Sports Out West

Pac-12 Tournament 2014: Can UCLA or Oregon unseat Arizona?

Pac 12 Basketball

The 2014 Pacific-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament is scheduled for March 12-15 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV. It will be the third year the tournament has been played in Las Vegas and the winner will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Favorites:

The #3 Arizona Wildcats will be coming into the tournament holding the top seed and should continue their winning ways through to the big tournament. Other than a few small hiccups against the California Golden Bears and their instate rival Arizona State Sun Devils, the Wildcats have made an easy run through the conference and should close out the season with a 16-2 conference record. Look to see them not face much competition until the championship game against a UCLA team that should find itself in a more difficult area. The Wildcats came away with the win in Los Angeles when the two teams met earlier this season.

The UCLA Bruins have struggled recently with losses to Oregon and Stanford, but should finish the season on a three-game win streak. This will give the Bruins a 13-5 conference record and the number two seed in the tournament. Along with Arizona, UCLA should make it to the championship game without too much trouble, but will have to overcome a great deal to come away with a guaranteed NCAA tournament bid. The Bruins will need to build off the momentum of closing out the season strong and put their struggles behind them if they hope to be crowned the tournament champions.

Dark Horses:

The biggest dark horse coming into the tournament has to be the Oregon Ducks after coming into their final game of the season against Arizona on a six game win streak. While they struggled throughout their conference schedule and should be coming into the tournament with a 9-9 record, they have the momentum necessary to pose a real threat. Their win over Arizona State to avenge their two point loss to the Sun Devils February 8 gives them the confidence to show that they can compete with the top teams. Their final game against Arizona will say a lot about their stock going into the tournament. If they can keep the game close and prove they are able to keep up with the top team in the conference, it could push them to a higher level.

The Arizona State Sun Devils are another team that could make a deep run through the tournament under the right circumstances. Their biggest problem is showing that they can handle the pressures of being a big game team. After their upset of instate rival Arizona, they had two of their worst games in recent history in losses to Colorado and Utah. Losing to Oregon also puts them on shaky ground going into their final game of the season against Oregon State to try and lock up a three seed in the tournament. Their biggest advantage is that they hold the tie breaker against Colorado for that spot and need to simply close out the season on a high note to put themselves in the best position possible. The Sun Devils will need to put their issues behind them if they have any hope of making it past the Bruins in the likely semifinal match up.

Players to watch:

Arizona junior guard Nick Johnson looks to propel his Wildcats into the NCAA Tournament with a Pac-12 Tournament Championship to go along with the regular season title they have already secured. Johnson has averages 16 points in just over 32 minutes per game as he looks to lead the Wildcats to a 16-2 conference record and a six game win streak to close out the season. It won’t come easy for Johnson and the Wildcats as they will likely have to play the UCLA Bruins and sophomore guard Kyle Anderson.

Anderson has averages 14.9 points in just over 33 minutes per game to help his Bruins secure a number two seed coming into the tournament. His team will need him to step up throughout the tournament if they hope to overcome their regular season hurdles and make a run through the tournament.

Photo via Mark J. Terrill

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Matthew Fitzgerald

Matthew Fitzgerald is a Las Vegas resident who is an expert on all things sports. Being from Las Vegas has given him the opportunity to develop a love for an assortment of teams that include the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Dodgers, as well as his hometown UNLV Rebels.