Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament storylines
The Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament tips off Wednesday at noon PT at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Pac-12 Networks will broadcast eight tournament games live while Fox Sports1 will carry one quarterfinal game, one semifinal game and Saturday's championship. Storylines worth watching for include:
Top 'Cats A loss to Oregon on Saturday sent Arizona into the postseason on a down note, but what does that mean? On the one hand, the Wildcats enter the postseason looking vulnerable and with the possibility of an overall NCAA tournament top seed in jeopardy. On the other hand, the Wildcats will have a sense of urgency about them in Las Vegas. We'll find out which way this breaks on Thursday when Arizona debuts vs. either Utah or Washington.
[Related: Latest Pac-12 Tournament Bracket]
Resumes Builders Six Pac-12 teams are in the RPI top 50 and projected to make the NCAA tournament as of this moment, but the selection committe is famously unpredictable. Arizona and UCLA seemingly are locks but others will want to leave a favorable impression on the committee.
Flying High The Ducks started the year 13-0, went 2-8 over their next 10 games, then finished the regular season with seven straight victories. Being streaky isn't relaxing, but streaky teams also make for dangerous NCAA squads. Dana Altman's squad faces rival Oregon State in Wednesday's first round.
Year of the Freshman Arizona forward Aaron Gordon enters the postseason with averages of 12.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game, but other freshmen are equeally indespensible. Washington point guard Nigel Williams-Goss is averaging 13.3 points, 4.4 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game. UCLA's guard duo Zach LaVine and Bryce Alford have been a force for Bruins coach Steve Alford, while Sean Miller also has relied heavily upon forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Cal's rotation includes freshmen swingmen Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews.
Last Time Out? The Pac-12 Tournament will be the last chance to see a number of notable Pac-12 players outside the NCAA tournament. Notable seniors include Cal's Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon, Oregon State's Roberto Nelson, Oregon's Johnathan Lloyd and Mike Moser, Stanford's Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell, and Arizona State's Jordan Bachynski, the Conference's all-time blocks record-holder. Speedy ASU point guard Jahii Carson has been talking about going pro for a while now, and there are bound to be other early-entry candidates.
Great Debate Arizona's Nick Johnson was named the Conference Player of the Year on Monday for his overall excellence, but other Pac-12 players have individual strengths worthy of acclaim. Beavers guard Roberto Nelson (20.6 points per game) is the best offensive weapon and the league's only 20-point per game scorer. Carson (18.9 points, 4.5 assists per game) is the perhaps the most dynamic in using his speed to change the complexion of games. Utes guard Delon Wright is the definition of efficient by shooting 58.4 percent overall while averaging 16.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.6 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. Kyle Anderson (4.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game) is UCLA's 6-9 point guard, and Washington State's DaVonte Lacy (19.1 points per game) arguably is more valuable to the Cougars than any other Pac-12 player is to their team. There's plenty of great to go around.
Who's best? That question and others will be settled on the court, starting Wednesday.