There’s a famous idiom regarding the City of Blinding Lights and Bad Decisions — Las Vegas — that what happens on the strip usually stays there.
That saying may have seemed far too real this weekend for those located east of the Rockies, given the late tipoff times for this weekend’s Pac-12 Tournament.
The night owls of the Mountain, Central, and Eastern Time zones that stomached the late night tip-offs (and had access to the Pac-12 Network) had their loyalty rewarded.
Quite simply, this weekend was stuffed full of memorable moments; from Sean Miller’s questionable late-game time out against UCLA to Allonzo Trier’s larger-than-life performance in Saturday’s finale.
There were several off-the-court storylines that seemed to dominate the news cycle out of the $375 million palace called T-Mobile Arena.
It’s a shame that Oregon lost one of its best players in senior Chris Boucher — the team’s third-leading scorer, second-leading rebounder and leading shot blocker.
It’s a shame that two-thirds of the nation were fast asleep by the time referee Vance Harris tossed up the opening tip just after 9 p.m. local time (midnight eastern) in front of a sea of red-clad Wildcats supporters on Saturday night.
What’s not a shame, however, is how everything played out.
We were rewarded with a finale fit for a Final Four, with Oregon ‘s Dillon Brooks figuratively carrying the Ducks for the game’s opening 20 minutes, before guards Tyler Dorsey and Dylan Ennis got hot late, scoring 35 points combined.
With all that said, it’s time to look at who shined brightest on one of the sport’s biggest stages, with my All-Pac 12 Tournament team:
Point Guard: Kadeem Allen (Sr. Arizona) – Look, I’m not trying to be an Arizona homer here with these picks, but it’s kind of hard to avoid picking against U of A this year. Allen, who has been the spine of Arizona’s swarming pack-line defense for the last two years, looked phenomenal all weekend. The North Carolina native vanquished his conference foes all weekend, averaging 12.6 PPG, while shooting 49.5 percent from the field against Colorado, UCLA, and Oregon.
Things got a bit misty-eyed for yours truly watching Allen and Sean Miller celebrating on the floor Saturday night after Allen’s workman-like 13 point, seven rebound performance against the Ducks. Allen’s defensive accruement, in holding Ennis to 5-13 shooting was remarkable, and should help the Wildcats going forward no matter where they’re seeded on Sunday.
Shooting Guard: Allonzo Trier (Soph. Arizona) – Again, not trying to be an Arizona homer, but it’d be downright criminal of me to abstain from picking the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player on this list. Trier, who missed 19 games in one of the most-publicized PED-related suspensions since the Barry Bonds saga, dominated his competition this weekend.
The Washington native averaged 20.6 PPG in the team’s three contests and was downright cold-blooded at the end of last night’s contest, sinking all four of his free throws to put the Ducks on ice. Trier shot a crisp 50 percent from three, going 7-14 from distance, while also tying a season-high eight boards against the Ducks.
Trier’s ear-to-ear smile in his postgame interview with ESPN’s Molly McGrath in the wee morning hours this morning was oh, so memorable for Wildcats fans that have salivated at the prospect of seeing Trier after such an absence. His clutch shooting and constantly improving defensive attributes have the Wildcats poised for another deep run in the tournament.
Small Forward: Dillon Brooks (Junior Oregon) – It was hard to watch Saturday’s finale and not be impressed by the lanky Canadian’s play (though his character is another subject altogether). Brooks looked like a one-man wrecking crew in the game’s first half, scoring 17 of Oregon’s 29 points at the half. He slowed considerably in the game’s second half, thanks mostly to a series of head-scratching fouls, capped off by a common foul that seemed anything but, for a blow that was questionably below the belt against Trier in the game’s second half.
While Brooks’ lack of poise in what might have been one of the game’s biggest moments was befuddling, it does not detract from what was an otherwise dominant performance from the junior. Brooks rebounded from a subpar outing against Cal, where he shot a measly 25 percent from the field with gusto, burying eight field goals, before fouling out in the game’s waning minutes on Saturday.
If Brooks can keep his head on straight and the Ducks can remember how to shoot from distance then they’ll be a tough out, regardless of whether they have Chris Boucher or not.
Power Forward: TJ Leaf (Fresh. UCLA) – This one’s probably the toughest choice I’ll have to make on this list. It’s hard to pick against the Finnisher, or Lauri Markkanen if you’re unfamiliar with Arizona nicknames. The reason for me why Markkanen doesn’t get the nod is because of his struggles at the end of last night’s championship game. Sure, Leaf struggled at times against Arizona on Friday night, shooting a measly 33 percent from the field, but what stands out to me is the fact that Leaf hit free throws down the stretch and found a way to outmuscle Markkanen for timely boards in their clash in the paint, pulling down eight to Lauri’s six.
You really could flip a coin on this one between the two sure-fire NBA prospects and no one would bat an eye, but it seemed like Leaf, when he was on the court, had the advantage for a Bruins team that looked woebegone at times against the Wildcats on Friday.
Center: Jordan Bell (Junior, Oregon) – Some would argue that listing Bell as a center on this list is asinine, given the fact that the Long Beach, Calif., native is listed generously at 6-foot-9. What those people don’t understand, however, is that Oregon Coach Dana Altman loves to play small ball, with three guards, Brooks and Bell at the five.
Altman was forced to do that Saturday with Boucher’s injury, and Bell looked ferocious at times against the Cats, scoring 16 points while grabbing 10 rebounds and picking apart Arizona’s interior defense. Bell was a tour de force on the glass all week, with 15 boards and five blocked shots against Cal on Friday, and six boards and two blocked shots against ASU on Thursday.
Quite simply, Bell plays an awful lot like Golden State’s defensive lynchpin Draymond Green, who’s a 6-foot-7 inch stud on the glass. Bell did an admirable job filling in for Boucher, who normally plays the five spot in Altman’s offensive attack, and should be rewarded for his efforts.
I don’t envy whoever has to play Bell and company in this month’s NCAA Tournament, as they’ll be a team on a mission after last night’s loss.