AP Sports

Oregon beats Colorado 75-68 for final Pac-12 Tournament title and NCAA Tournament berth

LAS VEGAS (AP) — N’Faly Dante, playing with a bruised tailbone, made all 12 of his shots and scored 25 points, and Oregon secured an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by defeating Colorado 75-68 on Saturday night in the conference tournament title game to end the Pac-12 basketball era.

By winning the conference tournament, fourth-seeded Oregon (23-11) extended its postseason because the Ducks weren’t projected to receive an at-large invitation to the 68-team field. This was the Ducks’ sixth Pac-12 Tournament championship and first since 2019.

Third-seeded Colorado (23-10) is expected to receive an at-large bid. The Buffaloes’ eight-game winning streak ended.

Dante, who was injured in Friday’s semifinal victory over Arizona, also had nine rebounds and three steals and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. Also for Oregon, Jackson Shelstad scored 17 points and Jermaine Couisnard finished with 14.

KJ Simpson led the Buffaloes with 23 points, and Luke O’Brien had 11.

The score was tied at 62 when Shelstad made two free throws and Jadrian Tracey a layup to put the Ducks ahead by four points with 2:41 left. They never trailed again.

The atmosphere wasn’t quite what might be expected of a historical conference playing, for now at least, its final basketball game. When sixth-ranked Arizona bowed out Friday night, so did nearly all of its rabid fans who flocked to what has become known as McKale North. The fans who did show up Saturday, filling maybe half of T-Mobile Arena, were high in energy — if not numbers.

Oregon once again was part of a final Pac-12 event, having also played in the football championship in December. The Ducks and three of their brethren will be headed to the Big Ten Conference in the coming months.

Colorado and three other Pac-12 teams will soon call the Big 12 Conference home, and California and Stanford will play in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Only Oregon State and Washington State remain behind, determined to preserve the Pac-12 in some way, even naming Teresa Gould as league commissioner for the next two years.

Whether those two schools find a way to keep the conference alive remains to be seen, and in the meantime they will align with the Mountain West in football and West Coast Conference in other sports. A full merger at some point is a possibility.

Gone for certain is the Pac-12 as it’s long been known, the so-called Conference of Champions with a rich basketball history, with Saturday night’s championship game the last notable event in that sport.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball

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