Rivals to square off in first round of Pac-12 tournament

March Madness is upon us and for the Pac-12 Conference, it begins this Wednesday. 

What began as an “embarrassing” week for Ben Howland’s UCLA Bruins ended with a huge morale boost. 

The Bruins defeated Washington in last Saturday’s nationally televised regular season finale, in what was arguably the Bruins’ biggest win of the year.  It completed a home sweep of the Washington schools, which began with a 32-point win over Washington State on Thursday.  The dismantling of the Cougars came just a day after Sports Illustrated released an article on the program that depicted drug and alcohol abuse by members of the team and a lack of control by Howland. 

The article, however, didn’t affect their efforts on the court and as a result of the sweep, the Bruins finished tied for fifth in the final Pac-12 Conference standings with Colorado.  UCLA owns the tiebreaker over the Buffaloes as a result of winning their head-to-head battle earlier this season. 

As the 5th seed in the tournament, the Bruins will take on their crosstown rivals, USC, for the third time this season on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. in the first round of the Pacific Life Pac-12 Tournament at STAPLES Center.  The Trojans are the 12th seed.  

UCLA won both meetings with the Trojans this season by an average of 14.5 points.  It’s the first meeting between the two schools in the conference tournament since the 2009 semifinals.  The then-6th seed Trojans defeated the second seed Bruins by 11 points and went on to win tournament by defeating Arizona State in the championship game.  This time around UCLA and USC will meet for the right to face 4th seeded Arizona. 

Preceding the crosstown rivalry on Wednesday will be the 8th seed Washington State Cougars and the 9th seed Oregon State Beavers at noon. 

The final two games on Wednesday will be 7th seed Stanford against 10th seed Arizona State at 6 p.m. followed by 6th seed Colorado taking on 11th seed Utah at 8:30 p.m.

  Receiving first round byes are conference champion Washington, Cal, Oregon and Arizona.  The tournament will begin for those four teams on Thursday. 

The Huskies, winners of the last two conference tournaments, await the winner of the Washington State/Oregon State game and Cal will meet the winner of Stanford/Arizona State.  Oregon will face the Colorado/Utah winner. 

FOX Sports Net will carry first round games through the semifinals.  The tournament will conclude with the championship game on Saturday at 3 p.m.