The PAC-10 Tournament starts on Wednesday with the winner getting the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. I’ll preview each team’s chances as well as potential matchups throughout.
#3 USC TROJANS
Record: Conference (11-7) Overall (21-10)
#6 STANFORD CARDINAL
Record: Conference (10-8) Overall (18-11)
Both teams have been widely inconsistent this season. The Trojans are ranked twenty-third in the AP Poll heading into the PAC-10 Tournament despite a lackluster finish to the regular season. The Cardinal have had to battle injuries early in the season but have had their moments, namely the win over UCLA. The key for the Trojans success has been to get Nick Young open looks, he has been dominant all-season. The Cardinal will look to use their height and size advantage down low to clean up the boards and score high-percentage scores. The season series split between these two teams with each team winning on home court. With the near home-court advantage, I like the Trojans in this first round. The winner goes on to face either Washington St. or Washington. I think both of those teams are better than either USC or Stanford. The Trojans should be secure for the NCAA Tournament, likely with a six or seven seed. Stanford needs to reach the finals to get in.
#4 OREGON DUCKS
Record: Conference (11-7) Overall (23-7)
#5 ARIZONA WILDCATS
Record: Conference (11-7) Overall (20-9)
The most exciting game of the first round will be between the Ducks and Wildcats. In both games this season, the winner was decided in the final few seconds, both teams splitting the season series. The Ducks appear to have righted the ship heading into the PAC-10 Tournament. They started out well, then had a terrible mid-season losing streak, and finally regained momentum in their last three games. The Wildcats also finished strong allowing them to finish fifth and get to the all-important 20-win plateau. The Wildcats live and die with their shooting, while Radenovic is coming off a monster 37-point effort in the overtime win against Stanford. The Ducks have outstanding guards in Aaron Brooks and Tajaun Porter. Regardless of who wins this evenly matched game, they have the daunting task of facing UCLA. Oregon will be in the NCAA Tournament, depending on how they do in this tournament they could get as high as a four seed to a eight seed. Arizona is also going to the NCAA Tournament most probably securing the last PAC-10 at-large-bid, they should expect anywhere from a five seed to a nine seed depending on how well they do here.
#7 WASHINGTON HUSKIES
Record: Conference (8-10) Overall (18-12)
#10 ARIZONA ST SUN DEVILS
Record: Conference (2-16) Overall (8-21)
Washington may have played themselves back into the NCAA Tournament after wins over USC and UCLA this past week. If they don’t get in, their road record will be the reason why, 1-10, the lone win was over Arizona St. As for this game, the Huskies should win easily, they have simply way too much talent for the Sun Devils to matchup with. A win for the Huskies would see them face most likely Washington St. Both teams have always played each other hard, it’s possible the Huskies win that game and go ahead and face USC or Stanford. To get into the NCAA Tournament, they’ll need to beat USC/Stanford in the semifinals then beat UCLA to get the automatic bid. No easy feat. I don’t believe the selection committee will give the PAC-10 seven bids, which would mean that if the Huskies win the PAC-10 Tournament, then Stanford would be the odd one out.
#8 CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS
Record: Conference (6-12) Overall (14-16)
#9 OREGON ST BEAVERS
Record: Conference (3-15) Overall (11-20)
This should actually be a pretty close game. California has really backed into the PAC-10 Tournament losing 10 of their last 12. The Beavers haven’t fared much better with their only signature win coming against Washington at home, the other two wins coming against Arizona St. Bears freshman Ryan Anderson was close to winning PAC-10 Freshman of the year, but has been the lone bright spot for the Bears this season. The loss of DeVon Hardin earlier in the year really hurt the Bears. The Beavers have been unfortunate in that they’ve been in games late this year but just couldn’t close the deal. Either way you cut it, the winner faces UCLA where their season will end. Neither team is in the hunt for an at-large-bid for the NCAA Tournament.
First Round Byes
#1 UCLA BRUINS
Record: Conference (15-3) Overall (26-4)
After a feel-good road win over Washington St earlier last week that gave the Bruins the PAC-10 title, the Bruins completely overlooked Washington and lost their final game of the season. The Bruins are easily the favorite to win the PAC-10 Tournament though. Their first game will be the winner of the California/Oregon St. game, with Cal the easy favorite there. The Bruins should cruise to an easy first round win. In the semifinals they will face the winner of Arizona/Oregon game. The Bruins would probably prefer to face Arizona as they’ve played well against the Wildcats all season. But Oregon could pose problems as well but I still say the Bruins will advance to the finals. In the finals, all of USC, Washington St, Washington and even Stanford have a good shot against UCLA, it will be an interesting final. As for the NCAA Tournament, the Bruins are a lock, reaching the PAC-10 Conference Tournament finals will give them a number-one seed. If they lose in the semifinals, I could see the selection committee dropping the Bruins to a two seed.
#2 WASHINGTON ST COUGARS
Record: Conference (13-5) Overall (24-6)
The Cinderella team of the PAC-10 hopes to continue its fantastic roll through the PAC-10 tournament. They face the winner of Washington/Arizona St., most likely Washington. A very dangerous game in my opinion. The Huskies are a desperate team and have played much better recently. Should the Cougars squeeze out a win, they would face the USC/Stanford winner. With USC the likely winner there, another tough matchup awaits in the semifinals but I like the Cougars there as they narrowly beat the Trojans twice. Finally, a finals duel against UCLA looms. I feel that the Cougars probably fall to either Washington in the quarterfinals, or against UCLA in the finals. Either way, the Cougars are in the NCAA Tournament likely getting a three or four seed.