The Pac-12 Conference has three legitimate national title contenders in Arizona, Oregon and UCLA. Permitting a major upset, the winner of the Pac-12 tournament will surely receive a number 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Pac-12 tips things off Wednesday at noon with the first round of action in Las Vegas.
Teams that need help to get into the NCAA Tournament
The three title contenders have all punched their ticket to the big dance with their impressive season performances. An early loss for either of these teams would only result in a bump down to a lower than expected seeding. That doesn’t mean they will be laying low. They will each be fighting to earn themselves a high seed in the tournament. You want to play your best basketball in March.
After that, as Joe Lunardi’s bracketology sits, USC is the only other Pac-12 team he has making the tournament. California is on the bubble looking in. USC will take on Washington. Cal will take on Oregon State. An injury plagued Oregon State team has been terrible all season long, winning only one conference game all year (1-17). Washington has struggled as well, even with star freshman Markelle Fultz. Fultz leads the Pac-12 in points with 23.2 PPG. He’s a sensational player, and a potential top-5 NBA draft pick, but he won’t be playing in the Pac-12 tournament. He has recently been sidelined due to a sore right knee and the knee soreness will keep him sidelined for Wednesday’s game versus USC. A loss in either of these games would result in missing the NCAA tournament.
USC needs to take care of business against Washington and hope for no upsets in other conference tournaments, bumping them out. That should be enough to hold on at the moment. They have taken UCLA down once, should they do it again in the second round, they will assure a spot. Cal will have a longer road to the dance. They need wins over OSU, Utah, and then Oregon to get in. Wins against OSU and Utah won’t be enough for the committee to bump them up into the tournament.
Utah, Colorado, Arizona State, Stanford, Washington State, Washington, and Oregon State would all need to win the conference tournament in order to get in. Utah, although they have a better conference record than both USC and Cal, have a poor record VS top 50 RPI (1-6) that doesn’t look good for their resume.
Can anyone else challenge the top-3 Pac-12 teams?
USC has the best chance. They are one of the best shooting teams in the conference, and if they can get hot they can hang with UCLA. AS I mentioned earlier, they did beat UCLA earlier in the year. I would be willing to bet that UCLA hasn’t forgot about that loss, and they’ll be ready. I don’t give USC much of a chance.
California is one of the best defensive teams in the conference. They’re first in points allowed and FG% allowed. They also leads the league in rebounding. If Cal can control the boards and the pace, they could give Oregon fits. However, with Oregon playing some of its best basketball recently, I don’t see it happening. Oregon has too much fire power. Cal doesn’t have enough. Sure Cal plays great defense, but they also don’t shoot the ball very well and Oregon is no slouch on the defensive side of the ball. The Ducks lead the conference in blocked shots and 3PT% allowed.
Short answer. No.
Oregon in another classic nail biter over UCLA. Mostly I just really want to see this game happen again. The first two were so great. First you had Dillon Brooks’ buzzer beater after the UCLA missed free-throw to win the game in Eugene. Then the next matchup you have Lonzo Ball’s most clutch performance of the season, taking over late scoring 5 straight points to give UCLA just enough to hold onto an 82-79 victory.
Oregon has too much experience. They have been here before. Last year’s defending champions still have Dillon Brooks and he is a bad man in clutch moments. Enjoy the games.
You can check the entire tournament schedule here!