Tournament last chance for Pac-12 teams
Here's stating the obvious: The Pac-12 didn't just have a down year, it was down and out and in need of reviving. But perhaps that's why the conference tournament, which begins Wednesday at Staples Center, bears watching.
The only slam-dunk guarantee is that this week's tourney winner will advance to the 64-team NCAA dance that begins March 15. No. 1 seed Washington likely will be included if it loses at some point, but there are no assurances that more than one team will be invited.
Then again, this is the Pac-12 we're talking about. Although no Pac-12 team has been ranked in the Associated Press top 25 since late November, there are certainly enough good teams — and a strong and storied history — so that if two or more should reach the tournament, they might be considered worthy picks for your brackets.
For starters, four teams have first-round byes: top-seeded Washington (21-9, 14-4), No. 2 Cal (23-7, 13-4), No. 3 Oregon (22-8, 13-5) and No. 4 Arizona (21-9, 12-5). Those four already have advanced to Thursday's quarterfinal games.
For the rest, Wednesday is the big day. Here's a look at the matchups, with overall and conference records for each team and tip-off times. All games will be broadcast on FOX Sports West.
Washington State (15-15, 7-11) vs. Oregon State (17-13, 7-11), 12:10 p.m.: Washington State won both meetings this season, but by only a combined 15 points. A victory would send the Cougars into a Thursday game with intrastate rival Washington. Forward Brock Motum, an all-conference first-team pick who averaged 18.1 points and 6.5 rebounds, will determine how far the Cougars advance. Pick: Washington State
UCLA (18-13, 11-7) vs. USC (6-25, 1-17), 2:30 p.m.: The Bruins have virtually no chance of reaching the NCAA tourney unless they win the conference tournament. They should get past the woeful Trojans easily, setting up a quarterfinals meeting with Arizona. A successful tournament run also would help UCLA get past the controversy arising from last week's Sports Illustrated story. Pick: UCLA
Stanford (19-10, 9-8) vs. Arizona State (9-20, 5-12), 6 p.m.: Stanford beat the Sun Devils by 24 last month in the teams' only meeting. The Cardinal relies on the strong inside game of 6-8 forward Josh Owens, who averaged 12.4 points and 6.0 rebounds this season. Arizona State closed its conference season with a victory over Arizona, but it doesn't figure to get a chance to repeat. Pick: Stanford
Colorado (19-11, 11-7) vs. Utah (6-24, 3-15), 8:30 p.m.: The conference's two newest members face off in the final game of the day. The Utes lost 10 of their last 11 and were beaten twice by Colorado, including a 73-33 drubbing in December. Colorado sophomore Andre Roberson led the Pac-12 in rebounding with a 10.9 average. The Buffaloes should coast and face Oregon on Thursday. Pick: Colorado