Conference Tourney Mini-Previews: Pac-10Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2008
Next Up: Pac-10 Tournament. The best conference in America this year should provide us with more entertainment this weekend, as there are arguably nine teams who have enough talent to make a run and win this thing. One question – why is it in the Staples Center every year? Memo to the Pac-10 commisioners: there are other NBA arenas in Phoenix, Oakland, Portland and Seattle that would also make great venues for this event.
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
The Favorite(s). Vegas Watch doesn’t have the Pac-10 odds up yet, but UCLA is sitting on a 94% chance at a #1 seed in the NCAAs, and they’re playing about ten miles from campus, so we’re going to go ahead and anoint them the easy favorite here. There is some evidence that Ben Howland teams don’t take this tournament seriously, though, with three first-game losses in his four years at UCLA (although the Bruins did win the Pac-10 Tourney in 2006).
The Darkhorse. Take your pick. The #9 seed, Cal, just played within a blown call and a circus shot of beating UCLA at Pauley last week. The #7 seed, Arizona, took Kansas to overtime at Lawrence. The #4 seed, USC, starts two potential lottery picks. We could go on, but you get the point. The Pac-10 is loaded, and anybody but the hapless Oregon St. Beavers could make a run at this title.
Bubble Buster Game. Arizona v. Stanford in round two. Arizona has a tremendous computer profile with the #2 strength of schedule in the nation and a #29 RPI according to KenPom, but that 17-13 (8-10) record leaves a lot to be desired. They’ll beat OSU tonight, but they really need to beat Stanford tomorrow to get to .500 in conference and add one more quality win to their resume. If the Cardinal mails it in like they did last weekend at USC, Arizona should have a very good chance to win that game. Oregon (#54 RPI) could also stand to beat Wazzu, but they’re terrible away from home this year, so we don’t expect that to happen.
Cinderella. USC. The Trojans have been playing a lot better lately, and if UCLA dumps the first game again, they should have a relatively easy path to the finals on Saturday. Even if UCLA doesn’t dump that game, they’ve already defeated the Bruins once and played them very tough in another game. Also, playing in familiar environs doesn’t hurt.
Games We Want to See. Basically, all of them. No other league has as much individual talent or intriguing contrasts in style of play as the Pac-10, so this should be a great tournament. If it comes down to it, though, we’re hoping for a third matchup between the two LA schools, followed by Stanford getting another shot against the Bruins on Saturday.
Champion. We’re not sure Stanford will ever recover from their collapse and screwing in Westwood last week, nor do we have enough faith that the Bruins will put their best foot forward in this event. Wazzu and ASU are good choices to fill the void, but we really like the way USC has been playing in recent weeks, and we think maybe they’ll put it all together this weekend to make a nice run (only to get overconfident and drop their first round game next week, of course). So our champion is USC.