Pac-10 Basketball Tournament 2011: Ranking the Potential Upsets
The Pac-10 tournament officially got under way last night with the opening-round games. Oregon State defeated Stanford for the honor to get destroyed by Arizona today, while Oregon beat Arizona State in order to be dismissed by UCLA tonight.
Unlike those two matchups, there are some plausible upsets. With this conference being widely viewed as the weakest BCS conference in the country, there are a handful of teams capable of upsetting the top teams because those top teams have some flaws.
Also, it's not like Arizona and UCLA completely demolished their way through conference play; they lost four and five games respectively, so there are teams who will have confidence knowing they've defeated the top teams before.
This list of possible upsets is ordered in terms of shock value. I also took into consideration not just the actual game, but the road that "Cinderella" team would take just to get to that round.
5. Cal over USC
When: First Round
Why: Cal beat USC on the road in late January and then lost by only three points at home last month. Looking at the scores, it appears as though these teams are pretty even. USC, however, is the team still on the bubble, while Cal will need to win the entire tournament to make the Big Dance.
Cal is no slouch at 17-13. It's a very young team and will be looking to play spoiler to its state rivals. Bears forward Harper Kamp has had big-time success against this team, scoring over 15 points in both contests.
Still being on the bubble this late in the year brings pressure, massive pressure, to get quality wins in the conference tournament to entice the committee. Some teams falter under pressure, and USC could be that team.
4. Washington State over Washington
When: First Round
Why: One of the main reasons the Cougars are even on the bubble is due to their sweep against arch-rival Washington. Those victories are their two best in the conference.
It would be shocking if the Cougars weren't incredibly confident heading into this game because of their recent success.
They'll also be with their best player, Klay Thompson, who combined for 51 points in his two games against the Huskies. That certainly will not hurt.
As long as the Huskies don't come out firing from the beginning (which they're capable of doing), Washington State has the ability to make it a trio of victories this season over its hated rival.
3. USC over Arizona
Why: There's the possibility of teams folding under pressure, and then there's that other part when a team thrives under it and exceeds expectations. A victory over the top-seeded Wildcats fit that mold.
The Trojans managed to beat the Wildcats around two weeks ago at home, so it's not like a victory over Arizona is completely out of the blue.
In the game, Nikola Vucevic (pictured) had a monster game and completely outplayed Arizona star Derrick Williams. While Williams struggled to a measly eight points and 11 rebounds, Vucevic scored 25 points and had 12 rebounds while playing the same number of minutes.
If Vucevic can put up superior numbers to Williams, the Trojans will have a good chance to pull off a huge victory that could send them to a spot in the NCAA tournament.
2. USC over UCLA
Why: A win over UCLA isn't more surprising in itself, but by simply getting to this game, USC will have most likely beaten Arizona to get to the final game.
Once again, the Trojans do own a victory over their arch-rival, but this was back in early January. A month ago, the Bruins beat USC handily at home.
The good news for USC fans is that their frontcourt of Vucevic and Alex Stepheson has outplayed the Bruins frontcourt of Reeves Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt. If the guards are able to hold their own against the likes of Malcolm Lee, it bodes well for the Trojans.
A split over an NCAA tournament lock is not something to be upset about, but winning this game automatically reserves a room at the NCAA Hotel. Should coach Kevin O'Neill and his team make it this far, it would only be fitting for them to finish the job.
1. Washington State over Arizona
Why: In order to get to this point, the Cougars would need to beat Washington and UCLA, neither of which will be an easy feat.
At this point, Washington State would probably have done enough to warrant an at-large bid. Two victories over NCAA tournament teams and at least a second-place finish in the Pac-10 tournament would add some serious meat to the Cougars' résumé.
Against Arizona, the Cougars lost both contests, 65-63 at home in mid January and 79-70 on the road in mid February. Except for the first half of the road game, Washington State has played virtually even with an excellent Wildcat squad.
Their biggest problem has been containing Derrick Williams, though who hasn't had trouble doing that? Williams combined for 43 points and 27 boards against a pretty small Cougar team. They'll need to hope Williams has an off game, which doesn't happen often.
The Cougars are a talented team. Klay Thompson is a stud and a future NBA player. Their other two solid players, Faisal Aden and DeAngelo Casto, would get solid minutes at most schools. Regardless, they'll need to bank on a lot of breaks and Williams having his first bad game all season. Look at this way: Williams is bound to have a poor showing at some point—why not before the real tournament begins?