The Dagger will be previewing this week's eight marquee conference tournaments. Here's our look at the Pac-12 tournament:
Dates: March 13-16
Site: Las Vegas (MGM Grand Garden Arena)
Top four seeds: 1. UCLA 2. Cal 3. Oregon 4. Arizona
Draw: Click here
Best draw: Oregon. The Ducks might have done themselves a favor by losing the last two regular-season games when all they had to do was win once to capture the top seed. Falling to the No. 3 seed gets them a quarterfinal game against the Washington-Washington State winner and a potential semifinal game against Cal, USC or Utah. They won't see UCLA or Arizona until a possible championship and avoid Colorado, which swept them in the regular season.
Worst draw: This is one example of the No. 1 seed not always working to a team's advantage. UCLA gets a quarterfinal game against either Stanford or Arizona State. Both of those teams will be playing desperate and have the talent to beat anyone in the conference. If the Bruins get to the semifinals, they will face either Arizona, Colorado or Oregon State. Arizona and Colorado played for the title last season and, if healthy, have the stuff to get back to the title game again.
Three players to watch:
• Allen Crabbe, G, Cal— The conference's player of the year and scoring leader (18.6 ppg). He can do a lot of damage in a variety of ways and can be a matchup nightmare.
• Mark Lyons, G, Arizona — A veteran point guard who knows what it takes to win at this time of year. He helped Xavier make a deep run in the NCAA tournament before transferring to Arizona.
• Shabazz Muhammad, G/F, UCLA — A co-freshman of the year in the conference who led his team in scoring and 3-point shooting and was second in assists. He does a little of everything and he does it well.
Bubble implications: Each of the top five seeds appears to be safely in the NCAA tournament regardless of what happens here, though is Colorado loses a second straight time to last-place Oregon State and Andre Roberson remains out with an illness, it could cost the Buffs in seeding for the NCAA bracket at the very least. Arizona State is on the outside looking in at this point and must win four games in four days as Colorado did a year ago to punch its ticket. The Sun Devils might be able to earn at-large bid if they play in the championship game and play well there. Stanford is in the same boat.
Projected champ: UCLA. In a league marked by inconsistency, stick with talent. When the Bruins are on the same page, they can be formidable. An ugly stumble in the next-to-last game of the regular season at Washington State is a concern, but this team won five of its final six games. Plus, there are plenty of questions about the other challengers. What happened to Oregon in the final week? Which Cal team will show up? Without a gift victory against Colorado, Arizona wouldn't be a top-four seed.
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