College basketball notes: Race for Pac-12 title still wide open

By Bill Oram

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: February 14, 2012 05:15PM
Updated: January 15, 2013 04:21PM
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FILE - In this Nov. 26, 2010, file photo, Santa Clara's Kevin Foster shoots during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona in Las Vegas. Foster, the West Coast Conference's leading scorer, has been suspended for the remainder of the season following an arrest for driving under the influence. Broncos coach Kerry Keating said in a statement Monday, Feb. 13, 2012, that he "will continue to work with Kevin moving forward." (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken, File)

A crowded Pac

The chase for the Pac-12 conference title hasn’t narrowed much as the season has gone on.

Seven teams are within three games of the conference lead, while five are just one game removed from first place.

California and Washington lead the way at 10-3, but Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, Stanford and UCLA are within striking range.

Oregon has the chance to gain the most ground this weekend, playing at Stanford and Cal. Washington, meanwhile, hosts Arizona State and Arizona in Seattle.

Santa Clara suspends top scorer

Santa Clara won’t only be without Kevin Foster for Saturday’s game against BYU, the Broncos will have to live without the junior guard and his 17.8 points per game for the rest of the season.

Foster was suspended for the remainder of the season Monday in the wake of his arrest Jan. 22 on suspicion of driving under the influence. He has not played since.

According to reports, Foster, who will be charged with a misdemeanor, was informed of the decision by the university’s Office of Student Life.

“We understand the decision and respect the student judicial process,” Broncos coach Kerry Keating said in a statement. “We will continue to work with Kevin moving forward.”

Mountain West and C-USA join forces

This week’s news that Conference USA and the Mountain West will dissolve and reform as a new conference in 2013 leaves many questions for how that will impact basketball.

How does a basketball conference, in which teams usually play home-and-home series, operate when it has teams from coast to coast?

The popular theory is that the 18 to 24 teams that make up the new conference will play within divisions. Meaning Fresno State, for example, may not play East Carolina at all in hoops, but would be play regional teams such as Colorado State, New Mexico and Wyoming.

Hawaii will be a football-only member.

Another question: What happens to the Mountain West’s relationship with the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas? Nine of the 12 conference tournaments have been played at the arena, but will teams with deep roots in the east and south want to come west?

WAC and its limited bids

The Western Athletic Conference will almost certainly have just one representative in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in five years.

Nevada (21-4, 10-1) was perhaps the only team with at-large credentials, but after losing 72-68 to Idaho (15-11, 7-4) on Feb. 4, the Wolf Pack, which is ranked No. 57 in this week’s RPI, will most likely need to win the WAC tournament to participate in March Madness.

The WAC tournament will be held March 8-10 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.