Posted on: March 8, 2012 12:25 pm
After a dismal day to start the Pac-12 tournament (it was sparsely attended and featured bad, bad basketball), can we see a better Day Two now that most of the top seeds advanced? The Staples Center is officially played out as a realistic destination for this league's tournament. It's unfortunate, but a proper reflection of the league's basketball this year that the conference tournament has reached the point where it could be played at any of these teams' tinier home gyms and still not necessarily fill to capacity.
Let's look at the matchups for Thursday.
Washington (1) vs. Oregon State (9). You never fully trust Washington, but I want to trust Washington to win this game Thursday afternoon. The Huskies have a lot more talent that Oregon State and swept the Beavers this season. Jared Cunningham is OSU's counter to UW's athleticism, as he's the best athlete on the floor, but the Huskies have a lot more size and collective offense than the Beavers. Expect the game to be close throughout, until about five minutes remain, when I think Washington pulls away.
Arizona (4) vs. UCLA (5). Arizona's got some drama now, since Josiah Turner was suspended for the rset of the season Wednesday. CBSSports.com's Jeff Goodman tweeted that Turner is not only out for the year, U of A fans shouldn't be surprised if the talented but troubled freshman point guard opts to transfer once the season is done. If that happens, it will be the second straight season Sean Miller has had a point guard leave; MoMo Jones transferred to Iona in 2011.
As for the game, it's the best one the Pac-12 has to offer. Both teams can beat Washington and get to the league championship game. UCLA is playing well ever since the Sports Illustrated article came out and undressed the program. It's the reverse jinx! The thing to watch here: UCLA likes going to the 3, but Arizona's one of the best 3-point defensive teams in the country.
California (2) vs. Stanford (7). Calling the upset now. Stanford's not a great team but it just beat Cal last week. The Cardinal match up well to the Golden Bears, who will officially be quaking if they cannot win one Pac-12 tournament game. The sense of urgency is just as high for Cal as it is Stanford, because the top seven seeds in this bracket feel like they're realistically capable of winning the whole thing.
Oregon (3) vs. Colorado (6). It's been a great year for Colorado, and Tad Boyle's gotten a lot of love for the job he's done with a thin roster. But what about Dana Altman? Getting Oregon to a three seed after the season started with talented recruit Jabari Brown promptly transferring about 15 minutes in is an accomplishment that I haven't seen receive enough love. Oregon's 22-8 and has a reliable offense. It should beat Colorado Thursday (the teams split the series, but Colorado's win came by one), but then again, this is the Pac-12. Kyle Singler, the former Duke star, his younger brother E.J. plays for the Ducks and is getting better by the hour.
-- Matt Norlander
Posted on: March 5, 2012 2:51 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 3:04 pm
It's time to examine another mid-major conference tournament here on the site. The Pac-12, formerly the Pac-10, is in its first year as a 12-team league. In making the switch from 10 to 12 programs across all sports, the conference decided to also adopt a style of play in basketball similar to a West Coast Conference or Horizon League. It's been an interesting tactic. The league's received the same amount of attention this year as many from seasons' past, but all of the talk has about about the decrepit basketball.
Larry Scott, commissioner of the league, is seen as a visionary, but taking this sort of approach is certainly next-level. Dumbing down the play to test how the Selection Committee will treat your teams despite the Big Conference label? It's a daring, inquisitive, unorthodox approach, even if eye doctors along the West Coast have had an uptick in patient treatment since November. Almost any slick college hoops fan knows that if the Pac-12 was billed as the WAC, and if it wore New Mexico State and Nevada jerseys instead of Washington and Cal ones, this would pretty certainly be a one-bid league.
Instead, we've got Washington, Cal and Arizona fans still believing they're in the conversation and should be considered in the field, or in Arizona's case, maybe just out. If Washington and Cal fail to reach the Pac-12 tournament game and both teams still wind up in the NCAAs, we're going to have one really interesting conversation after the bracket is released -- especially if teams like Drexel or VCU, Oral Roberts or Harvard are left out.
It's been a long, long time since we had a conference tournament like this, where every round's outcome is completely unpredictable and the league is probably worse off for that.
Stanford (7) vs. Arizona State (10): I saw Stanford up close when it played at Madison Square Garden in November. The team was better then. But, and this is a theme you'll catch on to here in no time, I think the Cardinal can win this tournament. Seven seed? Bah. Might as well be a No. 2 in this bracket. The Cardinal get Arizona State -- putrid -- in the first game, then have Cal, who they just beat 75-70 Sunday afternoon. In this comedy of errors that will be the Pac-12 tournament, Stanford stands a chance because it's one of the best rebounding teams on both ends in the country, and it is No. 1 in efficiency defense. Plus, we need Andrew Zimmerman to remain on television for as long as possible.
Colorado (6) vs. Utah (11): Tad Boyle for Pac-12 Coach of the Year? I think he should get it. I spoke with Boyle last July about this team and his prospects for the upcoming season. He was cautious. There was no way he thought finishing in the top half of the league was in his future. But he managed to make it happen with a roster that most other coaches would've struggled to get 15 wins out of. Boyle got 19. And he gets Utah, a team that was once so bad this year, we were asking if any BCS conference team was rated so low. Buffaloes should advance. Should.
Washington State (8) vs. Oregon State (9): A year from now, I think Oregon State's the No. 4 seed in this tournament with a chance at an at-large bid if it gets two wins. Just a broad prediction. This year, the team faltered after getting a win over Texas and then losing by just two to Vanderbilt in November. What could have been! Now it plays Wazzu, which swept the Beavers this season. Oregon State's Jared Cunningham owes us at least one more eye-popping dunk before his season ends.
UCLA (5) vs. USC (12): How the Trojans have dodged getting mocked this year is a bit of a mystery. The team's only conference win came at home to the second-worst team, Utah, and so USC finished 1-17. I mean, DePaul is laughing at that. And now Kevin O'Neill has to coach his team against its rival to start the tournament off. Speaking of UCLA, anyone else feeling a Pac-12 championship game run for the Bruins? After that Sports Illustrated piece came out, UCLA hasn't lost, and wouldn't it be something if they ripped through the bracket here. They'd get Arizona with a win over USC Wednesday.-- Matt Norlander