In what will likely be an example of things to come in the Pac-12 this season, two ranked teams fell on the league’s opening night in overtime.
No. 21 Utah dropped its first conference game of the season 70-68 on the road to Stanford in a single overtime. Then, No. 25 UCLA lost in double-overtime to Washington 96-93.
In the first game, Utah held a lead throughout the majority of the second half, peaking at 12 points with 15 minutes left. But the Cardinal chipped away, and forward Rosco Allen knocked down a jumper with 18 seconds left to tie the game. Stanford then took over in overtime as Allen scored five points in about a two-minute span. He overall finished with 17 to lead the way for the Cardinal.
The second game featured quite a bit more excitement, as UCLA’s Bryce Alford hit 3s both at the end of regulation and at the end of the first overtime to extend the proceedings after beginning the game 0-for-11 from the field with six turnovers.
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) January 2, 2016
He finished the game out with 30 points on 5-21 shooting from the field, 17-18 from the free throw line, and seven turnovers. That wasn’t quite enough though, as Washington’s depth ended up wearing out the Bruins in a foul-ridden game that saw a total of five players disqualified. Andrew Andrews led the way with a solid 35 points.
This night actually ended being a microcosm of what you can likely expect from the Pac-12 in 2016. There is no fully dominant team, even if Arizona comes in as the likely favorite. Coaches around the league are saying it is as deep as its been since it expanded out to 12 teams. It’s going to be extremely difficult to go on the road and get wins even against the teams in the bottom of the league, as Washington and Stanford proved against UCLA and Utah.
UCLA gets to go try to rebound against Washington State, which will be a difficult road game but ultimately a winnable one for the Bruins. However, Utah is not as lucky, as they move on to face the highly-talented California Golden Bears at Haas Pavilion this weekend. An 0-2 start would be rough for the Utes, who likely have eyes on a top-two finish for the second straight year. However, before we even get that far ahead, the first night of games in the league made one thing clear.
Fans of the Pac-12 should buckle up for a bumpy ride in conference play. It’s going to be a year filled with unexpected results.