Well, it’s that time of the year again. With the simple turn of a page from February to March, everyone all of a sudden becomes a college basketball expert.
With March Madness just around the corner, the hype and anticipation are beginning to boil over and reach an all-time high.
However, before we can get to the Big Dance, we have to make it through the smaller dances first. So before we can even think about rooting on USC or UCLA in the NCAA tournament, we have to make it through the Pac-12 conference tournament – which tips off in just a few days.
Here, I’ll break down every California team’s chances at succeeding in the tournament, as well as my thoughts on who will be the team to eventually cut down the nets.
While seeding is yet to be determined since games remain on the schedule, we have a decent enough understanding as to where certain teams will fall. Let’s get right into it.
Pac-12 Tournament schedule
These conference tournaments go by in the blink of an eye–so if you aren’t aware of when or where games are being played, you can very easily miss them.
Here’s a complete breakdown of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament Schedule (all times Pacific):
- First Round: Wednesday, Mar. 9; four games from 12 – 8:30 pm
- Second Round: Thursday, Mar. 10; four games from 12 – 8:30 pm
- Semifinals: Friday, Mar. 11; two games, 6 pm PT and 8:30 pm
- Championship: Saturday, Mar. 12; 6 pm
Can USC overcome their in-conference opponents?
The Trojans have consistently been one of the best teams in college basketball this season. They are currently ranked No. 17 in the nation with a record of 25-5 (with one game against UCLA still to come).
USC has one of the most dominant frontcourts in the conference. They manage to grab an average of 40.7 rebounds per game, which is good enough for 20th in the nation.
They also average nearly five blocks per game, so trying to get anything done in the paint against the Trojans may be tough.
Where the Trojans have shown some cracks in their armor, however, is their inconsistency within conference play. All five of the Trojan’s losses this year have come from in-conference opponents, including two at the hands of powerhouse Arizona.
While I like USC’s chances to make it deep in the PAC-12 Tournament and March Madness, I do not like their chances at a Pac-12 title this year.
High hopes for UCLA to upset
Now, this is where I can see some upsets happening. UCLA boasts the same conference record as USC, but where they differ is the quality of their in-conference wins.
UCLA has a win over Arizona on the season, and has a chance to avenge their loss to USC in their final game of the season Saturday.
The Bruins also boast a big early-season win over No. 4 Villanova. And despite a 1-3 stretch mid-season, the Bruins have shown plenty of consistency this year. They’re just outside of the top-50 offenses in the country and have an explosive and experienced fleet of guards leading the offense.
Juniors Johnny Juzang, Jules Bernard, and Tyger Campbell all average over 11 points per game. Senior guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. adds fuel to the fire with 12.8 points per game of his own.
This UCLA team has the experience and depth that can make for a deep tournament run. It’s not overly likely, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they could pull a bit of an upset by defeating Arizona.
Better luck next time, Stanford
Stanford has had trouble staying in the win column all season long. They have one of the worst scoring offenses in the country (ranked 336th) and boast an 8-11 conference record on the season.
The Cardinal will almost definitely not have a seat at the March Madness table this year, barring a miraculous run in Las Vegas. Stranger things have occurred, but I just don’t see it happening.
California Golden Bears are not so golden
Speaking of things I don’t see happening, you can add the Golden Bears winning a game in the conference tournament to that list. I don’t intend to be mean, but California has shown no signs of being a competitive team this year.
They have a great talent in senior guard Jordan Sheperd, but they have never been able to capitalize on his offensive ability. California ranks 381st in scoring offense on the season, and only accumulates 10.7 assists per game.
Final Pac-12 predictions
I think the Pac-12 Tournament Champion is going to come from outside California this year.
Between Arizona, Oregon, and (sleeper team) Colorado, I think there is way too much competition for any of these California teams to celebrate a championship in the first version of March tournament play.
I feel like UCLA has a solid chance if they get a favorable bracket draw. However, with games against any of those three teams previously mentioned likely ahead, I’m not overly confident.
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