The Pac-12 Conference doesn’t have many ranked teams in the country’s Top 25 and there is no clear team that seems set to dominate in a potential NCAA Tournament scheme. However, that doesn’t mean the upcoming Pac-12 Tournament won’t be interesting or exciting. All signs point towards this tournament being a three-team race between the three top programs this year, and that’s exactly how we will preview it here.
We will be focusing on three teams: the USC Trojans, the Oregon Ducks and the Colorado Buffaloes.
The Ducks sit at the top of the Pac-12 standings with a 13-4 record in conference play and an 18-5 mark during the entire season, and they’ve been the most consistent team in the Conference. They have played the fewest overall games in the Pac-12 alongside Utah and Arizona State, but those two teams have posted losing records (both in Pac-12 play and overall). The Ducks are the hottest team in the region with a 9-2 record and four straight wins before Sunday’s tilt — three of them by at least eight points of margin. The play of Chris Duarte will be instrumental for Oregon, as he leads the team on both ends of the court, while the support of elements such as L.J. Figueroa and Amauri Hardy will be key for Oregon. They are the team to watch in the Pac-12 Tournament and the biggest favorite. The Ducks have also been a prolific tournament team in the past few years. Oregon may not get a lot of respect from the people who make college basketball expert picks, but this is a team that has proven they can play in March.
The Trojans sit in second place of the Pac-12 Conference with a 15-5 mark in conference play while going 21-6 overall, and while their record is impressive in their own right, it’s worth mentioning they might not be entering the Pac-12 Tournament in their best form since they’ve gone “only” 3-3 in their last six contests. The Trojans certainly stand out in the rebounding department since they’re a Top 30 team nationwide with 39.9 boards per game, good for the 26th-best mark in the country. The Trojans should be motivated for the Tourney, though, as they won their final game of the regular season with a last-second shot against the UCLA Bruins. The play of Evan Mobley has been instrumental for the Trojans, as he’s averaging 16.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game — he has been the team’s top contributor on both ends of the court. The Trojans certainly look like a favorite in the Pac-12 tournament, though the Oregon Ducks and Colorado are clearly their top favorites.
The Buffaloes ended the regular season on a strong note with a 75-61 win over Arizona State in their regular-season finale, and that means they head into the Pac-12 Tourney in a four-game winning run while coming out on top in seven of their last nine contests. Colorado owns a 14-6 record in conference play and has gone 20-7 overall — even though they’ve recorded more wins than Oregon, who sits first in the Pac-12 standings, they’ve also suffered two more losses. Colorado has McKinley Wright IV as their best player, as he’s pacing the team in points (15.3), assists (5.7) and steals (1.1) per contest. The Buffaloes, who are ranked #24 in the country’s Top 25 ranking, could be a team to watch and are certainly a sleeper team in the Pac-12 Tournament this year, particularly due to their impressive results in recent weeks. They should be, however, a step or two below USC and Oregon before the start of the Tourney. Out of the three teams here Colorado was the lowest ranked team in the preseason polls so you can see they weren’t exactly a consensus pick to go that far this season, can Colorado keep defying the odds and make it far in March?