This week in WSU Hoops

THE PAC-12 TOURNAMENT begins Wednesday in Las Vegas, and these three words are on the players and coaches' minds from all 12 schools: Why not us? No would argue if Pac-12 champion UCLA, season-long contender Oregon, nationally-beloved Arizona or surging California said it. But here's the thing -- every team in the Pac-12 can say it with some belief. That includes your Washington State Cougars.

Did the Pac-12's regular season really prove much, other than some teams were a little more clutch than others? Any team can beat any team in this league, and if you need proof, check out results from the final week of league play. WSU, the tournament's No. 11 seed, hammered the league champion Bruins. Oregon State, the No. 12 seed, went on the road and handled Colorado.

One loss separated the league's top four teams. One loss separated the fifth through ninth place teams.

Now, whether this means the Pac-12 is a mediocre conference depends on who is interpreting the data. It appears the league is better than it was a year ago, but how much better? Probably not a ton.

But in the case of Washington State and other low seeds, the possibility of an upset or more looms come tournament time. The Cougars could easily beat No. 6 seed Washington in its Wednesday tournament opener, and frankly, it wouldn't be an upset.

There is some talk among Cougars fans that, following last week's rousing sweep of UCLA and USC, winning the Pac-12 tournament title is a possibility (see Moore, Jim). Let's not get carried away. The Cougars can win a game, perhaps even two, but to win four games in four days is a tall, exhausting order for any team. The four schools with a first-round bye have an edge in that respect.

Washington State has shown it has plenty of heart, but to win four games in four days requires a tremendous amount of depth. Losing DaVonté Lacy is a significant blow in that regard. While a run to Saturday's finals would be fun, I can't see it.

Then again, what do I know? Last year, Colorado ran the table as the No. 6 seed, winning four games in four days to win the inaugural Pac-12 tournament.

WSU vs. Washington: The Huskies swept the season series, winning 68-63 in Pullman and 72-68 in Seattle. Washington has won five consecutive games over WSU.

The Cougars nearly won the home game, despite trailing 21-4 to UW after 10 minutes. A flurry of free throws late in the first half allowed WSU to pull to within 34-27 at halftime. The Cougars got their first lead at 51-50 on Brock Motum's 3-pointer with 7:21 remaining. But in what became a theme during the Pac-12 season, the Cougars couldn't finish the deal. The Huskies rallied from a 61-60 deficit by outscoring WSU 8-2 during the final 83 seconds.

Of the two games, the loss in Seattle was likely the most frustrating for WSU. This time, the Cougars didn't fall in a deep hole. Dexter Kernich-Drew's 3-pointer two minutes into the second half gave Washington State a 43-35 lead. But led by five 3-pointers from Scott Suggs, Washington slowly made a rally. Suggs hit WSU with a dagger shot when his 3-point with 4:05 remaining gave Washington a 60-57 lead. It was the start of an 8-0 run that the Cougars were unable to counter.

Washington State and Washington have played twice during what was the Pac-10 tournament in recent years. In 2007, the Cougars beat UW 74-64, and two years ago, the Huskies returned the favor with an 89-87 win over WSU.

Should Washington State win Wednesday, the Cougars advance to the tourney quarterfinals against No. 3 seed Oregon. Like UW, the Ducks took a pair from WSU this season, winning 68-61 in Eugene and 79-77 in overtime in Pullman.

Pac-12 tournament
Wednesday, (Games on Pac-12 Network)
No. 8 Stanford (18-13) vs. No. 9 Arizona State (20-11), noon
No. 5 Colorado (20-10) vs. No. 12 Oregon State (14-17), 2:40 p.m.
No. 7 USC (14-17) vs. No. 10 Utah (13-17), 6 p.m.
No. 6 Washington (17-14) vs. No. 11 Washington State (13-18), 8:40 p.m.

Thursday, (Games on Pac-12 Network unless noted)
No. 1 UCLA (23-8) vs. Stanford-ASU winner, noon
No. 4 Arizona (24-6) vs. Colorado-OSU winner, 2:40 p.m.
No. 2 California (20-10) vs. USC-Utah winner, 6 p.m.
No. 3 Oregon (23-8) vs. Washington-Washington State winner, 8:40 p.m., ESPNU

Friday
Semifinals at 6 (Pac-12 Network) and 8:30 p.m. (ESPN).

Saturday
Championship game, 5 p.m., ESPN

Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-12 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel

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