Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament Preview

The conference's scene shifts to the bright lights of Las Vegas this week, the site of the Men's Pac-12 Basketball Tournament. If parity breeds excitement, then this year's Pac-12 Tournament should be quite intriguing. Nine teams head into the tourney with a .500 (or better) conference record. And only two games separate the No. 3 seed (ASU) from the No. 10 seed (Oregon State).

This should create a competitive atmosphere in the MGM Grand Garden Arena. With an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament at stake, one would expect a dogfight from the opening round to the title game.

The single-elimination tournament tips off on Wednesday with four games. The top four seeds, which include Arizona State, receive a first-round bye and will begin play on Thursday. To view the complete bracket, click here.

We'll take a closer look at each of the teams and offer our predictions.

(No. 1 seed) – Arizona

Arizona (28-3 overall, 15-3 in Pac-12) firmly established itself as the best team in the conference this season. They dominated Pac-12 play and head into the tournament on a roll, winning five of their last six games. The Wildcats are an easy lock for the NCAA Tournament, but may need an impressive showing to secure a No. 1 seed in their assigned region.

Why they will win: Defense and rebounding wins championships and the Wildcats do it better than anyone else in the Pac-12.

Why they will lose: Free-throw shooting. The Cats shoot a woeful 65.9 percent from the charity stripe, which is second worst in the conference.

(2) UCLA

The Bruins (23-8, 12-6) played just well enough to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Aside from Arizona, they have been the most consistent team this season. UCLA is a lock for the NCAA Tournament and merely playing for a higher seed at this juncture.

Why they will win: UCLA boasts one of the best offensive attacks in the country. They rank in the top 20 nationally in scoring, assists, and field goal percentage. They also take care of the ball, averaging only 10.5 turnovers per game.

Why they will lose: The Bruins have trouble winning close games. They are 1-3 in games decided by 4 points or less.

(3) Arizona State

By virtue of the tie-breaker, Arizona State (21-10, 10-8) landed the No. 3 seed in the Pac-12 tournament. After upsetting Arizona in mid-February, the Sun Devils have lost four of their last six games. They are probably in the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens, but a victory or two would certainly help their résumé.

Why they will win: Jahii Carson seems to play his best basketball in Sin City. He is averaging 28.8 points per game in five career games played in Las Vegas, including a career-high 40 points at UNLV earlier this season.

Why they will lose: The Sun Devils have been conspicuously weak on the boards this season, possessing the worst rebounding margin in the conference. The Devils have also struggled when playing away from Wells Fargo Arena, sporting a 2-7 road record in conference play.

(4) California

The Golden Bears (19-12, 10-8) are coming off a thrilling overtime victory against Colorado, but California is still on the wrong side of the bubble by most bracketology experts. A strong showing in the Pac-12 tournament is probably needed to make the Big Dance.

Why they will win: The Bears have a well-balanced attack led by a trio of experienced seniors (Justin Cobbs, Richard Solomon, and David Kravish). California plays smart and rarely beats itself, committing a league-best 10.2 turnovers per game.

Why they will lose: California has been wildly inconsistent this season and struggle against the conference's best teams. After a 5-0 start in Pac-12 play, the Bears have finished with a 5-8 record.

(5) Colorado

It has truly been a tale of two seasons for the Buffaloes (21-10, 10-8). Colorado was a top-15 team with Spencer Dinwiddie in the lineup, but has looked very average since losing their star point guard. The Buffs are probably in the NCAA Tournament, but a win or two in the Pac-12 tourney would certainly help their cause.

Why they will win: Colorado is one of the best rebounding teams in the conference and does a great job of controlling the tempo. Additionally, Josh Scott and Askia Booker have elevated their games to another level since Dinwiddie's injury.

Why they will lose: The Buffs struggle to score at times and rank in the lower half of most offensive categories (points, assists, field goal percentage, and three point percentage).

(6) Stanford

The Cardinal (19-11, 10-8) squeaked out a much-needed win against Utah this weekend. In the process, they temporarily protected their NCAA Tournament hopes. However, Stanford cannot afford to drop the opening round game to Washington State.

Why they will win: Stanford has one of the most experienced teams in the Pac-12, led by all-conference selections Chasson Randle and Dwight Powell. They also have little margin for error, which could propel them to a deep run in the Pac-12 Tournament.

Why they will lose: The Cardinal have a tendency to play a lot of one-on-one basketball in the half-court set, which is indicative of their paltry 12 assists per game as team. They will need to play as a unit if they want to advance.

(7) Oregon

Winners of seven straight, the Ducks (22-8, 10-8) come into the tournament as the hottest team in the conference. They have successfully played themselves back into the NCAA Tournament after their signature-win against Arizona this weekend.

Why they will win: Seriously, is there anybody in the country hotter than Oregon right now? They have re-discovered their jump shots during this seven-game winning streak. Also, if it comes down to a free-throw shooting contest, the Ducks shoot a league-best 77.2% from the stripe.

Why the, will lose: Despite a strong effort against Arizona, they are still prone to defensive letdowns and allow too many easy baskets for their opponents.

(8) Utah

The rebuilding project in Salt Lake City is a year ahead of schedule. With their gritty play and offensive efficiency, Utah (20-10, 9-9) has been a pleasure to watch this season.

Why they will win: Nobody will out-hustle the Utes. They play with a relentless style on the defensive end. Offensively, they are the most efficient squad in the conference. They are among league leaders in field goal percentage and assists.

Why they will lose: Simply put, Utah cannot close out games. They have a dreadful 2-8 record in games decided by five points or less. Also, aside from Delon Wright and Jordan Loveridge, the Utes don't have any proven playmakers.

(9) Washington

The Huskies (17-14, 9-9) have been up and down the entire season. They have notched impressive wins against Arizona State, Colorado, and Oregon. Yet, they have lost to the likes of UC-Irvine, Boston College, and Washington State. They enter the tourney winning three of their last four games.

Why they will win: Washington is led by the perimeter attack of C.J. Wilcox, Nigel Williams-Goss, and Andrew Andrews. This trio is capable of scoring in bunches and could lead the Huskies deep into the Pac-12 Tournament.

Why they will lose: The Huskies typically get outplayed in the paint. They are among the worst rebounding teams in the conference and get little production from their big men.

(10) Oregon State

The Beavers (16-14, 8-10) are seeking their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1990. Unfortunately, they will need to run the tables in the Pac-12 Tournament to make that happen. Head coach Craig Robinson is firmly on the hot seat and may need a miraculous four-game win streak to save his job.

Why they will win: Oregon State is led by shooting guard Roberto Nelson, the league's leading scorer. Offensively, the Beavers are one of the better shooting teams in the conference (48.2% from the field, 39.2% from deep). Defensively, they have a lot of length and athleticism up front, which causes fits for their opponents.

Why they will lose: Their point guard play is suspect – freshman Hallice Cooke is still learning the nuances of the college game. As a team, the Beavers have trouble taking care of the ball. They commit a league-worst 13.5 turnovers per game.

(11) Washington State

The Cougars (10-20, 3-15) have had a rough season to say the least. They played a large portion of the year without their best player (and leading scorer) DaVonte Lacy. However, it's unlikely he would have made a difference this season. Why they will win: Washington State gives up the third fewest points (66.9 per game) in the Pac-12. If the Cougs can somehow turn this into a half-court slugfest, they may have a glimmer of hope to advance, but this is highly unlikely.

Why they will lose: They are the most offensively challenged team in the conference. As a team, they rank dead last in scoring, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and assists. Only one player (Lacy) averages double figures in points.

(12) USC

Dunk City? It was more like Dud City for the Trojans (11-20, 2-16) this season. Head coach Andy Enfield is in the beginning stages of a major rebuilding project at USC. He is probably happy this season is coming to an end.

Why they will win: Let's face it; USC can play a loose and frenetic style because they have nothing to lose. They are playing with "house money" and nobody expects them to advance, which bodes well for the Trojans.

Why they will lose: The Trojans simply don't have enough talent to compete at a high level this season. They also don't mesh well in Enfield's up-tempo offense. They only managed two conference wins this season, and it would be shocking to see them advance deep in the Pac-12 tournament.

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Predictions

First Round:

No. 8 Utah over No. 9 Washington

No. 5 Colorado over No. 12 USC

No. 7 Oregon over No. 10 Oregon State

No. 6 Stanford over No. 11 Washington State

Second Round:

No. 1 Arizona over No. 8 Utah

No. 4 California over No. 5 Colorado

No. 7 Oregon over No. 2 UCLA

No. 3 Arizona State over No. 6 Stanford

Semifinal:

No. 1 Arizona over No. 4 California

No. 7 Oregon over No. 3 Arizona State

Final:

No. 1 Arizona over No. 7 Oregon


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