The Pac-10 Tournament starts today and for some, that means the door will shut on their 2010-11 season.
As it stands right now, it looks like the Pac-10 will only see three of their teams in the big dance for sure. Arizona, UCLA and Washington are most likely getting their bids no matter what happens this weekend. California and USC are on the bubble, and both need a big weekend to secure their spots in the postseason.
Before the year started, many things were unknown. Surprise after surprise and we are finally here—the Pac-10 Tournament.
Here is a preview of the first and second-round matchups.
Both teams have had their ups and downs all year. One week, Oregon State is beating Arizona and the next, they're losing by 31 to Washington. This team is an unknown and despite only winning three out of their last 16 games, one of them came against Stanford at home with a seven-point victory. Which Beaver team shows up tonight will be the difference in the game.
Dawkins is a Duke guy, and throughout the season the Cardinal have seen a little Duke play in themselves. Well, you get my point. Stanford has the ability to take their game to the next level at any time, There just has not been many of those moments this year. Stanford comes in only winning two out of their last seven games, and one of those came against a weak Seattle team at home, where the Cardinal only won by a slim margin of 11 points.
I see this game going back and forth. Both of these teams are not hot, so they will be trying to make up for it on defense, rebounds and loose balls. In a different arena, the ball doesn't shoot the same. So whoever picks up the hot hand wins.
Stanford 65, OSU 58
The Ducks have had a surprisingly OK season. The community was not expecting much with a new coach, practically a new team and a new arena with trees on the floor and a barely visible half-court line. Senior Joevan Catron leads the team against the Sun Devils, to whom they just gave up a 20-point defeat. Might I mention, Oregon has lost four-straight, which should mean they are starving for a victory—right?
The Sun Devils have only won four games in the Pac-10. That being said, two of them have came against Oregon. There is something about ASU that the Ducks just cannot figure out, and to be frank, most people cannot figure them out either. They have not beat a team in the upper half of the conference this year. Their closest came against UCLA in OT when they lost by one point.
These first-round games are a battle of the teams that are not playing well. You may call me biased, but I see Oregon taking this one. Sure, the first two games point to a Sun Devil victory, but as any basketball player knows, beating someone three times in a row is tougher than any other game in the regular season.
Oregon 79, Arizona State 70
The Trojans have won five out of their last six games, including wins against Arizona, at California and at Washington. They are arguably the second-hottest team in the tournament besides UCLA, and if they move past Cal, they will most-likely face Arizona, whom they recently just beat. The Trojans need a run in the tourney to make it into the NCAAs. If they pull out solid victories over Cal and Arizona and then play a close game in the championship, that just might be enough for selection Sunday.
Cal is on the bubble as well, but I don't see them making the tourney unless they win the conference championship. There is no way around it; they have to win it. They have been up and down all year, with streaks of losses and streaks of wins, including a four-game winning streak they are currently holding.
This should turn out to be a great game. Both of these teams split the series this season, Cal winning by two points and USC winning by three. If that doesn't spell out a close game for you, I don't know what will.
USC 69, Cal 65
The Bruins are the hottest team going into the tournament. That suits them well when selection Sunday comes around, but a slip up here could possibly spell disaster for the postseason. Recently, UCLA crushed Arizona 71-49 in a game where the Bruins looked like a Top Five team in the country. They have the ability, and they are the most complete team in the conference, which is deadly in the postseason. This tourney does not mean a whole lot to the Bruins, except for seeding in the big dance.
Oregon has never seemed to find an answer for Josh Smith of UCLA, and I don't see them finding one anytime soon considering their tallest player is a 150-pound seven-footer from Germany—and he doesn't even see the court. All in all, whoever matches up with UCLA will not have the ability to match hand-in-hand with Josh Smith (6'10'', 300 pounds).
All bias aside, UCLA is too good for the Ducks. It would take a miracle to come back the next day after a win and beat one of the hottest teams in the country. I just don't see it happening.
UCLA 83, Oregon 68
The Wildcats need a big boost from this Pac-10 tourney heading into the NCAA tournament. There has to be a point in time where the wheels start turning and Arizona plays to the potential that everyone knows they have. Their biggest Pac-10 win this year was a 19-point victory over Oregon. After that, their biggest victory was only 11 points. Are the Wildcats as good as we think? Or are they just riding on the back of Derrick Williams?
The Cardinal lost both matchups in this series, both by about 10 points. If they can keep the game close until the end, they just might have a shot. But again, after playing the night before, their legs will not be as fresh as they are used to.
Arizona is just better than Stanford. But, as we see every week, there are always surprises. I think this is where the surprise will lurk.
Stanford 65, Arizona 61
The Huskies have lost both of the games this year against WSU. Why? Because they cannot seem to find the answer against Klay Thompson. He had 25 points in their first meeting and exploded in the second half of their second meeting to score 26 points. Washington's weakness is their lack of focus on defense; they get content with the leads that they build and then take a rest. When they keep grinding, they blow teams out. The difference will be if they want it the most, because they are the better team.
Some say that WSU is a bubble team, but when it's all said and done, they have to win this tournament. Thompson is coming off of a suspension due to marijuana possession, and the team should be hungrier than ever to prove that they are worthy of the big dance. If their big three (Castro, Moore and Thompson) are on, then Washington will struggle to stop the shooting attack from the Cougs.
Washington will come out strong, get content and then will go on to play a terrible second half. I see WSU taking this third game because Washington is already thinking NCAA tournament.
WSU 79, Washington 63