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Pac-12 has 8 teams eligible for bowls

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Pac-12 has 8 teams eligible for bowls

PHOENIX (AP) Just two years ago, the Pac-12 didn't come close to filling its bowl allotment, sending four teams to the postseason.

Two of those teams went to BCS bowls - Oregon played for the national championship and Stanford played in the Orange - but it wasn't what the conference was hoping for, even as a 10-team conference.

In its first season as the Pac-12, the conference bounced back, sending seven teams to bowl games a year ago.

It's even better this season: eight bowl-eligible teams, two possibly to BCS games, an outside shot at the national title game.

After a season of teams beating up on each other and some surprising upsets, the Pac-12 has re-emerged as a powerhouse conference.

``It's just indicative that this conference is really good and really competitive, and I think has done pretty well on a national scope,'' Oregon State coach Mike Riley said Tuesday.

There's still a lot to be decided in the final two weeks.

No. 15 UCLA has the South Division's spot in the Nov. 30 Pac-12 championship game wrapped up, but can have an impact on who wins the North in the final weekend of the regular season.

The Bruins, who have a two-game lead over Southern California after beating their SoCal rivals last week, host No. 11 Stanford, which shook up the BCS standings by knocking off then-top-ranked Oregon last weekend.

If the Cardinal beat UCLA, they will win the North and face the Bruins again the next week in the Pac-12 title game. If UCLA wins and No. 5 Oregon beats No. 16 Oregon State in the Civil War on Saturday in Corvallis, the Ducks will play the Bruins in the championship game.

What may be the best scenario from a conference standpoint would be if Stanford and Oregon both win.

If the Cardinal beat the Bruins on Saturday, it won't matter who wins the Pac-12 title game the next week since the champion has a slot in the Rose Bowl already waiting. If Oregon beats Oregon State, the Ducks are almost certain to get an at-large bid to a BCS bowl, most likely the Fiesta.

Oregon still has an outside shot at the national championship game, but, at No. 5 in the BCS standings, would need some help from the teams ahead to play in Miami on Jan. 7.

``The only thing that matters is winning on Saturday,'' Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. ``You can run through 27,000 scenarios, but if we don't win Saturday, none of them come true.''

The Pac-12 has plenty of postseason options.

Arizona has had a successful first season under coach Rich Rodriguez, fighting a thin roster with an explosive offense to win seven games.

Up Interstate 10 in Tempe, Todd Graham also has Arizona State bowl eligible in his first season as coach, clinching the six-win mark last week by rolling over Washington State in the final home game for the Sun Devils' seniors.

The desert rivals face each other on Friday in their annual rivalry with bragging rights and positioning for a bigger bowl on the line.

Riley's Beavers shook off consecutive losing seasons and dire predictions for this one to win eight games so far and become bowl eligible.

Washington corrected its problems during a three-game losing streak midway through the season to become bowl eligible for the third straight season.

USC didn't live up to its national-title expectations, losing four games, but will still head to a bowl in the first season after its two-year bowl ban was lifted.

Utah is facing some long odds to make it nine Pac-12 teams in the postseason.

The Utes are 4-7 heading into their season finale against Colorado, which in most years would knock them out of the bowl picture.

But if there aren't enough eligible teams to fill the 35 bowls, teams with the highest APRs will be placed in a group for bowls with open slots to negotiate with. Utah has an APR of 33 and, with a win over the Buffs, could be in the running for a bowl with schools like Rice, Wake Forest and Missouri.

Don't beat Colorado and it won't matter, sending Utah to its first four-win season since 2000.

``I've told this team many times you shouldn't need a carrot out in front of you to play hard,'' Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. ``It should be just for the respect of the game and the competitive fire that is within. That should be enough.''

Even if the Utes don't squeak in, it's been a good year for the Pac-12.

What was supposed to be a runaway to the title game by Oregon and Southern California turned into one of the most competitive seasons in recent years for the conference.

It started with Stanford upending USC's national-title hopes in the conference opener and the standings changed seemingly every week, capped by the Cardinal's overtime win over Oregon last Saturday night.

Once the dust settles, the Pac-12 will have teams playing throughout December, maybe even a couple in January.

``We kind of predicted it coming in, you could see it happening: this is the most competitive this league has been ever, I think,'' Riley said. ``It's very exciting for the fans, but very hard on the coaches.''

And good for the conference.

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The Wizards supplied all the highlights and fireworks; 5 must-see moments from Game 4

The Wizards supplied all the highlights and fireworks; 5 must-see moments from Game 4

WASHINGTON -- As the home team in a dire situation you have to take advantage, and that is exactly what the Washington Wizards did in their 106-98 win over the Toronto Raptors.

Highlight reel play after highlight reel play, the Wizards ignited the crowd with some of their best plays from the entire season to make it 2-2 in the series. Here are just a few of them:

1. John Wall collects posters in the first half

The first one was perhaps the best. Everything was going wrong for the Wizards, poor turnovers, bad shots, a three from Toronto. Then John Wall had enough. Not only did he fly past his defender Kyle Lowry, but he went up and slammed one home past the 7-foot Jonas Valanciunas. Up until that point, the Wizards were shooting 1-for-7.

Rinse and repeat, except this time Jakob Poeltl was Wall’s victim.

2. Wall to Beal alley-oop in transition

With the Wizards’ offense faltering, the Raptors remained on the verge of blowing the game open throughout the second quarter. But with a steal from Otto Porter Jr., Wall hung up the ball for Bradley Beal to slam home. The alley-oop kept the Wizards within single digits in the second with an uninspiring offensive effort.

3. Otto Porter breaks out of the half

A subdued offensive start to the game was due in part to the production from Porter. In the first half he went 0-for-4 with one point in nearly 17 minutes of action.

Throw that away in the second half. He broke out of halftime with back-to-back threes and 10 of the Wizards’ 26 in a monster 26-14 run to take the lead back in the third.

He finished the quarter with 10 points, an assist, and two blocks.

4. The Polish Hammer throwing it home

Are you convinced yet that Marcin Gortat’s new haircut is doing him some good? Gortat squeezed through two Raptors’ defenders, threw it down, gave a Goliath-type roar to the crowd before officially bringing the hammer down. 

5. Beal being called for his sixth foul of the game

Agree with the call or not, there is no denying that Beal’s removal from the game lit a fire underneath the Wizards. From that point Washington went on a 14-6 scoring run to end the game, closing out for the win.

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Second-half eruption leads Wizards to pivotal Game 4 win over Raptors

Second-half eruption leads Wizards to pivotal Game 4 win over Raptors

The Washington Wizards beat the Toronto Raptors 106-98 in Game 4 of their first round playoff series on Sunday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Brand new series: After going down 0-2, most may have written the Wizards off knowing the near-insurmountable odds of coming back not only from that deficit but as an eight-seed going up against the best team in the Eastern Conference. It would have been understandable to doubt these Wizards who have for so much of this season allowed teams to bully them to an uncharacteristic degree.

With another win in Game 4, however, the Wizards have recalibrated this series.. Not only did the Wizards even things up, they ensured at least one more home game where they have now won eight straight in the postseason.

Beal fouled out: The Wizards were dealt a tough blow with 4:58 left as Bradley Beal picked up his sixth foul and was bounced from the game. 

Not only was Beal dominating with a team-high 31 points, but the sixth foul was very questionable. He made contact with DeMar DeRozan inadvertently and it is tough to see how he could have avoided it.

Here is the play:

That should simply not be called in that moment. It was a crucial development and both Beal and head coach Scott Brooks were understandably furious. If the Wizards had lost, that would have been a major reason why. There is no excuse for referees to impact a game like that.

Sluggish start: Outside of John Wall (27 points, 14 assists, six rebounds) and Beal, who had 12 points and 11 points in the first half, the rest of the Wizards' team was slow-moving early on. The team shot just 34 percent in the first half, 16-for-47, and 1-for-7 from three. They even missed their free throws, going 7-for-13 in the first two quarters.

The Raptors did a good job putting pressure on the, but only Wall and Beal were able to break through. Otto Porter, who finished with 12 points and six rebounds, had one point in the first half. Markieff Morris (six points, five rebounds) had four points at the break.

Even Mike Scott, who has had a huge series, went scoreless in the first half. That was partly due to him getting in early foul trouble.

The Raptors were particularly good at stopping the Wizards in transition. Despite committing 11 turnovers in the first half, they won the fastbreak point advantage 17-4. That was a big point of emphasis coming out of Game 3 according to head coach Dwane Casey and his players followed the lead.

Big third quarter: The Wizards' offense was not held down for long as they came out of the gate on fire in the second half. Beal and Porter led the charge.

Porter erupted for 10 points in the frame. Beal got hot from three and scored 12. The only thing that stopped Beal was foul trouble, as he picked up his fourth personal with just under five minutes left in the quarter and later left with six.

The third quarter shooting numbers overall were impressive. The Wizards shot 15-for-23 (65.2%) from the field and 5-for-6 (83.3%) from three. That'll do.

The Wizards outscored the Raptors 40-29 in the third. It was their biggest postseason quarter since last year's Game 4 against the Celtics. That was when they went on an absured 26-0 run.

Hella free throws: Many people blamed the refs for the Wizards' loss in Game 1, though the numbers didn't back up that claim. If Wizards fans wanted to gripe about Game 4, they had a better case for a while in this one.

It was kind of ridiculous, especially early on. The Raptors shot 30 free throws in the game compared to 31 for the Wizards, so it evened out.  But Toronto shot 16 free throws in the first quarter alone and 12 of them were attempted by DeRozan. He is one of the best in the business at drawing fouls, but that a bit extreme.

DeRozan, in fact, finished the first quarter with nine points and all of them were at the free throw line. He was 0-for-5 from field goal range. 

When DeRozan is getting to the line, he can control games and early on that was the case in this one. He set a new playoff career high with 18 attempts and made 14 of them.

The refs called the game much tighter than they did previously in this series. Perhaps that was a response to the chippiness in Game 3.

Three-point defense: Stopping the Raptors from hitting threes has been a major key all series. In Game 4, the Wizards did their best job yet.

Washington held the Raptors to seven threes, their fewest three-pointers since Feb. 4. The Raptors had made 12 threes or more in each of the first three games this series.

After going 5-for-10 from long range in the first half, the Raptors went 2-for-8 in the second. If the Wizards can play defense like that, it will be tough for Toronto to win this series.

Up next: The series moves on to Toronto for Game 5 on Wednesday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington with pregame coverage beginning with Wizards HangTime at 6 p.m.

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