The Pac-12 is a top-heavy league this year. It has three teams that are elite or close to it, another likely NCAA Tournament team after them, and maybe one more on the bubble. There’s real quality at the top, but the conference trails off quickly after its trio of top teams: Oregon, Arizona, and UCLA.
It would be shocking if anyone beyond the league’s big three could win this tournament. Bubble teams in other conferences should hope nobody else does, because that would tie up an at-large bid for one of UCLA, Arizona, and Oregon. It’s a situation that probably won’t come up, based on how the season’s gone so far.
After the Bruins, Wildcats, and Ducks, the Pac-12 has USC as a likelier-than-not tournament team. The Trojans only lost eight games in the regular season, all in league play, and have great wins against UCLA and Arizona.
Otherwise, the cupboard’s bare. Utah has a decent record but no standout wins and probably can’t make the field of 68 at-large without at least getting to the final. (Even that wouldn’t guarantee anything.) Cal might be able to get there with a deep run, but also has no guarantees. Everybody else isn’t getting into the tournament without winning the Pac-12 and an automatic bid, and that’s a tall order.
By adjusted efficiency, the Pac-12 was the worst of college basketball’s power conferences this year. More than one-fifth of all Pac-12 games this year have been decided by 20 points or more, a trend of blowouts that reflects the huge gap between the top of the conference and the bottom. Compared to other conferences, few games have been close at the end.
There’s been relatively little drama. If the final features some combination of Arizona, UCLA, and Oregon, we might see some. UCLA and Oregon played a thriller in December, and Arizona and UCLA played a tight one in February. There’s a good chance the first few days of this tournament are boring, but we could get power-on-power at the end.
Every game takes place at the T-Mobile Center in Las Vegas. The top four seeds enjoy byes into the quarterfinals, while the bottom eight have first-round games for the right to join them there. It’s a single-elimination event, like all conference tournaments. The winner gets an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
8. Arizona State
10. Washington State
12. Oregon State
See the full bracket here or below (times Pacific):
Schedule and Results (all times Eastern)
Wednesday, March 8 (First Round)
Game 1: No. 8 Arizona State 98, No. 9 Stanford 88
Game 2: No. 5 Cal vs. No. 12 Oregon State, 5:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
Game 3: No. 7 Colorado vs. No. 10 Washington State, 9 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
Game 4: No. 6 USC vs. No. 11 Washington, 11:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
Thursday, March 9 (Quarterfinals)
Game 5: No. 1 Oregon vs. No. 8 Arizona State, 3 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
Game 6: No. 4 Utah vs. Game 2 winner, 5:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
Game 7: No. 2 Arizona vs. Game 3 winner, 9 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
Game 8: No. 3 UCLA vs. Game 4 winner, 11:30 p.m., ESPN
Friday, March 10 (Semifinals)
Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 9 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
Game 10: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 11:30 p.m., ESPN
Saturday, March 11 (Championship)
Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 11 p.m., ESPN