Pac 12 Tournament Preview
For the second straight year, the Pac-12 Tournament returns to MGM Grand, and the stakes are as high as ever in the gambling capital of the world. Defending champion Arizona (24-7, 12-6) looks to make another deep run after finishing fourth in the regular season standings. We saw a lot of chalk in the regular season in terms of the preseason projections as the top four preseason teams all finished in the top four of the standings.
Regular season champion Oregon (25-6, 14-4) finished fourth in the preseason rankings, but a perfect home record in conference as well as a road victory at Arizona helped propel them to a potential No. 2 seed come Selection Sunday. Utah (24-7, 13-5) and California (22-9, 12-6) also performed admirably in the regular season, finishing second and third in the conference, respectively.
UCLA (15-16, 6-12) was perhaps one of the biggest disappointments in the nation, picked to finish fifth in the preseason but dropping all the way to tenth in the final standings. The biggest surprise in the conference has been Washington (17-13, 9-9) finishing tied for seventh in the standings after being picked to finish eleventh in the preseason, but they will still likely have to make a deep tournament run in order to play in the Big Dance. Southern California (20-11, 9-9) is in the same boat, finishing four spots ahead of their preseason prediction but still needing some wins in Las Vegas.
Wednesday, March 9
No. 9 Stanford vs. No. 8 Washington, 3 ET
No. 12 Washington State vs. No. 5 Colorado, 5:30 ET
No. 10 UCLA vs. No. 7 USC, 9 ET
No. 11 Arizona State vs. No. 6 Oregon State, 11:30 ET
Thursday, March 10
Game 1 winner vs. No. 1 Oregon, 3 ET
Game 2 winner vs. No. 4 Arizona, 5:30 ET
Game 3 winner vs. No. 2 Utah, 9 ET
Game 4 winner vs. No. 3 California, 11:30 ET
Friday, March 11
Semifinal 1, 9 ET
Semifinal 2, 11:30 ET
Saturday, March 12
Championship Game, 10 ET
Players to Watch
Senior guard Andrew Andrews of Washington, along with having one of the best names in college basketball, leads the conference in scoring at 21.2 points per game and is the only player in the conference to average more than 18 ppg. He will likely need to put up some big scoring totals for the Huskies to have any chance in this tournament.
Sophomore forward Jakob Poeltl of Utah has made as good of a case as anyone for Pac-12 Player of the Year, finishing in the top three in scoring, rebounding, and field goal percentage. The Utes have won seven straight games, and they look to continue their success in the tournament after being bounced in the semifinals last year by Oregon.
Senior guard Gary Payton perhaps has the most pressure on him out of anyone in the tournament, as his Oregon State squad is currently being projected in the Last Four In for the NCAA Tournament. Payton is seventh in the conference in scoring as well as first in steals and third in assists.
The four top teams have separated themselves from the field, and I see all four reaching the semifinals. The senior leaders of Arizona will pull off the upset over Oregon in a rematch of last year’s title game while Utah rides their recent success to the championship game. Jakob Poeltl will be too much to handle for Arizona’s big men in the title game, leading Utah to their first ever Pac-12 Championship in their fifth season in the league.
Tom Shively is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @t_shives.