Live from the Pac-12 Tournament: Could Stanford be the bracket-buster?

Ethan Miller

Arizona's defense shines once again, the streaking Ducks fall and the Stanford Cardinal make a case as a dangerous NCAA Tournament team.

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LAS VEGAS -- The Pac-12 might not be an elite conference, but it's probably looking at six NCAA Tournament bids. After the conference tournament ends, who might be a middle-seeded team for NCAA Tournament opponents to worry about?

The answer might be the Stanford Cardinal, which dropped a likely NCAA-bound Arizona State squad 79-58 on Friday to earn a place in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals.

Higher Education

Arizona looks set on earning a top seed, while UCLA and Oregon have the most firepower. After that, Colorado, California, ASU and Stanford could all make the Big Dance. Cal is probably on the wrong side of the bubble after getting smoked by Colorado on Thursday, but it's the Cardinal who have separated themselves as perhaps the best all-around team of that group -- unless the Buffaloes drop top-seeded Arizona, which is coming off a lopsided 71-39 win against Utah.

Stanford is looking more dangerous by the day with the size to rebound and defend, and the scorers to hang with most opponents.

It's just been a matter of when they'll put their strengths together. They did just that Friday against the Sun Devils.

"I think we beat a good team tonight," said Cardinal coach Johnny Dawkins. "I think we continued for 40 minutes. I think it was one of the best efforts we've had this season. We withstood the runs and continued to build momentum."

Stanford has power forward Dwight Powell and his NBA-ready physique. Small forward Josh Huestis likewise has the ability to stretch the court and slash. Guard Chasson Randle is probably Stanford's best player. Thursday night, Randle scored 21, Powell 15 and Huestis 12.

More impressively, the Cardinal defense took it to speedy Arizona State point guard Jahii Carson, who averages 18.9 points and 4.5 assists per game. Carson, an NBA prospect, scored his first bucket 26 minutes into the game and finished with 10 points and three assists. His backcourt mate, Jermaine Marshall, scored just four points despite averaging 15 a night.

Was it just Stanford's night? Or was it just not ASU's?

"As far as just being our night, I'd just say (it's) along the lines of us reaching our potential," said Cardinal forward Josh Huestis.

The Cardinal players won't talk tournament now, but as a projected 11th-seed, they're a group perfectly in position to pull a second-round upset.

Performer of the day: Arizona's defense

Oregon's Joseph Young scored 29 in a losing cause, and UCLA's Kyle Anderson filled out the box score (11 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals), but Arizona's team defense earns this one.

The Wildcats held a respectable Utah team to 25.5 percent shooting for the game and 0.68 points per possession. Consider this: Utah's three leading scorers in Delon Wright, Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor came in averaging 42 combined points. Against UA's best three defenders in Aaron Gordon, Nick Johnson and T.J. McConnell, the trio of Utes went 1-for-16 from the field, scoring just seven points.

Seen and heard

Slow-Mo's dunk in slow-mo: UCLA point forward Kyle Anderson's nickname (and Twitter banner) is Slow-Mo. This dunk seemed like it took forever to complete, but it was still the play of the day.

Vegas anthem: The National Anthem for the late session of games featured Blue Man Group wearing a contraption around their bodies made of what appeared to be vacuum cleaner tubes. Beating the ends of the tubes created different sounds. And that was as Vegas of a National Anthem as a Vegas National Anthem gets.

Vegas tree party: The Stanford tree goes from goofy to creepy the closer you get to it.

Card Shark: Watch out for this Stanford band member if you're working the Vegas card tables. Looks untrustworthy.



California coach Mike Montgomery, on if his team will make the NCAA Tournament after a painful loss: "There is a committee that knows, and I'm not on that committee. Can we compete in the tournament? Yes. Are there others that will be in that we're better than? Absolutely. But at this point it's out of our hands. The job needed to be done for sure before, so now we're at the mercy, and we've made it tough on ourselves."

Full results

No. 1 Arizona Wildcats 71, No. 8 Utah Utes 39: Nick Johnson scored 14 points, and Arizona's defense held the Utes to 26 percent shooting for a game, and that was that. Next up, Colorado at 9 p.m. ET on Friday.

No. 5 Colorado Buffaloes 59, No. 4 California Golden Bears 56: Askia Booker led the Buffs 17, and Cal couldn't get enough offensive support or hit desperation shots in the final minute.

No. 2 UCLA Bruins 82, No. 7 Oregon Ducks 63: Despite 29 points from Ducks guard Joseph Young, UCLA rolled past previously-streaking Oregon behind Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams. Stanford is up next for the Bruins.

No. 6 Stanford Cardinal 79, No. 3 Arizona State Sun Devils 58: Behind defense and the 21 points of Chasson Randle, Stanford used a late run to drop ASU.

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