft, fat and brings a shot selection that has the coach using all his timeouts in the first 22 minutes of a game. By which time he usually has nothing left to say to his team anyway. Not a staunch group.

Six transfers and an ability to win on the road make the Ducks at least an interesting team to watch. Wouldnt shock me if they won the Pac-12 Tournament. Dana Altman: Coach of the year. Team: A bunch of guys.

Oregon State
This is the most complete team in the conference. Only drawback is that they dont win. I dont get it. The Beavs usually start slow and finish fast. This year, the opposite. They simply should be better than they are.

Two words: Freshman guards. The 'Cats are well coached and talented but wildly inconsistent because of backcourt youth. Also, weaving AAU stars into a college program can be problematic when they feel they already know more than the coach. They dont. Especially in the case of Sean Miller. Next year for the 'Cats.

Unknown, untalked about, and one of the better teams in the league. The Buffs are still learning how to win at sea level but Tad Boyle has done a masterful coaching job with a team picked 11th in the conference.

Washington State
Give it up for coach Ken Bone. He got the most of what he had. Which was very little. It aint easy recruiting to Pullman, Wash. -- unless its very dark out.

Their hopes ended in September in Brazil when Tio Fontan went down with a season-ending injury. Kevin ONeil said he and his assistants sat on a bench on Ipanema Beach drinking Mojitos until dawn. He knew it was going to be bad. It was worse.

Arizona State
No point guard, internal problems, best player down with injury for much of the season, more turnovers per game than people in the stands. Tough year for Herb Sendek.

Worse college basketball team Ive seen in this conference in -- let me think -- ever.

Other than that though, its been a hell of a year in the Pac 12.

Barry Tompkins is a regular contributor to Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and Chronicle Live.

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


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."


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.


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.


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


Pickens, Travis rally Stanford past rival Cal for upset win


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.