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.