Schu Strings: Different motivations for Tourney

The Pac-10 tournament could mean different things for different teams. Due to Washington's late-season renaissance, the league should get three representatives despite what happens in LA this weekend, but UW wants to make sure its status isn't as tenuous as some might still suggest.

Historically, Arizona and Stanford tend to be less than thrilled about the Pac-10 Tournament. Lute Olson and Mike Montgomery have stated on numerous occasions they don't really see the point. While they are in, Washington finds itself in a position where it can eliminate all doubt. UW's upset of Stanford should be enough to get the hottest team on the bubble firmly entrenched into the Field of 65, but given the harsh rap the Pac-10 has received this year nationally, maybe that's not the case.

A few thoughts on the Pac-10 Tournament:

For Washington: The Huskies are 17-10. After starting the season 5-8, they've won 12 of their last 14 and finished 12-6 in league play. No Pac-10 team with a 12-6 conference record has ever been denied a berth to the NCAA tourney. While Washington should be in, it's not a sure thing. UW's RPI wouldn't be good enough for most bubble teams, but then again most bubble teams haven't been white hot since mid-January, with a sweep of Arizona, the conference's only victory over Stanford and a five-point loss at NC State as part of its resume. Given that kind of down-the-stretch run, if Washington doesn't get in, then the NCAA Selection Committee bought all the crap about the Pac-10 being a terrible league. It hasn't been stellar by any barometer, but the Pac-10 is a lot more representative of most major conferences than the exceptions in the form of the ACC and Conference USA. It's just that the Pac-10 has taken more heat than all of the down majors combined.

Because of the win over Stanford, I don't think the Pac-10 tourney should matter, but a first-round win would probably help, just to be sure. That said, Washington is probably going to be a low seed, perhaps maybe even a 12. If that happens, there's your 12-5 upset. Right now, UW is playing well enough to advance to the Sweet 16.

For Stanford: Hard call. If the Cardinal wins the conference title it's assured a No. 1 seed. If it loses somewhere along the line, it's probably a 1 in the west anyway. Not surprisingly, Stanford was flat in its regular-season finale at Washington after the electrifying finish in Pullman two nights earlier. Getting upset in the Pac-10 tourney might not be a terrible thing. It would allow the Cardinal to get fresh and refocused come NCAA tourney time.

For Arizona: The UA is probably the team that could be most affected from a seeding standpoint. It could land anywhere from six to eight depending on its performance this week, and maybe as high as a five if it wins. However, three games in three days is not this team's forte. At some point, the depth issue is likely to play a factor. Problem is, if Arizona wins its opening-round matchup with USC, it will probably be staring at games with Washington and Stanford. While players don't take the court to lose, the UA might put an added emphasis on those rematches since both teams swept Arizona this season. This is a double-edged sword. On one hand, if the UA wins the conference tournament, it goes into the NCAAs with a lot of confidence. If it loses in an earlier round, it goes into the Big Dance with more rest.

For everyone else: USC and Oregon have outside shots to play spoiler. The Ducks open with a Cal team that has tossed it in. If they advance, a second-round matchup with Stanford looms. The Cardinal opens with Washington State, the team it beat on the freak play Thursday. USC squares off with Arizona in round one. Troy has toppled the UA once already this season. If it pulls the upset, a date with Washington is more than likely on the horizon. SC's athleticism could make things interesting.

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