It all comes down to the final weekend to crown a Pac-12 basketball regular season champion. Oregon has led the way the entire year, sparked by victories over the UCLA Bruins and Arizona Wildcats. UCLA stands tied with Oregon for first place in the conference with a 12-4 record, but losses by both teams during the final week of play would then create a three-way tie with Cal for first place.
The heat down the final stretch of the season further proves that the Pac-12 Tournament promises to provide thrillers; but who can we expect to take the tournament crown?
Though the Ducks stand in first place, they are by no means a favorite to win the conference tournament. Victories over a top-ten ranked Arizona team and a young and talented UCLA team are tainted by a three-game losing streak in the middle of conference play. Oregon SHOULD be in the front-runner category, but the Ducks’ inability to close games in crunch time and streaky free-throw line appearances has haunted Oregon of late. Getting Dominic Artis back to full health will help the Ducks settle back into early season form, but will they be able to shield off the rest of the pack?
The Bruins are a young team doused with top tier talent and the tools to make a tournament run. Star freshmen Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammed lead a UCLA team coming off a 74-69 victory against #11 Arizona this past weekend. Ben Howland’s team has only lost one game in the last month, a double-digit defeat at the hands of the streaking Cal bears, and is tied with the Ducks atop the conference at 12-4. Victories and Washington and Washington State this weekend would be a serious statement to the conference heading toward tournament play.
After losing a four-point heart breaker to Arizona State, Allen Crabbe and the Golden Bears have stormed through February racking off seven wins in a row up to this point. Beating UCLA, Oregon and Arizona have nestled the Bears in the conversation with the conference best. Allen Crabbe is averaging 18.4 points per game and teammate Justin Cobbs at 14.8. Cal is looking to make it back to the tournament for the second consecutive year,
The Wildcats have been the face of the Pac-12 to basketball fans across the nation since their home victory over a top-five Florida Gators team at the beginning of the season. Since then, Arizona has lost six games during conference play and is sure to drop in the rankings after a loss to UCLA this past weekend. That said, Arizona is as talented as any team in the conference and definitely has the pieces to redeem themselves in tournament play. With only one more game to play, the Wildcats will be hungry when the conference tournament begins
Colorado won the Pac-12 tournament last year and has the pieces to do so again. At 19-9, the Buffs have already upset Oregon and Arizona (twice, really…) and have the potential to create the same kind of fire that they did a year ago. Led by master rebounder Andre Roberson, the Buffaloes have an athletic and talented roster that has already tasted tournament championship. Leading scorers Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie will need to put points on the board in order for Colorado to make another run toward March Madness. Colorado will likely not participate in the NCAA tournament if they don’t win the Pac-12 tournament.