Three takeaways from Saturday night’s Pacific 12 Conference men’s basketball tournament championship game, in which Arizona defeated Oregon 83-80 before a sellout crowd of 18,927 at T-Mobile Arena:
SEAN MILLER’S TOUGH AND SO ARE HIS PLAYERS
Arizona coach Sean Miller always seems to push the right buttons, whether it’s matchups or running plays for individuals.
On Saturday, he decided not to start Dusan Ristic at center against the quick Ducks. Instead, he opted for Keanu Pinder, who is 3 inches shorter than Ristic but much more athletic. It allowed the Wildcats to push the tempo and, more important, match up athletically with Oregon’s quick and long players.
The Wildcats took control early. They dominated the backcourt matchups and held their own up front. That’s coaching, and Miller deserves a lot of credit for the moves as well as having his team ready to play on the short turnaround. Arizona probably didn’t get back to its hotel until around midnight, then had less than 24 hours to return to the floor. If the Wildcats were fatigued, they didn’t show it until the final minutes when they missed four straight free throws after making 14 of their first 15.
The Wildcats, who shared the regular-season title with Oregon, might not be a top seed when the NCAA Tournament brackets are revealed Sunday because they lost to Gonzaga 62-59 in early December. But Arizona is a much better team now and worthy of a No. 1 seed.
But the important thing is Arizona will remain in the West, probably playing in Sacramento, California. And should the Wildcats be put in the West and win at Golden 1 Arena, they’ll advance to San Jose.
Of course, the real reward would come if they make the Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, an easy drive from Tucson.
“We’re not going to be disappointed in any seed,” Miller said. “It’s a matter of us taking that seed and advancing.”
BOUCHER INJURY HURTS DUCKS
Oregon was a 2-point favorite Saturday. But it wasn’t the same team most fans bet on after it was revealed an hour before tipoff that Chris Boucher, the Ducks’ leading shot-blocker and second-leading rebounder, would miss the game with a left knee injury suffered in the second half of Friday’s semifinal win over California.
Boucher, who averages 11.1 points, third-best on the team, is coach Dana Altman’s energy player off the bench. He can change tempo and also allows his teammates to gamble on defense knowing he’s protecting the basket. Without him, the Ducks appeared to be out of sync.
“Everybody was a little subdued because Chris is a big part of our team and well liked,” Altman said. “But we just had to get ready and go, and I thought our guys did. But we just didn’t get it done.”
Boucher was clearly missed, and whether the NCAA selection committee takes that into account remains to be seen.
RIGHT MOVE MOVING TO THE T
The Pac-12 always believed it could sell the additional 5,000 seats in moving from the MGM Grand Garden to T-Mobile Arena. With sellout crowds Friday and Saturday and the building rocking, it made for a great atmosphere.
The league set a tournament attendance record of 86,910 over the four days.
It points to the question: When will the NCAA repeal the archaic rule prohibiting Las Vegas from hosting an event because of legalized sports wagering?
T-Mobile has everything required to be an NCAA Tournament host. And if Las Vegas is good enough for four of the NCAA’s conferences, it should be good enough for the entire membership.
Torian Graham, G, Arizona State
Derrick White, G, Colorado
Dillon Brooks, G, Oregon
Tyler Dorsey, F, Oregon
Lauri Markkanen, F, Arizona
Most Outstanding Player: Allonzo Trier, G, Arizona
Contact Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow @stevecarprj on Twitter.