The NCAA Basketball season came to an unexpected end on the morning of Thursday, March 12. Pac-12 officials decided to cancel the conference tournament. The conference was gearing up for an NCAA Tournament that could have seen seven of its teams in it. However, safety is paramount for everyone in society in response to COVID-19.
The Pac-12 made the right call in calling off the conference tournament. There was a domino effect from Wednesday night on in the sports world, as Utah Jazz forward Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The Pac-12 concluded their Wednesday night games, but canceled the tournament early Thursday morning.
This moment in history has stripped athletes of the glory that they could have felt in the NCAA Tournament. Stories could have been written and legacies could have been made. Payton Pritchard could have led Oregon on a deep tournament run in his senior year. One of the Pac-12’s bubble teams could have made the Sweet 16 and validated the conference possibly getting more than half its teams in the tournament. We will never know.
Memories Were Still Made In First Round of Pac-12 Tournament
However, there were great moments from the 2019-20 Pac-12 basketball season. There were even some in the one day of Pac-12 Tournament play. Oregon State and Utah fought hard in the 8-versus-9 game. Utah junior Alfonso Plummer broke the record for most 3-pointers in a Pac-12 Tournament game with 11 made. He broke Klay Thompson’s record. However, Oregon State freshman Jarod Lucas stole the spotlight from Plummer. He hit a 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds remaining in the game as the Beavers stole a 71-69 victory.
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California validated their improvement throughout the season as they easily dispatched tournament hopeful Stanford 63-51. First-year Mark Fox and his team were thought of as an afterthought in the conference, but they were able to win three out of their last five games.
Washington State got their first Pac-12 Tournament win since 2009 as they beat Colorado 82-68. The Cougars finished 16-16, clinching their first non-losing season since 2012. Washington State also had a first-year coach in Kyle Smith, and they also showed steady improvement throughout the season.
Teams like Oregon State, California, and Washington State were able to make memories this season. Just because March Madness is not happening does not mean this season was a lost season. Oregon was the best team in the Pac-12, but there was parity across the entire league every weekend. Even though there will not be March Madness, there was plenty of madness in the Pac-12.
Payton Pritchard Had Senior Moments for Oregon Ducks
Oregon was able to win games on the biggest stages in both non-conference and conference games. Payton Pritchard racked up many awards, as he was named Pac-12 Player of the Year. He was able to have some senior moments in his last year of college basketball. In a hostile environment in Ann Arbor, Pritchard was the main catalyst in Oregon pulling off a 71-70 overtime victory against Michigan. He scored 19 out of his 23 points after halftime.
Pritchard’s game winning three against Washington was one of the top moments in Pac-12 conference play this season. After hitting the shot, Pritchard yelled “This is my city”. He was able to leave his mark in the Oregon-Washington rivalry.
Colorado, UCLA Among Teams In Pac-12 With Noteworthy Seasons
Colorado had arguably their best season under Tad Boyle minus the last five games the Buffaloes played. There was enthusiasm and excitement in Boulder for this team. They delivered some great moments, as they beat Oregon in Boulder when the Ducks were ranked fourth in the country. The Buffaloes were also the last team to beat Dayton, with D’Shawn Schwartz hitting the game-winning three in overtime. Colorado was becoming a basketball school, and the team could continue riding this momentum into next season.
UCLA had the most remarkable turnaround in the conference this season. The Bruins were a team that lost to Cal State Fullerton in December. In March, they had wins against Arizona (twice), Arizona State, and Colorado on their resume. UCLA was playing arguably the best basketball out of anyone in the Pac-12, and showed great growth throughout the entire season.
Pac-12 Has Bright Future, Even With Imperfect End to Season
The 2019-20 NCAA basketball season will always have an asterisk next to it. However, the teams in the Pac-12 and all across the United States were able to create lifelong memories. The Pac-12 brought us entertaining basketball, and the conference’s future is bright in the sport. First-year coaches were able to put their mark on a program, and other coaches were able to show what their program can be. Hopefully, fans of all teams in the Pac-12 can appreciate the entertainment that the 2019-20 season brought, even though the ending will always be imperfect.