The top dogs
Arizona is no longer in a tier of its own. The Wildcats' recent struggles have brought them back down to earth. That said, they're still a much better team than Oregon, who finally took a step back. These two are going to be playing in March, the only question now is a matter of seeding for Arizona and Oregon.
The bounce-back weekend Arizona so desperately needed came to fruition and moved them back into the top 10 of the AP Poll. The Wildcats put on a show inside of a star-studded McKale Center against USC on Wednesday. It was a tough-fought game at first, but a 20-point day from Caleb Love allowed Arizona to pull away in the second half and win 82-67.
The sailing wasn't so smooth against UCLA on Saturday, though, and Arizona needed a career-high 22-point performance from Pelle Larsson to overcome the 19-point hole the Wildcats fell into. Oumar Ballo also notched a double-double with 17 points and 13 reboundsDespite the game being largely overshadowed by the football news announced during the break, this performance was unnecessarily scary.
Next week: Arizona will be taking to the road to face a reeling Oregon State team on Thursday night and then have a tough test against Oregon, who will be looking to right the ship, on Saturday.
Oregon was the last team in the Pac-12 with an unblemished record in conference play. That was finally besmirched when the Ducks had to hit the road to face Colorado on Thursday. Despite overcoming a double-digit hole in the first half, a relatively lackluster scoring day prevented the Ducks from sealing the comeback.
The Ducks continued play against Utah in Salt Lake City on Saturday. Oregon lost a heartbreaker to Utah despite both Jermaine Couisnard (26) and N'Faly Dante (23) posting 20-plus-point games. The two played valiantly in the final minutes, but poor free-throw shooting and conversely good shooting by Utah sealed the 80-77 loss.
Next week: After taking on the toughest matchup pair in the conference, they'll host the best team in the conference in Arizona on Saturday, but not before a rising Arizona State squad comes to town on Thursday.