Arizona Basketball

No. 1 seed in the West? Well, say goodbye to that after UA’s loss to USC on Saturday night

For the University of Arizona men’s basketball team this weekend will long be remembered as the time it won the Pac-12 title … and lost the No. 1 seed in the West.

Of course, one is important, but both are just as important.

Because No. 5 Arizona got manhandled by USC – 78-65 – on Saturday night it all but lost its chance at being No. 1 in the NCAA tournament in more 10 days. It was the lowest point total of the season for UA.

How can it be, right?

Lost to USC.

Lost to Washington State, twice.

Lost to Oregon State.

Fell to Stanford.

Sure, the good wins are the highlights on the resume, but the losses look, um, quite ugly. There’s no other way to look at it.

Maybe Arizona celebrated too much in the locker room on Thursday. Fueled by former UA star Richard Jefferson and a fun locker room – pictures, banners, et al – Arizona had a great time. Reminded me of WSU’s celebration over UA in Tucson a couple of weekend ago … then lost to Arizona State two days later.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about college sports, it’s emotions matter. If you’re not up, the next opponent will knock you down. It happens more than you think. Happened again on Saturday night in the Galen Center.

Who played well? Keshad Johnson? Two of eight guys played up to par. Arizona isn’t good unless at least five play well.

Surely, Caleb Love, the presumptive conference player of the year, didn’t, going 1 for 10 from the floor. He had a season-low two points. Teammate Kyland Boswell went 2 for 9 with five points. Pelle Larsson went 2 for 5 for five points before fouling out.

The leaders of the team all contributed to the team looking out of sync and out of service.

It’s happened maybe five or six times this season … all to teams one would think they could handle. But didn’t.

“Hey, USC played great, and we just didn’t get it done,” a philosophical Tommy Lloyd said on his postgame radio show. “It’ll be a great thing for us to learn from. I never said we were perfect. Obviously, we’re going to learn from this. We have a great group of guys. To win a Pac-12 regular season championship is really special.”

Special indeed.

But another learning lesson? We’re in March.

Let me, also, be the first to say, Arizona doesn’t play basketball to win Pac-12 titles. It’s won 18 of them (ho hum) and hasn’t reached the Final Four since 2001 and a championship since 1997.

March matters. It long has for the last 40-plus years. These are the times where you are measured.

Saturday night, the measurables were mediocre.

It had 18 turnovers, seven more than average.

It shot 38 percent from the floor.

It shot 28 percent from beyond the 3-point line.

Only two players scored in double figures.

“Human nature got us today,” Lloyd said.

Read what you want into that. I’ll take it as hubris … I’ve seen it so many times. In fact, too many to count.

“It’s something for us to focus on the next couple of days to get better,” Lloyd said.

Lloyd said his team didn’t take the game with a “whatever happens, happens” attitude, because it wanted to win. But USC played better and didn’t allow that to happen.

“Give USC credit there,” he said.

Now, with the Pac-12 tournament starting on Wednesday – and Arizona playing at noon Thursday – it’s Arizona’s job to “get better,” Lloyd said. “Whatever it takes to get better, whether it’s resting, that could be working … the focus will be on getting better.”

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