Pac-10 Tournament Preview

Will this be a tournament of upsets or will the cream eventually rise to the top? Devils Digest takes a look at what will transpire the next few days at the Staple Center in Los Angeles.

Play-In Games
(7) Washington vs. (10) Arizona State
(8) Cal vs. (9) Oregon State

First Round Games
(1) UCLA vs. Winner of Cal/Oregon State
(2) Washington State vs. Winner of Washington/Arizona State
(3) USC vs. (6) Stanford
(4) Oregon vs. (5) Arizona

(1) UCLA Bruins – (26-4, 15-3)

Why They Will Win

The Bruins are one of the best teams in the country and with Pac-10 Player of the Year, Arron Afflalo; the Bruins are one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the Pac-10 as well as being a feisty defensive squad.

Why They Won't Win

The Washington Huskies are playing their best basketball of the season but that is no excuse for the heavily favored Bruins to go into Seattle and let the Huskies run all over them. The 10 point loss to the Huskies may have exposed some vulnerabilities for the conference's behemoth.

How Will They Do in the Pac-10 Tourney?

The Bruins are in a class by themselves in the Pac-10 this season. While teams like Washington State and USC are vastly improved, they don't hold a candle to the mighty Bruins. If UCLA stumbles in the Pac-10 tourney, it will be surprising and mark them down for your final four while you are at it.

(2) Washington State Cougars – (24-6, 13-5)

Why They Will Win

One of the best young coaches in college basketball today with Tony Bennett and one of the most stifling defenses in the country that has flummoxed teams all season long could be just enough for the surprising Cougars to win the conference title. Leading the helm is Derrick Low (13.2 PPG) and if he can shoot the lights out like he did all season, they could be a force to be reckoned with.

Why They Won't Win

As they saw against Arizona State on February 3, if the Cougars have trouble shooting the ball, they could be in a world of trouble. Luckily they beat the Sun Devils in that game by 1 point while shooting 34% and scoring only 12 second half points. If Washington State thinks they can get away with that against better teams, they are in for a rude awakening.

How Will They Do in the Pac-10 Tourney? Wazzu has shocked everyone all season long and they will continue to do so in the conference tournament. If Low and Daven Harmeling can continue shooting well and the defense can stay tight, they have a great chance to win the conference title.

(3) USC Trojans – (21-10, 11-7)

Why They Will Win The Trojans have played all season without a true point guard and without a true center and still managed to pull off 21 wins. The trio of slashers that have led the team all year long, Nick Young (17.2 PPG), Lodrick Stewart (14.3 PPG), and Gabe Pruitt (12.1 PPG), are dangerous enough to beat anyone.

Why They Won't Win When it comes to March, team leadership under pressure can be the difference between winning and losing. The Trojans lack a true team leader this year and have been relying heavily on pure skill and outside shooting. If the shots don't fall for some reason, the Trojans could collapse under pressure.

How Will They Do in the Pac-10 Tourney? They will only go as far as Young, Stewart, and Pruitt will take them. If those 3 can get in the same flow, they will be tough but if they can't get it going, look for them to be upset.

(4) Oregon Ducks – (23-7, 11-7)

Why They Will Win The Ducks hit a wall after winning 18 of their first 19 games. They then lost 6 of their next 9 games but they ended the season hot winning 3 straight games. Aaron Brooks is one of the best players in the conference and Tajuan Porter was had a sensational freshman season. The Ducks are the fastest team in the conference and if they dictate the speed of the game, they won't be beaten.

Why They Won't Win As stated above, the Ducks are the fastest team in the conference but if they don't make their shots, it doesn't matter how fast they are. If the Ducks can be forced to take long range jumpers all game, they will be in trouble.

How Will They Do in the Pac-10 Tourney? They have struggled in the second half of the season but ended on a high note, if they can keep up their hot play, they will give everyone fits but if they are back to their struggling state in the Pac-10 Tournament, they will be going home early.

(5) Arizona Wildcats – (20-9, 11-7)

Why They Will Win They have two of the best players in the conference with Marcus Williams (16.9 PPG) and Freshman of the Year Chase Budinger (15.8 PPG) to go along with Mustafa Shakur. The offense goes through Williams or Budinger on every possession so if they heat up and hit threes, they will be hard to stop.

Why They Won't Win

Shakur and fellow senior Ivan Radenovic have not played well lately and if they continue to struggle offensively they will be in trouble. Radenovic has been sloppy in the paint and has had trouble with putbacks and his mid-range jumper. If they can't get going, defenses will be able to focus on stopping Williams and Budinger and will the Wildcats fewer options.

How Will They Do in the Pac-10 Tourney?

Arizona is always hard to predict because they don't get beat, they beat themselves and it's hard to pick and choose when exactly they will do that. They need to shoot well and pass well to advance very far.

(6) Stanford Cardinal – (18-11, 10-8)

Why They Will Win The Lopez twins, Brook and Robin, have been fantastic as the season has progressed and will give every team a difficult matchup. Lawrence Hill (16.3 PPG) has been able to take advantage of having two monstrous teammates down low and can really make teams pay if the defense steps out on him. If Stanford plays crisp basketball, they can be really interesting to watch.

Why They Won't Win

They say experience is more important in post-season play than anything else, if that's the case, Stanford is in trouble. The Cardinal has shown immaturity this year and their lack of experience could hurt them. Also, Stanford has had next to no offensive production from their guards this year, which could hurt them if they need to hit a big outside shot.

How Will They Do in the Pac-10 Tourney? The Lopez boys have been a solid force in the second half and if they can stay out of foul trouble and play well on both ends of the floor, they could be a scary team.

(7) Washington Huskies – (18-12, 8-10)

Why They Will Win

Playing great basketball to end the season is always a good thing when it comes to playing in the post-season. Marred by injuries and raw freshmen, the uber-talented Huskies struggled in Pac-10 play early on. As Jon Brockman (14.1 PPG) and Spencer Hawes (15.8 PPG) got healthy and the team started playing as a more cohesive unit, the Huskies really started rolling and even upset UCLA.

Why They Won't Win Hawes and Brockman will get theirs; other teams just have to focus on their guards. Ryan Appleby is a phenomenal shooter but if he can't get open, he is virtually useless. Justin Dentmon is a solid point guard but is easily rattled.

How Will They Do in the Pac-10 Tourney? They have a tough opening matchup with the improving Arizona State Sun Devils but if they can get past that, they will be pitted against Washington State, a team they have been beaten by twice. If the team plays well as a whole, they can be fantastic but that happens to infrequently.

(8) Cal Bears – (14-16, 6-12)

Why They Will Win Ayinde Ubaka to Ryan Anderson. If they want to win, those two will have to act like Malone and Stockton for the whole Pac-10 tournament. Lights out shooting from Omar Wilkes wouldn't hurt either.

Why They Won't Win This team has struggled with inconsistency all season and losing DeVon Hardin before the season started was a crushing blow to their inside game.

How Will They Do in the Pac-10 Tourney? They will have to play flawless basketball to win but if Ubaka and Anderson can do some damage, so to can the Bears.

(9) Oregon State Beavers – (11-20, 3-15)

Why They Will Win If Sasa Cuic and Marcel Jones decide to play out of their minds for a few games like they did in their wins against Arizona State and Washington, the Beavers could be in business.

Why They Won't Win If Sasa Cuic and Marcel Jones decide to play like they did in all of their other games, they will be in a world of trouble.

How Will They Do in the Pac-10 Tourney? The Beavers are just not as talented as the rest of the teams in the conference but if they play smart, mistake-free basketball, they can surprise a team that overlooks them.

(10) Arizona State Sun Devils – (8-21, 2-16)

Why They Will Win

They have played every single team in the conference very close. They knocked off USC and had UCLA and Washington State on the ropes. No one wants to play the Sun Devils and if they can shoot well enough, they can truly pull off some upsets.

Why They Won't Win Defense wins games – for everyone but Arizona State. If you can't score, you can't win. The Sun Devils are inefficient on offense and take too many bad shots.

How Will They Do in the Pac-10 Tourney? If the Sun Devils learn to score this weekend, they will win some games but I highly doubt that will happen. If they can score timely buckets and slow the game down to a snail's pace, they will have a chance against any team in the nation.

Pac-10 Tournament Picks

Play-In Games
(7) Washington over (10) Arizona State
(8) Cal over (9) Oregon State

First Round
(1) UCLA over (8) Cal
(2) Washington State over (7) Washington
(6) Stanford over (3) USC
(5) Arizona over (4) Oregon

Semi-Finals
(1) UCLA over (5) Arizona
(6) Stanford over (2) Washington State

Championship
(1) UCLA over (6) Stanford

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