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The Morning Dish – Monday, February 16, 2015

February 16, 2015 Columns No Comments

The Pac-12 looks more and more like it will come down to a game at the end of the month. And it looks like that game will be well worth watching, with Sunday not changing any of this.

Arizona and Utah have set the pace in the Pac-12 this season, and appear to be on a collision course for when they meet on February 28 in Salt Lake City. Both are tied atop the conference, with Arizona taking round one between these two in Tucson, and both won convincingly on Sunday to keep it that way. No one else will challenge them at this point.

Arizona ran out to a big lead on Washington State early on in Pullman, and were never seriously challenged in their 86-59 win. Simply put, Washington State was out-classed, as you might expect. Arizona led 53-19 at halftime, including a tough buzzer-beating jumper from behind the backboard that basically told you how this game was going. The Wildcats were well-balanced with three players each scoring 17 points to lead the way.

Utah, meanwhile, got a little tougher challenge from visiting California, a team that could really use a big win like this would represent. California actually led for stretches of the first half, but Utah closed strong to take a 40-34 lead at the break. They broke away from the Golden Bears in the second half, wearing them down and getting them in foul trouble en route to a 76-61 win. While Tyrone Wallace had a nice evening with 26 points for California and Jabari Bird added 21 for California, the Utes did a good job of limiting other Golden Bears all night long.

There was a scary moment for Ute fans in the second half, as star guard Delon Wright had an awkward landing and limped off the court. At first he was putting no weight on his right leg at all, but he was eventually able to limp off and into the locker room – and then he returned. They will evaluate him on Monday, and we’ve already seen a cautionary tale. VCU star Treveon Graham injured an ankle on January 13 at Rhode Island, returned to the game and was tremendous in their victory that night – and he has since missed games and re-injured the ankle.

Utah fans will surely hope that Wright doesn’t have the same fate – and indeed, college basketball fans should as well. That showdown in Salt Lake City on February 28 is sure to be a good one if both teams are healthy and ready to give it all they have. Right now it looks like that one will have a lot on the line.


Side Dishes

The weather claimed another victim on Sunday, as Miami was slated to play at Boston College, but the game was postponed until Monday. The teams will tip at 3 p.m. at Conte Forum.

One Pac-12 team that didn’t have a good day as far as their NCAA Tournament chances go is Stanford, as the Cardinal went to Colorado and lost 64-58.

While the Pac-12 looks like a two-horse race with a big showdown looming, the Big Ten is still Wisconsin and everyone else. The Badgers took care of Illinois 68-49 in Madison on Sunday to improve to 23-2 overall, the best 25-game start in program history. Frank Kaminsky had another big game with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Tied for second place with Maryland is a team few probably predicted before the season: Purdue, 66-54 winners over Nebraska on Sunday. Indiana is staying right with them, improving to 8-5 after breaking away from Minnesota for a 90-71 win in Bloomington thanks in part to a school-record 18 three-pointers and 59 percent shooting from the field. Iowa tried to keep pace, but dropped back to .500 with a 66-61 overtime loss at Northwestern, a team that has struggled to get wins this season but shouldn’t in the future with young talent like freshman point guard Bryant McIntosh, who had 18 points and four assists to lead them.

Bucknell grabbed sole possession of first place in the Patriot League by going to Army and knocking off the Black Knights 78-75. Chris Hass had another big game for the Bison with 26 points as they move to 10-4 in Patriot League play, a game ahead of Colgate. The loss drops Army to last place, but only a game back of a four-way tie right in front of them.

Butler announced that sophomore forward Andrew Chrabascz has a broken bone in his right hand and will be out 2-4 weeks. The team’s third-leading scorer suffered the injury against Villanova on Saturday night and played with it for about half the game.


Tonight’s Menu

Just like Sunday, it’s a light slate with only 26 games are scheduled with Division I teams. The matchups aren’t quite as good on the whole and fewer games will be on TV.

  • Miami plays at Boston College in a makeup of a game originally slated for Sunday evening. In later ACC games, Pittsburgh travels to Virginia, while Georgia Tech hosts Clemson.
  • In Big East play, Seton Hall travels to Villanova needing a good win badly, then Butler travels to Creighton.
  • West Virginia hosts Kansas in Big 12 action.
  • The MEAC, Southland and SWAC all have a busy slate as well.

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