The Pac-12 tournament begins this afternoon. The league has four NCAA Tournament bids locked up, and it should stay that way.
Pac-12 Tournament Should Get Four Bids
There are three teams in the Pac-12 that are projected to reach the Big Dance and one that will most likely be selected to join them. Colorado, Oregon, and USC are tournament bound already, and UCLA needs little to make a similar claim. All four of these programs can win the Pac-12 tournament as well, but they shouldn’t overlook any lower seeds.
First Round- Wednesday, March 10
No. 8 Arizona State Sun Devils vs. No. 9 Washington State Cougars
Winner: Washington State. Arizona State had high hopes entering the season, ranked No. 18 to start the year, but failed to beat any decent program. In their only matchup with Washington State, they won 77-74. It won’t happen again no matter how well Remy Martin plays. Plus, ASU will not have freshmen Josh Christopher and Marcus Bagley.
No. 7 Utah Utes vs. No. 10 Washington Huskies
Winner: Utah. The Utes and Huskies split their season series. However, Utah has shown they can beat the elite of the Pac-12. They have wins against Colorado and USC, and played Oregon close in both regular-season matchups.
No. 6 Stanford Cardinal vs. No. 11 California Golden Bears
Winner: Stanford. The Cardinal are on a four-game losing streak heading into the Pac-12 tournament. A first-round matchup against Cal can help them get back on track at the right time. They did beat UCLA in the regular season, and Oscar da Silva is a player to watch. If they get going, they could be dangerous. Remember, they did beat Alabama earlier in the year.
Quarterfinals- Thursday, March 11
No. 1 Oregon Ducks vs. No. 9 Washington State Cougars
Winner: Oregon. The Ducks are entering the Pac-12 tournament having won 10 of their last 12 games. Surprisingly, one of those two losses came at the paws of the Cougars. That won’t happen again. Oregon is a completely different team now and has found its stride.
No. 4 UCLA Bruins vs. No. 5 Oregon State Beavers
Winner: UCLA. The Bruins need this game and that may be enough for an edge. UCLA won the only meeting between the two programs this season, 57-52. This matchup may be a defensive battle again, and the Bruins should squeak one out.
No. 2 USC Trojans vs. No. 7 Utah Utes
Winner: USC. The Utes defeated the then-No. 19 Trojans 71-61 on Feb. 27. They can pull off the upset again, or they can lose badly like they did to USC earlier in the year. They won’t be able to stop All-American candidate Evan Mobley—which is pretty impossible anyway. The Utes did hold Mobley to just 11 points on 2-of-7 shooting the last time, so redemption will fuel the forward’s play.
No. 3 Colorado Buffaloes vs. No. 6 Stanford Cardinal
Winner: Colorado. The Buffalos are currently ranked No. 23 in the Top 25 poll. McKinley Wright IV averages 15.3 points and 5.7 per game this season and controls the offense. Once they find their stride, Colorado will end Stanford’s hopes as a sleeper.
Semifinals- Friday, March 12
No. 1 Oregon Ducks vs. No. 4 UCLA Bruins
Winner: Oregon. The Ducks are led by Chris Duarte who is an All-American candidate. The guard is efficient on both sides of the ball, leading the team in points, steals, and blocks. He also just trails teammate Amauri Hardy in the assist column at 2.4 and 2.5 per game, respectively. Oregon will just be too much for the Bruins on both sides of the court.
No. 2 USC Trojans vs. No. 3 Colorado Buffaloes
Winner: Colorado. The Buffaloes defeated the Trojans in both regular-season contests this year. Their forwards and centers pose as problems for the Mobley brothers. It’s incredibly difficult to beat a good team three times in the same season, but Colorado can get the job done. They have the prowess and confidence to move on to the championship game.
Championship- Saturday, March 13
No. 1 Oregon vs. No. 3 Colorado
Winner: Colorado. The Ducks and Buffs split their season series. Buffalo handled Oregon in the first game and played them close the second. Colorado is bigger on the block and they will wear down the Ducks in the paint. Duarte versus Wright will again be great to watch, but Colorado will pull out a close one.
Tournament Winner: Colorado
The Buffaloes will earn their first Pac-12 tournament title since 2011-12. That was the first season they were in the conference as well. This is a very good squad that is experienced, balanced, and deep. If they are given the right matchup and path in the NCAA Tournament, they may be able to save the Pac-12 with a nice run. The conference hasn’t been great as of late, but they do have some quality programs this year that can go far.
Tournament Sleeper: Utah
Utah exemplifies the Pac-12 with their style of play: erratic. The conference has had teams in and out of the Top 25 all season and has been tough to figure out. It has been an up-and-down game-by-game year for Utah. The Utes, as mentioned, have beaten Colorado and USC this season, and given a third opportunity, could take down Oregon. If they shoot well and don’t turn the ball over, they could be very dangerous.
Pac-12 NCAA Presence
Currently, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA, and USC are in the NCAA Tournament. UCLA will be able to safely earn an at-large bid with just a decent showing in the Pac-12 tournament. Also, they need to hope that they aren’t pushed into the bubble by another conference’s sleeper.
The Bruins are a 12-seed right now in Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology and an 11-seed in Jerry Palm’s projections. They aren’t completely safe, however. If they beat Oregon State, which they should, they will be a lock. Also, playing well against Oregon in the semifinals won’t hurt even if they lose. Unlike many teams, the Bruins don’t necessarily control their own destiny. They better hope no top-seed falters in their respective conference tournaments. UCLA should also keep an eye on what happens in the Mountain West tournament.
NCAA Tournament Prediction
Four Pac-12 teams will make it to the NCAA Tournament.
Embed from Getty Images