Arizona Basketball Coast to Pac-12 Title Over Stanford

By V. Corey Greenleaf
Nick Johnson, Arizona Wildcats
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The next time Stanford is seeking a win to boost their NCAA tournament resume, they might want to go searching outside the state of Arizona.

After falling 76-64 in Tempe to Arizona State, the Cardinal traveled 111 miles to Tucson and were hit by a buzzsaw, falling to the No. 3 Arizona Wildcats (27-2, 15-2) by a score 79-66, who clinched the outright Pac-12 regular season crown. The win also clinched a perfect home portion of the schedule for the Wildcats, where they finished undefeated for the second time in the past four seasons (2010-2011) and extended their current overall home win streak to 20.

Egged on by an frenzied McKale Center crowd that could taste a championship, ‘Zona came out flying, forcing seven turnovers in the first 10 minutes and streaking  to an 18 point lead as halftime approached. Freshman sensation Aaron Gordon, who finished the game with 19 points and 15 rebounds, dominated the boards and boosted the energy level of the crowd with various scores around the basket.

The onslaught continued in the second half as the Wildcats pushed ahead to 25 on a Gordon layup near the midway point. With Arizona seemingly taking the foot of the gas, the Cardinal (18-10, 9-7) closed the gap to 11 with under three minutes remaining.  However, their biggest opponent became the game clock and T.J. McConnell (14 points), who iced the game with timely free throw shooting.

Barring a complete collapse in the final two games of the season at Oregon State and Oregon, the Wildcats will probably lock up the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. They’ve been the most consistent team in the country, losing only 60-58 at Cal and 69-66 in double overtime at Arizona State.

Stanford entered the game with an RPI of 43 and a strength of schedule of 43. If the tournament field was selected today, they would probably be in based on those numbers. The magnitude in which they lost will raise some concern, especially since their final two games will be against Colorado and Utah, teams fighting for postseason positioning. Colorado (20-9, 9-7) is firmly in place with an RPI of 30 and an SOS of 12. Their final game on the docket is Utah (19-9, 8-8, RPI: 78, SOS 119), which could serve as an unofficial “playoff” game before the Pac-12 tourney.

V. Corey Greenleaf is a college basketball writer for Contact him on Facebook.

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