Three of the past four years the top seed entering the Pac-12 tournament has gone on to win it but conference champion Washington is looking shaky of late while Oregon is getting hot at the right time. Here’s a preview of who could bring home the hardware.
Conference Tournament Favorite: Washington
Despite splitting their last four games the Huskies still won 15 conference games and won the Pac by three games over the next best team. As a strong defensive team Washington has a lot going for it in the tournament, with so many back to back games it helps to be able to defend as bad shooting nights are inevitable. The teams that can grind out possessions usually go further.
Top Contender: Arizona State
The Sun Devils are a talented group and are the only Pac-12 team to beat two ranked teams and that doesn’t include their convincing home win over Washington. The flip side is that the Sun Devils have a tendency to play down to opponents and a potential semi-final match against an Oregon team they split with in the regular season or a Washington State team that blew them out in Tempe would be tricky.
Top Sleeper: #6 Oregon
Oregon has the longest winning streak in the conference at four games and two of those wins came against the Pac-12’s top two teams. While Washington’s defense is the talk of the conference, Oregon was statistically better and they find themselves on the opposite site of the bracket of 5 of the 7 teams they lost to in the regular season.
Arizona (9) def. USC (8)
Colorado (5) def. Cal (12)
Stanford (10) def. UCLA (7)
Oregon (6) def. WSU (11)
USC has fallen off a cliff losing four in a row and while Arizona isn’t good they haven’t given up on Coach Sean Miller just yet. Cal is considered an up and coming team having won three in a row after losing their first 15 conference games but let’s not forget two of those wins were over #10 Stanford and #11 Washington State, Colorado will roll them. Stanford and UCLA are both bad teams but someone has to win that game. The Ducks are going to pound the Cougars.
Washington (1) def. Arizona (9)
Oregon State (4) def. Colorado (5)
ASU (2) def. Stanford (10)
Oregon (6) def. Utah (3)
Washington matches up well with Arizona, the Wildcats don’t have the technical big man needed to play the high-post efficiently against Washington’s 2-3 zone. Colorado and Oregon State are both good teams but OSU has a little more fire-power with Tres Tinkle and Steven Thompson Jr. ASU is much better than Stanford but they also have a tendency to play down to their opponents, Utah is the unfortunate team that has to face red-hot Oregon.
Washington (1) def. Oregon State (4)
Oregon (6) def. ASU (2)
Oregon State took Washington to overtime in Seattle last week and you have to think Tinkle may be feeling snubbed that Jaylen Nowell won Pac-12 Player of the Year despite Tinkle’s better all-around numbers. Oregon and ASU split the season series and are both talented teams but Oregon is more disciplined and has more to gain with a win.
Oregon (6) def. Washington (1)
As much as I think the Huskies are the better team they could have easily gone 0-2 against the Ducks. Oregon was the only team in 16 tries to beat the Huskies in Seattle and in Eugene they were up five with two minutes left before they allowed Washington to end the game on a 10-0 run. I think the Ducks punch their ticket to the Big Dance with an upset.