Who’s Ready to Dance?
Next week, the pay to play ballers in Los Angeles will take a back seat to the high hopes of the west coast university men’s basketball teams, as Staples Centre once again plays host to the Pac 12 Championship Tournament.
Since 2002, the City of Angels has seen the Washington Huskies capture the Pac 10 crown three times, including the previous two titles. Meanwhile, the UCLA Bruins have walked away from Staples with a pair of Conference Championships in 2006 and 2008.
Over the past few years, something has happened to the now Pac 12 Conference; it has slowly, or quickly depending how you look at it, become irrelevant in the NCAA basketball circles. Only the Huskies have been sitting among the top 25 teams at the end of the regular season rankings since the 2008-09 season.
Prior to that, one would easily find at least three teams among the elite Division 1 teams throughout the course of the season, including the Huskies, Bruins, Stanford Cardinal and even Washington State!
Waking up Saturday morning, the Huskies had the opportunity to seal the inaugural Pac 12 regular season banner with a victory over the Bruins.
Unfortunately for the Dawgs, a 75-69 loss meant waiting for the result of the California Golden Bears vs. Stanford game to figure out who would have their name on the banner at the end of the weekend.
5 TEAMS TO WATCH (* Will they get to the dance is based on NOT winning the Pac 12 title)
1) Washington Huskies:
Overall Record 21-9, Conference Record: 14-4, Will they get to the BIG DANCE? (In if they win)
While they might not have been able to lock down sole possession of the regular season Pac 12 banner on their own, the Huskies are probably on the top of everyone’s list for Conference Champions.
With a great mix of youth and experience, the Huskies are young enough to just get out and run and old enough when to slow down and execute the x’s and o’s. Unable to crack the top 25, the Huskies have shown that they are capable of battling the elite teams in the NCAA this season.
Unfortunately for the Dawgs, their final regular season game came at a loss to the Bruins, one that will have to be quickly pushed to the back of their minds.
2) California Golden Bears:
Overall Record 23-8 , Conference Record: 13-5 , Will they get to the BIG DANCE? (In if they win)
Unable to pull off a victory in their final game of the season, the Bears could possibly find themselves playing against the same Stanford team that put a halt on any hopes of claiming a share of the Pac 12 regular season title.
As with the Huskies, the Bears have been on the outside looking in to the top 25 this season. With their best overall record since 2001-2002, the Bears do not need to win the Pac 12 championship, but must find themselves within the top four to have a chance at the group of 68.
3) Oregon Ducks:
Overall Record 21-8, Conference Record: 12-5, Will they get to the BIG DANCE? NOT for the Ducks
Predicted to be one of the top teams in the conference at the beginning of the year, the Ducks have had some impressive moments this season, but have also been a team that has let the close games slip away.
A pair of losses to California (including an early season blowout and a three point loss) and a split of lopsided victories against the Huskies show that the Ducks are capable of competing against the top Pac 12 teams, but have a tough road ahead.
4) Arizona Wildcats:
Overall Record 21-10, Conference Record: 12-6, Will they get to the BIG DANCE? NOT for the Cats
The Wildcats will open up their Pac 12 Championship schedule with what could be the toughest matchup of any opening game, as they face the winner of the UCLA/USC game (which should be UCLA). Not nearly as offensively minded as teams of Wildcats past, coach Sean Miller has his senior led squad winning games on the defensive end this season.
After a roller coaster start to the season, the Wildcats were one of the hottest teams in the Pac 12 during the last month of the season, with a record of 7-2.
5) Colorado Buffaloes:
Overall Record 19-10, Conference Record: 11-6, Will they get to the BIG DANCE? NOT for the Buffaloes
Not since Chauncy Billups donned the uniform in the late 90′s has Colorado been as relevant this late in the season.
One of the two new teams in the conference, along with the Utah Utes, who funny enough will battle it out in the first round of the Pac 12 Tournament (the Buffaloes absolutely clobbered the Utes in their first meeting of the season), the Buffaloes have been in the upper tier of the Pac 12 standings all season.
DARKHORSE TEAM TO WATCH OUT FOR:
Yes the Bruins are the higher seed heading into the tournament, however the chemistry issues and the negative media that has surrounded this team may have a huge impact as the week progresses.
Chances are high that they will not have much of a problem taking care of the Trojans in the first round, but their mental focus will be tested against the elite Pac 12 teams.
If they can band together and put the drama behind them, the Bruins could be the surprise team in the tournament.
Wednesday, March 7
12 p.m. – No. 8 Oregon State vs. No. 9 Washington State
2:30 p.m. – No. 5 UCLA vs. No. 12 USC
6 p.m. – No. 7 Stanford vs. No. 10 Arizona State
8:30 p.m. – No. 6 Colorado vs. No. 11 Utah
Thursday, March 8
12 p.m. – No. 1 seed vs. OSU/WSU
2:30 p.m. – No. 4 Arizona vs. UCLA/USC
6 p.m. – No. 2 seed vs. Stanford/ASU
8:30 p.m. – No. 3 Oregon vs. Colorado/Utah
Friday, March 9
6 p.m. – Semifinal number one
8:30 p.m. – Semifinal number two
Saturday, March 10
3 p.m. – Championship Game