Pac-10 Basketball Tournament 2011: Ranking the Potential Upsets
The 2011 Pac-10 Championship tournament is underway in downtown Los Angeles at the STAPLES Center.
The play-in games kicked off the event on Wednesday night with Oregon State "upsetting" Stanford and Oregon taking care of Arizona State.
The bracket gets going on Thursday with the quarterfinal matchups and in a league with such parity (read: mediocrity), anyone can beat anyone else on a given night. Add in the fact that the Pac-10 tourney is played on a neutral floor and upsets are primed to happen.
Here are the potential upsets for this weekend at STAPLES, ranked from lowest to highest in probability.
5. 7 Oregon over 2 UCLA
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The chances of this upset occurring on Thursday night are slim, and here's why:
- Oregon had a late game Wednesday night to play into the game against UCLA.
- Oregon lost to UCLA twice during the year, not really challenging the Bruins.
- Oregon lost four straight to close the Pac-10 schedule before beating Arizona State on Wednesday.
There aren't any valid reasons that E.J. Singler and Co. will beat UCLA, so look for this one to go as seeded.
4. 4 USC over 1 Arizona
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The Arizona Wildcats flew a bit under the radar this season on their way to the Pac-10 regular season title.
They're good, but I'm not sure how much better than the rest of the league they are. They were blown out by USC at the Galen Center two weeks ago.
The Trojans just finished an impressive, wire-to-wire game against Cal and looks to be the hottest team in the conference.
Because the Cats are the top seed in the conference, they deserve to be favored. However, I would not find any shock in USC beating them again, especially since the Trojans really need that win to get off the bubble.
3. 6 Washington State over 3 Washington
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Washington State, in spite of a recent run-in with the law for star player Klay Thompson, has a solid chance to upset the rival Huskies.
The Cougars beat Washington both times they met this season and the Huskies are struggling of late, having alternated wins and losses in their last six games.
Put simply, this is the last team that the third-seeded Huskies and star PG Isiah Thomas wanted to see in their first round matchup.
Thompson played well in both games against Washington, while Thomas struggled some. It will be interesting to see how both stars react in a third go-round on Thursday, and on a neutral floor.
2. WSU/Washington over UCLA
Washington has UCLA's number this year, beating them twice and holding them to just 63 points both times. By the seeding, a Washington win over UCLA would an upset, but how surprised would anyone be if Washington won this semifinal? Is UCLA even better than the Huskies? Is UCLA that much better than USC or Cal?
This is the problem with the Pac-10: Nobody really knows how comparatively good the top teams are.
Washington State would be continuing their Cinderella run through the conference tournament if they made it this far. The Cougars are a team that needs to win this tournament to make the Big Dance, so they will hold nothing back in any game until they lose.
It is hard to beat a team three times, which is what UCLA would have to do to advance past WSU to the Championship game. The Bruins won an overtime game in Pullman last weekend in which Washington State star Klay Thompson was absent by suspension.
Washington State, in a state of desperation, might have the complete formula for beating UCLA in time to run by them on Friday.
1. UCLA/Washington/Washington State over Arizona
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Before I attempt to break down any potential Pac-10 Championship game, let me pose a rhetorical question.
Would it be surprising if any of the remaining teams, Arizona, USC, Washington, Washington State, UCLA, went undefeated for the weekend to win the tournament?
The answer is no. Anyone could reasonably win.
That said, the most likely upset in this tournament is anyone taking down top-seeded Arizona in the final, if USC doesn't do it in the semis on Friday.
But even though the Pac-10 has a ton of parity and no clear alpha dog, don't sleep on Pac-10 teams in the NCAA Tournament. A few under-appreciated teams have made nice runs deep into the Dance in the last several years, enough so to gain the conference a reputation for doing so.