Are Arizona and UCLA able to succeed in Las Vegas?
Only one of the two teams will make it to Las Vegas this weekend. Both have legitimate NCAA title goals that they can reach over the next month.
However, it should look relatively easy on paper.
Basics of the Pac-12 Tournament
T-Mobile Arena | Las Vegas
TV: ESPN, Pac-12 Network
Betting Favorite (via BetMGM): UCLA (+120), Arizona (+200)
[Free bracket contests for men’s & women’s tourneys for shot at $25K]
Pac-12 Tournament Bracket
UCLA and Arizona are top Pac-12 runners
Two legitimate title contenders are part of the Pac-12. Outside of that, however, there isn’t much.
Both Arizona and UCLA have had strong seasons, and both have remained in the top-10 most of the year. They seem on track for a rematch of last year’s title game in Las Vegas, and both look capable of mounting a big NCAA tournament run. Jaime Jaquez led UCLA on a 10-game winning streak, with 22 points in Saturday’s win over Arizona.
The Wildcats and the Bruins are expected to play in the title game, unless something happens. The repeat battle should be great fun, considering that the regular season series was decided in single digits every time.
Arizona State is in crisis: Help needed
Arizona State enters the Pac-12 tournament right on the bubble of the NCAA tournament, and how it ended the season didn’t help any.
After beating Arizona with a wild buzzerbeater, the Sun Devils lost their next two games to UCLA (and USC) in a row. Their conference resume isn’t that impressive, as they fell to both the Bruins and the Trojans twice and split with Arizona. Their big wins from last fall, aside from the win over the Wildcats which was a very lucky one, seem like a distant memory.
Arizona State will need to beat Oregon State and then defeat USC in the first round if it is to qualify for the NCAA tournament. Anything less than this will keep them on the bubble or send them to the NIT.
Sleeper Pick: USC
If it’s not UCLA or Arizona, it has to be USC.
And that’s not a slight to USC, it’s just that the rest of the conference drops off after that.
Although the Trojans will likely be in the NCAA tournament, a strong run would strengthen that and increase their seeding. This didn’t look good as of Monday. In order to pull this off, however, the Trojans will likely have to get past Arizona — which they lost two twice already — after making it out of the first round. The Los Angeles rivalry is a great title game. However, the Bruins are in a better place there. Arizona State and Oregon would be the other two teams in contention. However, that feels like a very long shot.
But hey, UCLA’s last loss this season came at the hands of USC back in January. Boogie Ellis had a good season and scored almost 27 points in five of the Trojans last five games. It’s certainly possible Ellis and the Trojans could get past UCLA once more.
Our Choice: Arizona over UCLA
The Bruins haven’t lost since mid-January, and they just handled Arizona at home. They’ll get Arizona this time and avenge last year’s loss in the title game in Las Vegas.