After plopping myself down in my seat at Staples Center at 12:20 pm, I finally got home at 11:40 pm. I felt sorry for the PA announcer, who was misidentifying players and was a bit tongue-tied at the end of the day. Probably didn't help him that the final game was between Washington and Washington State to further make it hard. And he referred to Washington State as "the Huskies" in the introductions, although he corrected himself.
But it's easier now with just two games tonight.
The first semifinal tips off at 6:20 pm PT between #4 seed Oregon (24-7) and #8 Cal (16-16).
The Ducks pounded Arizona by a surprisingly easy 69-50 margin. The Ducks made 11 of 20 three-pointers and Tajuan Porter made 5 of 6 from long distance. Porter led the Pac-10 in three-pointers made. Aaron Brooks scored 16 points and Arizona missed a whole lot of shots (21 of 60 from the field.)
Cal stunned #1 seed UCLA, 76-69 in overtime. The Bears had a 12-point lead at halftime, frittered it away in the second half, only to come back thanks to some clutch baskets by Ayinde Ubaka, who scored 29 points. The Bears made 8 three pointers and were second in the Pac-10 in that category with 223, behind Oregon's 279.
So it seems likely that this semifinal will be decided on the perimeter. The two teams split their earlier games this year. Cal beat Oregon last year in the semifinals, 91-87 in 2 OTs. Oregon beat Cal in a first round game in 2002, 87-82.
The second semifinal matches #2 seed Washington State (25-6) and #3 seed USC (22-10). The Cougars won both games over the Trojans this year in exciting fashion. Wazzu won in Los Angeles on December 30, rallying from a double-digit deficit to pull out a 58-55 win. The two teams met again last Saturday and the Cougars won 88-86 in 2 OTs.
Washington State beat intrastate rival Washington 74-64 and USC beat the other private school in the Pac-10, Stanford, 83-79 in overtime. Both teams won their games at the free throw line, each of them making 23 free throws to clinch their wins. Taylor Rochestie lead Wazzu with 20 points and Nick Young led USC with 26 points.
Wazzu has won the most games in a season since 1916-17. That team went 25-1 and was awarded a retroactive mythical national championship. The only team to beat Washington State that year was Cal in Berkeley by the score of 28-20. That team played just eight home games and 18 road games. The Cougars won 26 games in 1940-41 when they were the NCAA 2nd place team. That was also the last time the Cougars won a conference title.
USC won its only matchup against Wazzu in the Pac-10 tournament, 17 years ago in Tempe. USC won 85-68 in a 7-10 matchup.
I believe this is how the contest will shake out:
If the final is USC vs. Oregon and USC wins, Tom Meagher would win.
If the final is USC vs. Oregon and Oregon wins, the winner would be ... wait for it ... Trojan Ron.
If the final is Washington State vs. Oregon the winner would be Vishal, no matter who won the championship.
If Cal makes it to the final against USC and USC wins, I have a three-way tie to sort out and I've decided that Tom Meagher would win the tiebreaker over the two guys because he had more teams correct in the quarterfinals.
If Cal makes it to the final against USC and Cal wins, there would be a tie between D4P and Trojan Ron and there is no real good tiebreaker I could use, so I'd likely just give them both the prize mainly so D4P wouldn't bother me for the rest of my life.
If Cal makes it to the final against Washington State, and Washington State wins, Philip Michaels win. He would be tied with Vishal, but win the "picking the right champion" tiebreaker.
If Cal makes it to the final against Washington State, and Cal wins, then Vishal wins.
I will doublecheck, but since Vishal is the only person to have a chance to have both finalists correct, he is in good position to pull off the win. He's missed just one game and everybody missed that one as nobody picked UCLA to lose its first game.
Another note: On Wednesday, I remarked that the cover to the program featured five players: Jeff Pendergraph of ASU, Aaron Brooks of Oregon, Ayinde Ubaka of Cal, Nick Young of USC, and Derick Low of Washington State. Obviously, with the exception of Pendergraph, whose team was doomed from the start, there is no Pac-10 Tournament program jinx!