top of page

The Best Player in College Hoops; Pac-12's Shining Moment; Why UCLA Left

To my mind the best player in college basketball this year, without question, is Iowa point guard Caitlin Clark. The woman is simply amazing.

Yesterday, in the Big Ten Championship game, she led the Hawkeye to a 105-72 win over Ohio State. She had a typical Clark game--30 points, 10 rebounds, 17 assists.

It was her 10th career triple double, the most in Big Ten history (men's or women's).

For the season, the 6-0 junior is averaging 27 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists, which also mirror her career averages.

Clark is a Steph Curry-type point guard. Every time I watch her I'm amazed by the accurate three-point shooting, the almost vicious drives to the basket, incredible passing, aggressive rebounding, and overall competitiveness.

She has built the game of women's basketball more than any player, alongside former Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu, with huge crowds following Iowa throughout the Big Ten season.

If you get a chance to watch the Hawkeyes during the NCAA Tourney, tune in to catch Clark in action. You won't be disappointed. Pac-12 Shines: The Pac-12 women's basketball tournament provided a welcome respite from the intense focus on the league's pursuit of a media rights deal and fears that its members will jump ship if said deal isn't good enough..

No. 7 seed Washington State beat No. 5 seed UCLA to win the championship, 65-61. The Cougars got to the final by upsetting No. 2 Utah and No. 3 Colorado. The Bruins had to beat No. 1 Stanford in the semi-finals.

The final went down to the wire, with Bruin senior Charisma Osborne coming up short on a three-point attempt with 9 seconds left, allowing the Cougs to hold on for the win. Clarlisse Leger-Walker led the way for WSU with 23 points while Bella Murekatete added 21.

The Pac-12 is easily the best conference in the country in women's hoops and should get eight teams into the NCAA Tournament. Washington State gets the automatic bid, with Stanford and Utah likely to get No. 2 regional seeds. UCLA, Colorado, Arizona, USC and Oregon should also get an invitation to the dance.

Stanford Stumbles: Stanford fell to UCLA in the semis because its three-point specialist Hannah Jump was held scoreless and All-American Haley Jones had another bad shooting night.

Cameron Brink, the Pac-12's Defensive Player of the Year, has become the Cardinal's most consistent player. She has corrected her foul shooting woes, improving from 62% a year ago to 84% this season, but still gets in foul trouble too often. I love Jones, whose defense, rebounding, court sense and passing are all extraordinary, but she remains a below average shooter.

Bottom line: In all likelihood, there will be no NCAA title for the Cardinal this year. In fact, I think it's going to be difficult for Stanford to make its customary appearance in the Final Four because of frequent offensive droughts and perimeter defense shortcomings.

I have to admit, I really miss Lexie Hull.

Bruins' Departure: To hear Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavloff tell it, everyone at UCLA --with the exception of a few administrators--is against moving to the Big Ten. In this alternate reality, the move will also end with UCLA losing money because of travel and administrative costs that will more than offset the increase in revenues.

We've pointed out the absurdity of this argument in the past, but also want to set the record straight on how the folks at UCLA really feel about the move. The Pac-12, while asking the UC Regents to disallow the Bruin's exit, pointed to a survey of UCLA athletes that found only 35% thought moving to the Big Ten was a good idea. Problem was, only 15% of Bruin athletes responded to the survey, including just a handful of football and basketball players, and only 7% of the respondents thought the move was a bad idea. The rest had no opinion or needed more information. No mention was made of the Bruin coaches, but my sources tell me most favor the move. Here are some revealing comments from football coach Chip Kelly and men's basketball coach Mick Cronin. "One of the reasons why we’re excited about going to the Big Ten is that there’s better exposure for you by going to the Big Ten," Kelly told the LA Times, citing the increased viewership of games and highlights that accompany earlier kickoffs. “That’s why I’ll commend our administration about that move to the Big Ten. "There’s a huge monetary gain going to the Big Ten," but I think the exposure that our student-athletes will get — and that’s what our goal is all the time — is a really cool deal. "One thing that’s sad about playing those night games in the Pac-12 is the exposure that our student-athletes don’t get that other student-athletes get" with noon starting times and highlights on all the time. Cronin was more focused on the revenue increase. "We had to do what we had to do. The world is changing. NIL's here. Soon players are going to get paid. They're going to be deemed employees. The whole NCAA thing is going to change. So UCLA had to do what they had to do." Kelly and Cronin are right. Pac-12 players don't get the exposure Big Ten and SEC players receive due to early starting times and incessant highlight replays. Over the years, it has hampered the league's playoff and Heisman Trophy hopes.

The new NIL/transfer portal/money-is-all that-matters era of college sports is anathema to those of us who grew up and worked in a much simpler and purer time. Our "old" values, including things like tradition, rivalries, loyalty and academics, have all gone by the wayside. Nowadays, everything is money driven. To pretend otherwise is to deny reality. It's a different, unsavory, distasteful world that is turning off a lot of lifelong fans. But if you want to compete in that world, which UCLA clearly does, you "do what you have to do." Which means if the Big Ten comes knocking, you go.


Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//

bottom of page