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2017 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament

Presented by New York Life
Event: March 8-11
T-Mobile Arena | Las Vegas, NV

2017 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament first round preview: No. 7 Colorado vs. No. 10 Washington State

Mar 8, 2017

When: Wednesday, March 8 at 6 p.m. PT / 7 p.m. MT
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada
TV: Pac-12 Network, Mountain and Washington
On the call: Ted Robinson, Bill Walton and Lewis Johnson
Live stream:

LAS VEGAS –​ Two of the Pac-12’s most experienced squads will face off on Wednesday night in the third matchup of the first round. Both Washington State and Colorado feature a host of seniors and upperclassmen in their starting fives, at a time when underclassmen are garnering a lion’s share of the headlines.

Colorado and WSU have faced off twice this year with starkly different results. On Jan. 21, the Cougars claimed a 91-89 overtime win over the Buffs in Pullman. Then on Feb. 12 in Boulder, the Buffs shot the lights out en route to an 81-49 win.

“[I expect] a close matchup,” said Washington State coach Ernie Kent. “In this conference, I just think those of us that are in the bottom half [of the standings] are just so balanced in so many ways. I think they’re all going to be good games.”

No. 7 Colorado (18-13 overall, 8-10 Pac-12)

If the Buffs want to put on their dancing shoes, they’ll have to go on a deep tournament run in Sin City. Ever since suffering the tough overtime defeat to the Cougs in late January, Colorado has posted an impressive 8-3 mark in Pac-12 play, including a 74-65 win over top Pac-12 seed Oregon on Jan. 28.

“They’re a very physical team,” Kent said. “[Colorado coach Tad Boyle]’s done a nice job recovering from their 0-7 start [in conference play] and they’re playing with a lot more swag now than they were early on. “

Players to watch

Derrick White, G, Senior
Height/weight: 6-5, 200
Key stats: 17 ppg, 4.3 apg, 3.9 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 1.3 spg

White was named one of 10 First Team All-Pac-12 selections earlier this year after putting together a stellar campaign for the Buffs. He can do a little bit of everything and has made the most of his single season in Division I hoops after starting his college career with D-II University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Xavier Johnson, G/F, Senior
Height/weight: 6-7, 225
Key stats: 14.5 ppg, 6 rpg, 39.3 3FG%

The versatile Johnson has always been a matchup headache for opposing teams. On one hand he’s got size and the ability to put the ball on the floor to get to the rim, but you also have to respect his shooting from the outside.

No. 10 Washington State (13-17 overall, 6-12 Pac-12)

Kent has relied heavily on a quartet of seniors this season – Josh Hawkinson, Ike Iroegbu, Conor Clifford and Charles Callison – but the Cougars stumbled in the second half of conference play, going 2-7 since Feb. 1. Along with flashy freshman wing Malachi Flynn, the Cougars feature a balanced scoring attack but rank 10th in Pac-12 scoring defense (76.8 points allowed per game).

“Our games with [Colorado] have been pretty close over the past two years, for the most part,” Kent said. “We just need to make sure have our mental toughness and our physical toughness.”

Players to watch

Josh Hawkinson, F, Senior
Height/weight: 6-10, 230
Key stats: 15.6 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 53.0 FG%

The big fella has been a staple of the Cougars program during his time in Pullman, improving his scoring average every season since his freshman year. A reliable post presence, Hawkinson can also stretch out defenses with his mid-range game. Not to mention he ranks second in the league in rebounding, something he’s always excelled at.

Ike Iroegbu, G, Senior
Height/weight: 6-2, 195
Key stats: 12.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.6 apg

Who doesn’t like Ike? It seems like the point guard only knows one speed: really, really fast. Iroegbu makes a living by driving past his defender and mucking up opposing defenses, whether he’s looking to score or dish it off to his teammates. Iroegbu played a huge role in the overtime win over Colorado with 20 points but was bottled up and held to just 5 points in the blowout loss in February.