In quite possibly one of the craziest college basketball seasons, this was undoubtedly one of the most competitive seasons in the Pac-12 in recent years. For the first time in many years, the Pac-12 only saw two teams with overall losing records and six teams with 20+ win seasons, with two finishing with 19 wins. When it’s conference tournament time across the country, it’s not about the body of work and resumé each team has, it’s about who gets hot at the right time and who gets a few lucky bounces.
The Pac-12 Tournament tips off with #9 Utah taking on #8 Washington. Washington doesn’t quite have any impressive wins on the season, meanwhile Utah has had a season full of heartbreak, with eight of their ten losses being decided by three points or less. Utah also has wins against every team in the Pac-12 except for Stanford, Oregon and Arizona, only playing Stanford and Oregon once and taking Arizona to OT at home. Simply due to the fact that Utah has been one possession out all but two losses this season, Utah should be able to handle Washington, despite their awful road record.
The next game on the schedule pits #12 USC and #5 Colorado. Under Andy Enfield’s first year at the helm for USC, he did nothing but disappoint, winning just two conference games: Washington State and California. Colorado started the season out fast through 17 games, even after the season ending injury to Spencer Dinwiddie, but once the bulk of their Pac-12 schedule came around there wasn’t much consistency. However USC this season has been laughable and although Colorado has lost three of their last four, the Trojans just don’t seem capable of putting up a fight.
An in state rivalry to start the evening with #10 Oregon State taking on #7 Oregon. Both teams ended their season with an exclamation point as the Beavers shocked Arizona State meanwhile the Ducks took down Arizona. But Oregon is quite possibly one of the hottest teams in the nation, finishing 7-0 with big wins over UCLA, Arizona State and Arizona. With that alone, the Ducks should keep their momentum building and roll Oregon State.
The final game of the first round brings #11 Washington State and #6 Stanford. Washington State only won three conference games however three impressive games at that. With wins over Utah, in-state rival Washington and UCLA, the Cougars show they are capable of pulling off a decent win however Stanford has been much more consistent and competitive all season long to lose to Washington State.
Let’s take a step into the second round of the tournament now where a potential Utah and Arizona matchup would take place. Utah has given Arizona plenty of struggles this season as the Utes held their own in Tucson but couldn’t hold on long enough to pull out the win. Meanwhile in Salt Lake, it took Arizona an extra five minutes to beat the Utes. After a devastating loss to Oregon to end the season, expect Sean Miller to have his Wildcats ready to pounce on Utah.
Next on the slate would call for Colorado and California, where both teams finished 10-8 in conference however California stumbled down the stretch, losing 10 of their last 15 games. Both teams are equally talented and it seems as if this game could be a complete toss up. For some reason, California seems like the intriguing pick.
The next second round game would bring #7 Oregon up against #2 UCLA. UCLA has historically done well in the Pac-12 Tournament however at this point, Oregon would be coming off of 8 wins a in row, including wins over the top three seeds of the Pac-12 Tournament. The streak that Oregon has put together is undeniable and it shouldn’t be surprising to see Oregon down Steven Alford and the Bruins in his first year with UCLA.
#3 Arizona State and #6 Stanford would be set to square off in the second round and this, much like the Cal/Colorado game, seems to be a toss up. Arizona State is dominant at home yet struggles on the road, losing their last 5 road games, including a loss to Stanford. However Arizona State has been the better team all season long with Jahii Carson and Jordan Bachynski leading the Devils. It’s a shame to admit for Arizona fans, but Arizona State is actually a decent team this year and are capable of making a run in the tournament.
California handed Arizona their first loss of the season, putting an end to Arizona’s run at #1. However just a few short weeks later, Arizona avenged their loss at home and dismantled the Golden Bears without Brandon Ashley. At this point in the tournament, blowouts are going to be hard to come by, but expect the Wildcats to take care of business and advance to the Championship Game.
A rematch of the last weekend of Pac-12 play will take place as Oregon and Arizona State will do battle. The Devils lost in Eugene last week which has kept the Ducks red hot this past month. Oregon however has the hot hand, and a hot hand is hard to deny in conference tournaments. In quite possibly one of the best match ups in this tournament, it doesn’t seem odd to think about Oregon making it to the Pac-12 Championship Game.
The Championship Game should have Arizona and Oregon, a rematch of the Pac-12 regular season finale. It would be nice to think that Arizona has a chip on the shoulder and redeem themselves to win the tournament. And it would be remarkable if Oregon comes back to win the tournament considering they started the season 13-0, earning a ranking as high as #10 all before going 2-8 in the first half of Pac-12 play, finishing the season off 7-0. But Arizona has been too good throughout this whole season, with or without Brandon Ashley. Their losses have all been on the road, with 2 of 3 coming at the buzzer. Although Oregon went through some tough teams in their win streak, it would be hard to think that they can beat Arizona twice in the span of one week. Of course picking Arizona to win the tournament smells a little fishy but hey, we’re #4 in the nation for a reason. With that being said, expect the Cats to take the crown this weekend.
Tags: Arizona State Sun Devils Arizona Wildcats California Golden Bears Colorado Buffaloes Oregon Ducks Oregon State Beavers Stanford Cardinal UCLA Bruins USC Trojans Utah Utes Washington Huskies Washington State Cougars