RTC’s 2012 Pac-12 Tournament PreviewPosted by Connor Pelton on March 7th, 2012
The 2012 Pac-12 Championship is upon us. Whether you like to watch mediocre basketball or are looking for a possible team to make a run all the way from Los Angeles to the Final Four, here is your guide.
2012 Pac-12 Tournament Schedule – March 7-10 – Los Angeles (All Times Pacific)
While the Pac-12 may be in a down year, this is going to be one of the most competitive conference tournaments of Championship Week. Any of the top seven seeds are capable of winning it, and with the exception of Washington and California, no team is locked into the NCAA Tournament. Every team outside of the top four will be playing for their NCAA lives, which could make the first day of the tournament surprisingly entertaining. In reality though, only the top seven seeds have a realistic shot at taking the Pac-12’s automatic bid. To make a run through a conference tournament, especially when you need to win four games in four days, you need three or more really solid players. UCLA has Lazeric Jones, Travis and David Wear, and Joshua Smith, Colorado has Carlon Brown, Andre Roberson, Austin Dufault, and Spencer Dinwiddie, and Stanford has Chasson Brown, Josh Owens, and Aaron Bright. Those groups of players can lead their teams through the tournament, but the rest of the field behind them has only one or two solid players they can count on.
Three and four seeds Oregon and Arizona are the two teams that can still play their way into the NCAA Tournament as an at-large. While a lot of things can still shake out around the nation, the Wildcats and Ducks will likely have to advance to the championship in order to have a chance. Arizona’s going to have the tougher road to the championship as they will likely have to face a hot UCLA team in the quarterfinals, and most likely top-seeded Washington in the semis. However, the tougher the game is, the more of an impression the Wildcats will be able to make on the selection committee. And that’s a good thing, considering they need to push their way past teams like NC State, Miami (Florida), and Iona before Sunday.
Favorite: California. Their loss last Sunday against Stanford not withstanding, this is a talented and deep Golden Bear team that has the easiest path to a championship out of the top four seeds. They will most likely face the Cardinal again in the quarterfinals, but there is no way they lose to them twice in a row, especially with NCAA Tournament seeeding on the line. I’ll even take them over top-seeded Washington after the Bears went up to Seattle and beat the Huskies back in January.
Darkhorse: Sometimes a team that has to play themselves into the NCAA’s on Championship Week comes out tight or nervous, but I’m counting on fourth-seeded Arizona to do the opposite of that this week. They have a tough path to the championship game, but if they step up and win the games then they can add two more quality wins to their résumé. This is one of the more interesting Wildcat teams I’ve seen as they have shown the ability to adapt to another team’s style, and then beat them. They can win with offense, led by the hot shooting of Kyle Fogg or Nick Johnson, or they can lock you down on defense with Solomon Hill and Angelo Chol.
Biggest Storyline: If you are looking for a storyline that everyone around the nation will care about, it’s not easy. At this point in the season, the only reason someone on the East Coast cares about mediocre-to bad basketball being played in front of thousands of empty seats at the Staples Center is one thing – their NCAA Tournament bracket. It’s the reason we stay up late watching teams we haven’t watched all year; just the thought that this game could affect who you are advancing in your bracket on Sunday night gives college basketball fanatics reason to watch every game they can get their eyes on throughout Championship Week. So going off that, it will be interesting to see how much, if it all, the Huskies and Golden Bears can improve their seeding heading into the Tournament. If the Dawgs were to take the Pac-12 Championship, I could see them moving up to a #10 seed, but otherwise they are pretty much set. I think the Bears can win two games in Los Angeles and move up to a #9 seed, which is practically the same as a #8, so that would be big for them. Like we have already gone over, Oregon and Arizona need to win a pair of games to have a shot at an at-large.
Five Players to Watch
- Jared Cunningham – Guard – Oregon State. Cunningham is an instant highlight reel, as he not only leads the conference in points and steals but is also good for one or two jaw-dropping dunks per game.
- Devoe Joseph – Guard – Oregon. Ability to create, and make, his own shot has him the most dangerous shooter in the conference.
- Terrence Ross – Guard – Washington. A definite first round pick if he leaves school after this season. Imagine Cunningham and Joseph combined, add some rebounding, and you have Ross.
- C.J. Wilcox – Guard – Washington. Wilcox steps it up under the bright lights, scoring 24 points at home against Oregon and 22 against Duke in New York City and at UCLA. As somewhat of an underrated, low-key player throughout the regular season, the Pac-12 Tournament should be perfect for him.
- E.J. Singler – Forward – Oregon. An all-around good player. His hustle makes up for his occasional lapses in scoring.
Five More for Fun
- Brock Motum – Forward – Washington State
- Tony Wroten, Jr. – Guard – Washington
- Allen Crabbe – Guard – California
- Lazeric Jones – Guard – UCLA
- Maurice Jones – Guard – USC
Champion: California – The Golden Bears are by far the deepest team in this conference, and with an easier bracket than top-seeded Washington has, I like them a lot.
- G – Allen Crabbe, So.
- G – Kyle Fogg, Sr.
- C – Aziz N’Diaye, Jr.
- F – Solomon Hill, Jr.
- F – Jesse Perry, Sr.
MVP: Kyle Fogg, Arizona