2015 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament

Presented by New York Life
March 11-14 | MGM Grand Garden Arena

Pac-12 Tournament: Quarterfinal field features pair of surprises

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Eric Evans Photography

LAS VEGAS – The 2015 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament opened on Wednesday in Sin City with a quality quartet of games that kept fans entertrained all day long.

How 'bout doing it all over again?

The MGM Grand Garden Arena will host four more contests on Thursday, as the quarterfinals will pit the conference's remaining eight teams against one another for a shot to advance to the semifinals. Fans can receive free access to Pac-12 Networks' broadcasts of Thursday's first three games (12 p.m. PT, 2:30 p.m. PT, and 6 p.m. PT) on Pac-12.com or the Pac-12 Now app, while the 8:30 p.m. PT tip-off will be shown on ESPN.

Here are key storylines for each matchup on tap.

(1) Arizona vs. (8) Cal

Time: 12 p.m. PT

Broadcast: Pac-12 Networks including free access on Pac-12.com and Pac-12 Now

Outlook: If this contest goes anything like the first two between these teams, Cal doesn't stand a chance on paper. Arizona handed the Bears a 73-50 loss on Jan. 24 in Berkeley before routing them 99-60 last Thursday in Tucson. But Cal looked like a completely different team on Wednesday, shooting the lights out in an 84-59 win over Washington State in the 2015 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament opener. The Bears shot 58.5 percent from the field against the Cougars, draining 8-of-12 attempts from three-point range.

The Wildcats present a host of matchup problems for the Bears, especially down low. Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski and forward Brandon Ashley give the Wildcats a big size advantage, putting a lot of pressure on Cal senior David Kravish, who dropped a career-high 25 points on Wednesday. While Cal's guard group of Tyrone Wallace, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews will give Arizona a handful, the Wildcats are a deeper team with a lot of talent in the post. Unless the Bears find a way to control the paint, it could be another long day against the Pac-12's top seed.

Not that Cal coach Cuonzo Martin is backing down from the challenge.

"I don't know if it's daunting," Martin said of the Arizona matchup. "You're playing against an opponent in your league. We didn't play well at their place the last game. We'll make adjustments and go from there. Again, you're playing basketball, it's a neutral court game, opponent in your league. Prepare yourelf to win the ballgame."

With explosive point guard T.J. McConnell running the show, Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on the wing, and Gabe York coming off the bench, the Wildcats can beat you in a multitude of ways. There's a reason why they're 28-3 and in the running for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

(4) UCLA vs. (12) USC

Time: 2:30 p.m. PT

Broadcast: Pac-12 Networks including free access on Pac-12.com and Pac-12 Now

Outlook: There will be a lot of L.A. flavor in the building for the second contest on Thursday when the Bruins and Trojans battle it out.

USC is the No. 12 seed here, but the Trojans to be feeling confident after Wednesday's thrilling 67-64 comeback victory over No. 4 seed Arizona State, marking the tournament's first upset. But the Trojans want to keep this Cinderella run going, they'll have to slow down Norman Powell and a UCLA team trying to play its way into the NCAA Tournament.

For USC's Julian Jacobs, there's nothing wrong with being the underdog.

"That's how we approach every game," Jacobs said. "Being the last team in the Pac, teams can't really afford to lose to us. We're aware they're on the bubble of making the tournament and we'd love to stop them from making the tournament as well. And also, we've never beat them. So it would be a great win for us, too."

Elijah Stewart stole the show with 27 points against the Sun Devils on Wednesday, and he has to be considered the focus for UCLA's defense. If there's an area where the Bruins could exploit the Trojans, it's on the block. Nikola Jovanovic had a big block in Wednesday's win, but he'll need a lot of help against UCLA's imposing frontcourt that includes Kevon Looney, Tony Parker and Thomas Welsh.

(2) Oregon vs. (10) Colorado

Time: 6 p.m. PT

Broadcast: Pac-12 Networks including free access on Pac-12.com and Pac-12 Now

Outlook: The Oregon Ducks caught a lot of people by surprise this season, securing the No. 2 seed for the Pac-12 Tournament despite having an inexperienced group of youngsters leading the charge. Meanwhile, Colorado has battled injury issues all season long, but are a popular darkhorse pick to shake up the Pac-12 Tourament with a healthy roster.

The Buffs featured a balanced scoring attack in Wednesday's 78-71 win over Oregon State, led by Josh Scott's impressive 16-point, 14-rebound double-double. But the last time these two teams met on Feb. 18, Colorado couldn't keep pace with the Ducks in a 73-60 Oregon win in Eugene.

"It's going to be a great challenge," CU coach Tad Boyle said of the Oregon matchup. "But we've got to take advantage of the mismatches that we have, and it should be a heck of a game. I've got a lot of respect for their program and their players. But I have a lot of respect for ours, too."

Pac-12 Player of the Year Joseph Young dropped 23 points in that Feb. 18 matchup against Colorado, and it will be entertaining to see him battle against fellow guard Askia Booker. Young led all scorers in Pac-12 regular season play with 19.8 points per game, propelling the conference's second-best scoring offense (76.0 ppg) only behind Arizona (76.6). 

Both of these teams love to run in transition and push the tempo, so don't be surprised if this one ends up in a shootout.

(3) Utah vs. (6) Stanford

Time: 8:30 p.m. PT

Broadcast: ESPN, WatchESPN

Outlook: Stanford can give its slim NCAA tournament hopes another boost with a win Thursday over 17th-ranked Utah a night after senior guard Chasson Randle hit a three-pointer with less than three seconds remaining to send the Cardinal to a 71-69 win over 11th-seeded Washington.

The win improved Stanford to 19-12 (9-9 Pac-12), so it likely needs to make a run to the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals to gain serious consideration for the Big Dance. Otherwise, an NIT bid is likely. The Cardinal played the Utes just once during the regular season, a 75-59 loss Feb. 12 at the Huntsman Center. 

Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said his team is prepping for another physical contest against the Runnin' Utes.

"We just need to get our rest, get ready to come out and compete," Dawkins said. "We can't let fatigue be an excuse. We can't have any excuses. What we need to do is focus on Utah. They're a very good team, terrific coach, they're having a fantastic season."

However, the Cardinal does have the benefit of being a veteran-laden team that made it all the way to the Sweet 16 last season. That included a win over national juggernaut Kansas. Hence, coach Johnny Dawkins' squad is no stranger to big games. It knows it needs to keep winning to keep its NCAA Tournament dream alive. And Utah isn't necessarily playing its best, after nearly getting upset by Washington State before losing to the laboring Huskies in Seattle on their final road trip of the conference season. 

Plus, the Utes (23-7, 13-5 Pac-12) have all but locked up a bid to the Big Dance. 

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