Tournament: Men's Team-by-team Previews
by Michelle Smith
No. 1 Seed: Arizona (25-6, 14-4)
Behind standout sophomore Derrick Williams, the Wildcats won their first Pac-10 regular-season title since 2005 and posted Arizona's best victory total in 13 years. Now it's time to win a tournament title. Williams is one of the top players in the nation this season. The 6-foot-8 forward set the school record for free-throw attempts and is the conference's second-leading scorer and fifth-leading rebounder. Arizona is the top perimeter-shooting team in the conference. In two seasons, coach Sean Miller has brought the Wildcats back into the ranks of the national elite. A conference tournament title would mark another step in the climb.
No. 2 Seed: UCLA (22-9, 13-5)
The Bruins, one of the hottest teams in the nation, posted a 7-2 record in the second half of Pac-10 play and finished second in the conference standings. One of the strongest attributes of Ben Howland's team this season has been offensive balance with three players - Reeves Nelson, Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt - averaging at least 12.4 points a game. Nelson is the team's leading scorer at 14.2 points and its leading rebounder at 8.9 per game.
No. 3 Seed: Washington (20-10, 11-7)
The Huskies, the preseason favorite to win the league title, lost three of their final five games heading into postseason play and settled into the No. 3 seed. Two of those three losses came with a combined total of five points. But the Huskies are still the Pac-10's highest scoring team with one of its top players in junior guard and co-captain Isaiah Thomas. The Huskies feel like they need another win or two to secure an NCAA Tournament berth and will be looking to repeat last year's performance as Pac-10 Tournament champs.
No. 4 Seed: USC (18-13, 10-8)
The Trojans come into the conference tournament on a roll, with five wins in six games including victories over Arizona and Washington. USC is playing the stingiest defense in the Pac-10, allowing opponents just 62.9 points a game. The Trojans have one of the most dominant front-lines in the conference. Junior forward Nikola Vucevic is averaging 17.7 points a game, third in the Pac-10 and is the league's top rebounder at 10.3 per game. He's trailed in the No. 2 spot by teammate Alex Stepheson at 9.0 rebounds a game.
No. 5 Seed: Cal (17-13, 10-8)
The Bears, completely remade since winning the Pac-10 title a year ago, are a dangerous tournament team with a four-game winning streak coming into Staples Center, the longest current streak in the competitive Pac-10. Cal has experienced its share of close games this Pac-10 season, with eight games decided by four points or less. Four of the Bears' five scorers are averaging double figures and the Bears boast one of the league's top freshmen in guard Allen Crabbe, who has hit 54 three-pointers this season. Coach Mike Montgomery said that winning 17 games in a season in which he replaced four starters is "fabulous."
No. 6 Seed: Washington State (19-11, 9-9)
The Cougars come into the conference tournament with two wins in the final three games and the regular-season ending loss came in overtime against UCLA. Washington State ranks among the top four teams in the conference in scoring offense and scoring defense and have had some big wins this season, including a sweep of rival Washington. But the Cougars have faced their share of adversity of late. Junior Klay Thompson, the Pac-10's leading scorer, was suspended for the final game of the regular season, and it's unclear whether injured point guard Reggie Moore will be able to play in the tournament after injuring his ankle last Thursday.
No. 7 Seed: Oregon (14-16, 7-11)
Oregon proved itself a dangerous team with a run of four wins in five games at midseason. But the Ducks appeared to lose some of that momentum down the stretch with four straight losses. The Ducks' Joevan Catron is coming off a 28-point game against Arizona and eclipsed 1,000 career points in the final weekend of the season. Oregon put up 50 points in the second half of their Saturday loss to Arizona, the best-scoring half in conference play this season.
No. 8 Seed: Stanford (15-15, 7-11)
The young Cardinal broke a four-game losing streak down the stretch to win two of their last three games and have some momentum coming into the Pac-10 Tournament. The Cardinal have been one of the best defensive teams in the Pac-10 all season, ranking No. 2 in the conference in scoring defense. Johnny Dawkins' team does not have a senior on the roster and has two freshmen in the starting lineup in Dwight Powell and Anthony Brown. Junior guard Jeremy Green has been Stanford's steadying force, averaging 16.5 points a game. Green is second in the Pac-10 with 81 three-pointers.
No. 9 Seed: Oregon State (10-19, 5-13)
After a quick start out the gate in Pac-10 play, it's been a rough season for the Beavers who come into the tournament with seven losses in the last eight games. Freshman Roberto Nelson had a career-high 34 points in the season-finale against Arizona State, a game in which several players, including leading scorer Jared Cunningham, sat out because of a violation of team rules. All will be back for the conference tournament.
No. 10 Seed: Arizona State (12-18, 4-14)
It's an up-note finish for the Sun Devils who head into the Pac-10 Tournament with three wins of their four Pac-10 wins coming in the last five games. In fact, ASU finished with back-to-back wins for the first time since December. The Sun Devils are trying to make things happen from the perimeter, attempting 76 three-pointers in the last two games. The Sun Devils are averaging 63.8 points a game for the season, but have picked up their scoring of late, averaging 76.5 points in the last two.
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