The Pac-12 Tournament starts Wednesday with four first-round games, none more intriguing than Oregon playing arch-rival Oregon State, which tips off at 6 p.m., PT, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
No. 9 seed Washington faces No. 8 seed Utah in what is the closest game on paper because of the seeds, but the rivalry game between Oregon and Oregon State should provide more suspense and a surprise: An upset victory for the Beavers over the Ducks, who are seven-point favorites and riding a seven-game winning streak into the tournament.
The top three reasons why Oregon State will pull off the upset over Oregon:
3. Oregon State can match up with Oregon.
The Beavers split with Oregon during the regular season and were down by only two points with five minutes remaining before losing 93-83 at the Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore., on Feb. 16.
The difference in the game was the three-point shooting. Oregon was hot (11-of-21) while Oregon State was not (5-of-16). That's a point differential of 33-15 in favor of Oregon.
A team that relies on its three-point shooting like Oregon can go cold at any time because of the lower shooting percentages from that range. What then?
2. This is do-or-die time for Oregon State and possibly its head coach Craig Robinson.
The Beavers, playing for a potential NIT bid if they don't win the Pac-12 tourney, are hungry to begin with as the underdogs going against their in-state rival. The potential of this being Robinson's last stand should ignite Oregon State when it emerges from the locker room and heads to the Garden Arena court.
Oregon State leading scorer Roberto Nelson, who also leads the conference at 20.6 points a game, expressed his team's desire to put it on the line against the Ducks this week.
He told OregonLive.com: "Just to win a Pac-12 game is a big deal, but to beat the Ducks that would be another level."
Oregon State exhibited hustle and desire, winning the rebounding battle in both games of its split the Ducks. Eric Moreland, who averages 10.4 rebounds a game for the Beavers, will be a load for Oregon's perimeter-oriented team. He had 23 rebounds in the two games.
1. The Arizona factor.
After beating the Wildcats, California and ASU lost their subsequent games, and it was not pretty. The buildup of facing the highly-ranked Wildcats took something out of them. Can the same thing happen to Oregon, which upset Arizona last Saturday in Eugene?
The Golden Bears were coming off an upset of No. 1 Arizona when they lost to visiting Stanford 80-69 on Feb. 5. They committed 13 turnovers and allowed Stanford to go to the free-throw line 35 times (the Cardinal made 28).
ASU followed an exasperating double-overtime win over visiting Arizona on Feb. 14 with a 61-52 loss at Colorado on Feb. 19. ASU shot 31.5 percent from the field, including only 28 percent from three-point range. Jermaine Marshall, the hero for ASU with a season-high 29 points, had only seven against the Buffaloes.
Please check out Javier Morales' blogs at AllSportsTucson.com
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