Observations: The Pac-12 could have the best game of Championship Week

If you’re not looking forward to Oregon-Arizona in the Pac-12 semifinals, then you’re essentially admitting that you hate fun.

The Ducks ended the Wildcats’ home winning streak earlier this season and also ended Arizona’s run of consecutive Pac-12 regular season titles.

Both Oregon and Arizona are two prolific offensive teams and this game should be incredibly entertaining from tip to finish.

The biggest key in this game for the Wildcats?

Stopping Dillon Brooks.

The versatile forward scored 24 points in the only meeting these two teams had this season and was a nuisance for Ryan Anderson to defend at power forward.

Isaiah Whitehead continues to play like the best player in the Big East

That’s not a slight to the great players who play at Providence and Villanova, but over the last month of the season, nobody has been to close to this kid.

The Coney Island native scored 24 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and handed out six assists in Thursday night’s win over Creighton at the Big East Tournament and has gotten to the free-throw line 26 times in his last two games.

Another thing to remember about Whitehead?

This is the first time in his career that he’s primarily playing point guard and being charged with the responsibility of running an offense.

His assist-to-turnover ratio hasn’t been flawless (154-103), but it’s been good enough to get Seton Hall to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.

This kid has also become a willing defender, as evidenced by his key block late in the game Thursday against Creighton.

The Pirates will next face Xavier on Friday in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament.

The SEC may not be well represented in the NCAA Tournament

We’re two days away from Selection Sunday and only three SEC teams — Kentucky, Texas A&M and South Carolina — look like locks for the field of 68.

Vanderbilt and Florida both entered the SEC Tournament as bubble teams and the Dores loss to Tennessee on Thursday could very well wind up sending them to the NIT.

We all heard throughout the offseason how this league had turned a corner in terms of its overall perception because of hirings like Ben Howland (Mississippi State), Bruce Pearl (Auburn) and Rick Barnes (Tennessee), but this league is still coming up short in between the lines.

It would not be a good look for the SEC — a power-five conference — if it has as many teams in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday as leagues like the Atlantic 10 or the American Conference.

Providence’s star power shines on a neutral floor

Stars make all the difference in college basketball during the postseason and the Friars have two in Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil.

That was never more apparent than Wednesday against Butler at Madison Square Garden.

Bentil — arguably the most improved player in college basketball — torched the Bulldogs for 38 points and eight rebounds while Dunn chimed in with 15 points and seven dimes.

Providence’s supporting cast has been up and down throughout the second half of the season, but the presence of both Dunn and Bentil will give Ed Cooley’s squad a chance to have the two best players on the floor in every game they play moving forward.

The Friars face top-seeded Villanova on Friday night in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.

Providence beat the Wildcats earlier this season in South Philadelphia.

Iowa’s downward spiral continues

The Hawkeyes were 20-5 and 11-2 in Big Ten play following a win over Minnesota on Feb. 14 and looked like they had all the requisites to advance deep in the NCAA Tournament.

That all seems like a distant memory right now.

Fran McCaffery’s squad is 1-5 since that win over the Golden Gophers and was beaten on Thursday by Illinois — the 12-seed in the Big Ten Tournament.

Iowa will now limp into the field of 68 at 21-10 overall and is a shell of what it looked like earlier in the year.

The Hawkeyes also lost six of their last seven games heading into the 2014 NCAA Tournament, where they were defeated in the First Four by Tennessee.

Oregon and Arizona renew their rivalry in the Pac-12 semifinals.(USATSI)
Oregon and Arizona renew their rivalry in the Pac-12 semifinals. (USATSI)


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