Pac-12 tournament: Preview, prediction, TV info
The league moves its bracket from the Staples Center to Las Vegas. Seven teams are still in the mix and hoping to improve their seed or get in the field.
What: Pac-12 championship.
When: March 12-15.
Where: MGM Garden Arena, Las Vegas.
Bracket: View tournament field here.
TV: Opening round, quarterfinals and semifinals on Pac-12 Network and Fox Sports 1. Championship game on Fox Sports 1 (March 15, 6 p.m. ET).
Last year's champ: Oregon (26-8, No. 12 seed).
What matters: Arizona, and then everyone else. That's how the public will view this bracket. Because even though the Wildcats were clipped three times in the league this year, they're still 28-3 and in very good shape to receive a No. 1 seed. The Wildcats haven't fallen off too much since Brandon Ashley's season-ending injury on Feb. 1 in the Cal game.
Elsewhere, UCLA is in the second spot, and the Bruins have a lot of talent to go around. Kyle Anderson is a unique player (that word gets tossed around way too much in college basketball, but there really is no one like him) in that he's a 6-9 point guard. The Bruins go eight deep with good talent, and they'll be fighting for as high as a four seed this week.
Oregon will probably be considered the sleeper to win it, considering the Ducks did just that last year and are coming off a home win over Arizona over the weekend. Dana Altman now has more than 500 career wins, which a lot of people don't realize, and this team ranks 12th nationally in points per possession. The Ducks also hit their free throws at a 77.2-percent clip. Very good.
Colorado is basically in the field, while Stanford and Cal need to get a win apiece in order to feel secure. Arizona State is the true tourney sleeper. The Sun Devils are safely in but have the defensive player of the year in the league in Jordan Bachynski (conference-best 4.2 blocks per) and the fastest end-to-end-with-the-ball player in the sport in Jahii Carson. ASU could make a run here.
Who matters: With Arizona, Nick Johnson is the key. He's the big-shot maker, the guy who can score at all three levels and has a gut full of reinforced steel. Others around him -- I love T.J. McConnell's game and Aaron Gordon has started to become undervalued -- also will need to play at top-level to get Arizona through.
We mentioned Anderson above. Beyond him, Jordan Adams is vital. The two actually both were suspended for one game in February for breaking unspecified team rules. Perhaps it shook that back onto the right track? Who knows. What we do know: Jordan Adams is very efficient across the board.
Oregon's Joseph Young is an occasional stud, giving the Ducks a dangerous element when he carves a groove. Few in the league are better than Young when Young is at his best. Oregon State, by the way, has very good talent and could steal a couple of games. Roberto Nelson (league-leading 20.6 PPG) at guard and Devon Collier on the low block. And the team's got three more guys who are 6-10. Kind of amazing the Beavers didn't win 20 this season.
Stanford will need Chasson Randle and Dwight Powell -- both of whom made the 10-man First Team in the league -- to have two great games to seal up the Cardinal's hopes. Cal will rely on Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon, the latter the leader in Pac-12 rebounding.
Fun fact: The Pac-8/10/12 has never earned seven bids to the NCAA Tournament. The conference has earned six to the NCAAs four times in the past 11 seasons. If Cal and Stanford don't slip up, there's a solid shot a record is made, since ASU and Colorado have some wiggle room. In the past 10 years the league's averaged just 4.2 bids per season.
Prediction: Let's go with the Bruins. I very much like their talent. It goes way beyond Adams and Anderson. Zach LaVine is like a fawn learning the lay of the land -- and man can he jump. The Wear twins are now seniors, big guys that can get up and down. Norman Powell is a terrific glue guy. Alford's team -- at its core, at its best -- is top-15-in-the-country good. Let's see if they opt to show that in Vegas.
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