Pac-12 Burning Questions: Pac-12 Tournament Dark Horse?Posted by AMurawa on March 13th, 2013
The beginning of a new era in Pac-12 basketball begins today, as the first conference tournament in Las Vegas tips off. With the top four teams receiving a bye, we’ve got teams #5 through #12 in action, so we asked our correspondents:
“Which Pac-12 team playing in the opening round has the best chance of springing the upset and winning the conference’s automatic bid?”
Adam Butler: I’ve struggled to figure out exactly what’s happened in Palo Alto this year. They have a very interesting group and a group we thought would play better than to the tune of .500 in conference play. They’ve looked equally good as they have bad at different times throughout the year. And I can’t tell if it’s fortunate or unfortunate for me — and I’ll argue unfortunate with regards to my prognosticating skills — that the two trips I’ve taken to see Stanford play this year were when they hosted Oregon (76-52, W) and visited Cal (83-70, W). Through stretches of these games, if not their entirety, the Cardinal looked unstoppable. For such, as a team capable of playing with any team in the conference, I like the #8 seeded Fighting Dawkins as the top Wednesday playing team to make a run at this thing.
Connor Pelton: I actually like #6 Washington to advance furthest and have the best chance of winning the championship out of the eight first round teams. The Huskies have wins over the #2 and #5 seeds in the tournament and have shown they can compete against the other top teams in the field. What you need to win four games in four days are good shooters and a good bench. Scott Suggs and Abdul Gaddy have been shooting the lights out of the gym as of late, and while they may not put up huge numbers, Andrew Andrews and Jernard Jarreau can control the game and score from anywhere on the floor if they are called on to spell the starters. Most importantly, the Dawgs have one of the easiest paths to the title game. Washington State has been playing good ball as of late, but there’s no reason UW can’t pull out a win against the rival Cougars. LoRo and company hung with Oregon in their first two meetings, and I think they pull the upset in their third attempt against a reeling Duck squad. A date with California is likely for the semifinals, and if Washington’s only prior meeting with the Golden Bears is any indication, the Dawgs could be on their way to the title game. And once you get there, no matter who the opponent, anything is possible.
Parker Baruh: Out of the eight teams that will be playing on Wednesday in Las Vegas, Colorado has the best chance of winning the Pac-12 Tournament. Andre Roberson is likely to return and with him in the lineup, the Buffaloes have beaten three out of the top four seeds this season. Despite the fact that Colorado struggles offensively at times, their defense and rebounding keeps them in games and they also have All Pac-12 player Spencer Dinwiddie to carry the offense when necessary. Ultimately, the Buffs would have to beat Oregon State, Arizona, and likely UCLA just to get to the championship game; but, with the experience of winning four games in four days last year, and two of the best players in the conference in Roberson and Dinwiddie, Colorado has the best chance out of the teams playing in the first round to win the Pac-12 Tournament.
Andrew Murawa: Since Adam stole my answer, I’m going to go with Stanford’s first-round opponent, Arizona State. Yeah, that side of the bracket is absolutely brutal (ASU would have to get through Stanford, UCLA and then either Arizona or likely Colorado to just advance to the championship game), but I’ve had a man-crush on Jahii Carson all season long and he’s given me no reason to reconsider that infatuation. The Sun Devils have faltered down the stretch, losing their last four and seven of their last 10, but if Carrick Felix, Jordan Bachynski and Evan Gordon play up to their potential – which is admittedly a big “if” – they can play with anybody in the conference.