There’s not need to even dance around the subject: the only thing that anybody is going to be paying attention to heading into the Pac-12 tournament is whether or not this league is capable of sending more than just their automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. So in lieu of actually writing something worth while in this space, who wants some bubble watch goodness?!?
- Cal: They have a strong RPI and a decent strength of schedule. They’ve gone 3-0 against Washington and Oregon. But their loss to archrival Stanford on the last day of the regular season could end up being a killer is they lose in the quarterfinals to Stanford again? What about to Oregon in the semifinals? They might want to make the finals to be safe.
- Washington: Watching Washington play, this team is certainly talented enough to make the Sweet 16. But they backed into the outright league title when Cal lost on Sunday, went just 4-8 against the top 100 and have wins over Oregon and Arizona. And that’s it. They probably want to make the finals to be safe.
- Oregon: The Ducks are the most interesting team in the Pac-12. Their resume is ‘meh’, but they have been the hottest team in the conference down the stretch -- they won six of their last seven, including a 25 point win over Washington -- and finished tied for second in the regular season. They are also a much different team with Devoe Joseph in the mix. How will the committee judge that?
- Arizona: Yeah, no. Win the auto-bid or make NIT plans.
Where: Los Angeles
When: March 7th-March 10th
Final: March 10th, 6 p.m. CBS
The Huskies may not be the most consistent team in the conference, but they are the regular season champions and the most talented team in the league. And Lorenzo Romar always gets his teams peaking late in the season. It feels like each of the last four or five years, Washington has been underwhelming during the regular season before making a run in both the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournaments. Without fact-checking I can tell you that’s probably false, but that just goes to show you the reputation that Romar has developed with his program. I think they live up to it again.
And if they lose?: Cal
Jorge Gutierrez is the league’s Player of the Year, Allen Crabbe is one of the league’s most dangerous scorers and Justin Cobbs has turned out to be a pretty good option at the point. The only issue for Cal has been interior play. Harper Kamp is banged up and Richard Solomon is out for the year because of academics.
Other contenders?: Oregon has been a completely different team with Devoe Joseph in the mix. He’s averaging 16.9 ppg and the Ducks are 18-6 with him in the lineup. Over the last seven games, they are 6-1 and Joseph is playing as well as he has all season long. He’s not alone, either. EJ Singler and Garrett Sim both had good years and Olu Ashaolu and Carlos Emory have been big inside.
The Wildcats are just a young group right now, and its cost them some games. That said, they are a talented group, and while they are probably still a year or two away from really being a factor nationally, they are good enough that stringing together a run in March isn’t out of the question.
Deeper sleepers: I picked Oregon State to win the conference at the midseason break. So I’ll pick Oregon State as the deeper sleeper in the conference tournament. See what I did there?
- Jared Cunningham, Oregon State: Aggressive driver, terrific defender, convicted posterizer.
- Jorge Gutierrez, Cal: The best compliment you can give a player is that he is miserable to play against. Gutierrez is miserable to play against. He’s a leader, a defensive presence and the toughest kid in the country.
- Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten, Washigton: Wroten has been putting up the biggest numbers for the Huskies, but Ross is probably their most talented player.
- Devoe Joseph, Oregon: He’s been the difference-maker for the Ducks this year.