Pac-10 Basketball Tournament Returns After 12-year Absence

March 6, 2002

AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) - It's time for one-and-done basketball.

After a 12-year absence, the Pac-10 Conference resumes its postseasontournament Thursday, with eight teams competing for the league's automatic bidto the NCAA tournament.

'You can certainly look at it as a NCAA preparation tournament, thepressure of the games,' Oregon coach Ernie Kent said Wednesday. 'You cancertainly use that to strengthen your team in terms of getting ready for nextweek.'

The Pac-10 last held a tournament from 1987-90, with Arizona winning threetimes and UCLA taking the first title.

This season, Oregon earned the top seed by winning its first outright titlesince 1939. Its 14-4 record was two games better than California, SouthernCalifornia, Stanford and Arizona.

The Ducks will play No. 8 seed Washington (5-13) in Thursday's first game ofthe single-elimination tournament at Staples Center. No. 4 USC faces No. 5Stanford in the second game.

The night games feature No. 2 Arizona and No. 7 Arizona State (7-11), whileNo. 3 California goes against No. 6 UCLA (11-7).

Other than Arizona's Lute Olson and Stanford's Mike Montgomery, most of thePac-10 coaches are enthusiastic about having a postseason tournament again.

'It's a three-game season for everybody who's playing,' Arizona Statecoach Rob Evans said. 'It's a microcosm of the NCAA tournament, one and you'redone.'

Oregon split its regular-season games with Washington, losing in Seattle andwinning at home, where the Ducks went 16-0 to tie a 64-year-old school record.

'As good as they were when we played them in Eugene, they're better now,'said Washington coach Bob Bender, whose team lost six of its final nine games.'This is our last chance to keep on playing.'

Another victory would give ninth-ranked Oregon (22-7) its most wins sincethe 1945 season, when the Ducks had 30. Oregon was picked to finish sixth inthe preseason media poll.

'We've taken a lot of teams' best shots along the way. We've had huge gamesabout the last 10 to 12 games of the season,' Kent said. 'They've done agreat job of handling themselves for a team that really wasn't picked to be putin that position.'

In other matchups:

USC vs. Stanford

The 22nd-ranked Trojans swept No. 16 Stanford this season, including a19-point victory that was the Cardinal's worst at home since 1993. USC won90-82 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

'We know they'll be gunning for us,' said USC's Sam Clancy, who has had 17games with double-figure scoring and rebounding this season.

Stanford features the Pac-10's leading scorer and rebounder and shotblocker. Casey Jacobsen averages 22.2 points, while 7-footer Curtis Borchardtaverages 11.3 rebounds and 2.88 blocks.

Arizona vs. Arizona State

These in-state rivals split their two games this season, with each winningat home. The 15th-ranked Wildcats stumbled a bit at the end, losing three oftheir final five games, including a road sweep by USC and UCLA in Los Angeles.

Arizona State lost its final three games after going 7-2 during a stretch inDecember and January.

During Wednesday's practice, forwards Awvee Storey and Chris Osbornecollided, resulting in stitches for both. 'They just bumped heads,' Evanssaid. 'It was a freak deal.'

Cal vs. UCLA

The teams split their games, with each winning at home. No. 25 Cal ended theregular season with a 99-53 loss at Arizona.

The Bruins' sixth-place finish was their worst ever in the Pac-10. Their65-62 loss to Oregon on Saturday kept them from grabbing a share of second.

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