The 2020 Pac-12 Tournament bracket has taken shape after another crazy week of Pac-12 Basketball. Oregon showed why they are the favorites to win this week’s tournament in Las Vegas, while last-place Washington shocked both Arizona and Arizona State. Officiating took some of the spotlight as teams jockeyed for position in the conference tournament.
Oregon Cements Front-Runner Status Ahead of Pac-12 Tournament
Oregon defended their home court against California and Stanford, and they are looking like the frontrunners in Las Vegas this week. Payton Pritchard has had a great senior season, and is the favorite to win Pac-12 Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Year. Pritchard should also be included in conversations for the Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year award. He has averaged 20.5 points per game this season and shot 46.8 percent from the field. Pritchard has been one of the most efficient players and will have a chance to lead his team to a second straight Pac-12 Tournament Championship this week.
USC Beats UCLA, Teams Could Meet Again In Pac-12 Tournament Semis
USC and UCLA played in a classic defensive duel on Saturday. With one second remaining Jonah Mathews made a 3-point shot in his last game at the Galen Center. USC got a much-needed win that helps their cause on Selection Sunday. UCLA is squarely on the bubble, but this loss does not diminish the turnaround they have had this season. The Bruins will be the two seed in Las Vegas, and USC will be the three seed. These teams could meet again in the Pac-12 semis. Both USC and UCLA can cement their tournament bids by winning games in the Pac-12 Tournament. However, both the Bruins and Trojans will face nerve wracking Selection Sundays if they are unable to get at least one win in Las Vegas.
Washington Shocks Both Arizona State and Arizona On Road
Washington poses a threat in the Pac-12 Tournament next week. They played excellent against both Arizona State and Arizona. They won both these games by playing the types of games their opponents are used to playing. The Huskies may also be getting back point guard Quade Green, who was declared academically ineligible in January. It is unclear if Green will play in the Pac-12 Tournament. If he does, he will add another dimension to a suddenly dangerous Husky team. Washington is considered a dark horse to win the Pac-12 Tournament but will have to do so as the last place team in the conference. Also, they have to play Arizona again on Wednesday in Las Vegas.
Arizona State Backs Their Way into Pac-12 Tournament First Round Bye
Arizona State took a huge step back against Washington, but they were able to beat Washington State on Saturday. A point of concern in ASU’s victory against the Cougars is that they relinquished a 17-point lead in the second half. They were able to make enough plays to get a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament, but the Sun Devils are also not a lock to make the Tournament field.
Arizona Tournament Bound, But Struggles Showing
Arizona has done enough to make the tournament, but they have struggled during the back end of the season. The Wildcats are 1-4 in their last five games, with their only win coming last Thursday against Washington State at home. Their offensive woes have shown, as they only had five made field goals in the first half of their 69-63 loss against Washington. Arizona is like a lot of teams in the conference, as they do not have one player that can elevate them to victory on a consistent basis. Nico Mannion and Zeke Nnaji, who are both freshmen, have shown why they were top recruits at Arizona. However, they have not been able to lift the Wildcats to victory lately.
Colorado Is Simply Searching For Answers
The Buffaloes lost a controversial overtime game at Utah 74-72. Up 72-71, McKinley Wright was called for a foul on Utah guard Both Gach’s three-point shot. It was unclear if Wright even made contact with Gach on the play. However, Wright missed a pivotal free throw on the previous sequence. If Wright makes the first free throw, the Buffaloes get a chance to possibly go up by three points.
The Buffaloes were having a dream season, but a four-game losing streak has left them searching for answers. In reality, they ended the 2020 Pac-12 conference season with the same record (10-8) they had last year. This team is tournament-bound due to their performance in non-conference play, namely their win against a possible 1-seed in Dayton. However, they need to recapture the swagger they played with in January and the early part of February to have any shot at making noise in the postseason.
However, it is frustrating that the result of this game was basically determined on an official’s call at the end of overtime. Teams such as Colorado had everything to play for this past weekend, and the officials took center stage. Critical junctures in seasons call for players to perform at their best, and the Pac-12 needs to make sure their officials are performing at their best this week in the Pac-12 Tournament. Let the conference champion be determined by good basketball, not bad officiating.
Non-Conference Wins Difference for Presumptive Tournament Locks In Pac-12
Teams such as Stanford and UCLA are in precarious positions because they do not have a non-conference win that stands out. UCLA’s best win arguably was their road win against Colorado in Boulder, and Stanford’s best win is against Oregon at home. However, multiple teams, including Washington State and Oregon State, beat Oregon at home this season. There has been so much parity in Pac-12 conference play, that the teams that are considered safe bets to make the tournament are in that position because of how they performed in non-conference play. Oregon has huge wins against Seton Hall and Michigan. Colorado has a huge win against Dayton. Arizona has a quality non-conference win against Illinois.
The Pac-12 will get at least five teams into the tournament, but there are four teams (Arizona State, USC, UCLA, and Stanford) that face an uncertain Selection Sunday at this point. All four of these teams have arguments to get in the field, but some of their bubbles may burst on Selection Sunday. However, every team in the conference has a chance to make the tournament by winning the Pac-12 Tournament this week. With all the parity that has presided over the conference this season, it should be a fun tournament this week.