Pac-12 Tournament Preview
While lacking in star power, there is a great deal of parity in the Pac-12. The University of Washington is easily the top dog with a 15-3 conference record, and the only truly bad teams are the Washington State Cougars and California Golden Bears, with 4-14 and 3-15 conference records, respectively. Ten of 12 teams in the conference have at least eight wins, so this tournament should produce some compelling matchups pitting even teams against one another.
The Colorado Buffaloes should take care of the Golden Bears with relative ease, as should the Oregon Ducks against the Cougars. After that, the picture gets a little muddier. The seventh-seeded UCLA Bruins are perhaps the most dangerous team in the bracket, with the first-round talent in players such as guards Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands, as well as Goliath-like freshman forward Moses Brown. Assuming they come out with any sense of urgency, the Bruins should advance past the Stanford Cardinal, where they will face the second-seeded Arizona State Sun Devils
For the Sun Devils, this game is of the utmost importance. A fringe bubble team currently slotted at the 11th seed in Joe Lunardi’s bubble watch, it would be huge for the Sun Devils to gain a win against a name brand school like UCLA. Athletic forward Zylan Cheatham, a transfer from San Diego State, went for only nine points the last time these two teams met. He will need to be more consistent on the offensive end if Arizona State is to boost their resume.
On the other side of the bracket, the USC Trojans take on the Arizona Wildcats. Amid an investigation, Sean Miller’s Wildcats turned in arguably their worst season in his tenure with a 17-14 record. Suffering through a seven-game losing streak at one point during conference play, this team was by no means the typical Arizona team that college basketball fans have grown accustomed to. Relying on players such as Duke transfer Chase Jeter, the Wildcats struggled offensively this season and will need to shoot much better than their team 42.7 field goal percentage.
Assuming all top seeds win through the semi-finals, the top-seeded Washington Huskies should have no problem with the fourth-ranked Oregon State Beavers. Guard Jaylen Nowell is one of the most efficient scorers in the country, averaging 16.3 points per game on 50.4 percent shooting from the field and over 42 percent from deep. As a 6-foot 4 guard, Nowell is a match-up problem for every opponent and should help carry the Huskies to a Pac-12 tournament title to complement their regular season title.
The only real threat appears to be Arizona State, but they will have their hands full with a potential opponent in Coach Larry Krystkowiak and his Utah Utes. With senior guard Sedrick Barefield leading the way, shooting just a tick below 40 percent on threes while maintaining high volume shooting, the Utes pose the type of streaky team that can be problematic come tournament time. Not to mention, Krystkowiak is regarded as one of the best coaches in college basketball, and he’ll be sure to devise a way to slow down the Sun Devils.
From the outside looking in, it appears that in a league full of mediocre to average teams, the Washington Huskies and Arizona State Sun Devils remain a hair above the rest, destined for a date in the finals at the MGM Grand Resort arena. From there, it seems likely that the Huskies would complete the deed since they are the most balanced and talented team in the conference. If everything holds according to plan, expect Mike Hopkins to lead his team to their first Pac-12 conference tournament title since 2012.
Andrew Destin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.