5 storylines to watch at the 2022 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament
LAS VEGAS — The 2022 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament begins Wednesday at 12 p.m. PT as all 12 teams meet in T-Mobile Arena to play 11 games across four days.
The full bracket can be found here, and here are some storylines to keep an eye on.
Arizona is still hungry for more
The Wildcats are the obvious favorite to win the Pac-12 Tournament after they won the conference regular-season championship by three games and took home five of the six Pac-12 Annual Performance Awards.
Arizona has already done enough to secure a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but it still has plenty to show in Las Vegas, where Wildcat Nation always turns out in great numbers.
Remember: the 'Cats didn't get to experience the Pac-12 Tournament last season due to a self-imposed postseason ban. Pac-12 Defensive and Most Improved Player of the Year Christian Koloko told reporters that they are going to be "hungry" in their return to Las Vegas.
And the way the bracket lines up, they should be. The Wildcats could face Colorado in the semifinals and/or UCLA in the championship game, the two Pac-12 teams that managed to beat them in the regular season.
One more Crosstown Showdown?
As dominant as Arizona has been, the Pac-12 regular-season champion has not won the Pac-12 Tournament since 2018 when the Deandre Ayton-led Wildcats managed to sweep both titles.
No. 2-seeded UCLA and No. 3-seeded USC figure to be Arizona's toughest competition, though the 'Cats would only have to play one en route to the title game (should they make it that far).
Barring any upsets, UCLA and USC will square off in the semifinals, what would be the third rendition of an extremely competitive series that saw the crosstown rivals split their two matchups in the regular season.
Both went down to the wire, with the home team winning each time. A rubber match in Las Vegas would settle the score once and for all.
One more chance to impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee
While Arizona, UCLA and USC are virtual locks to reach the NCAA Tournament because of their stellar play in the regular season, the Pac-12 Tournament presents a prime opportunity for the rest of the league's teams to bolster their résumés ahead of Selection Sunday.
Colorado may have the next best shot of receiving an at-large bid after finishing fourth in the Pac-12 with 20 wins, including a 12-8 conference record. The Buffs have two Quadrant 1 wins and could certainly benefit from another signature victory over a marquee team like Arizona or UCLA.
The Buffs, who just beat Arizona in Boulder on Feb. 26, are red-hot heading into the Pac-12 Tournament, winning seven of their last eight games.
Washington State has a NET rating of 58 and can reach 20 wins with a pair of victories in Vegas.
Oregon has been in a regular in media bracket projections and has a history of showing out in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Another Cinderella story
Of course, the Buffs — and every other Pac-12 team — can remove the selection committee from the equation by winning the Pac-12 Tournament and securing the Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The beauty of the Pac-12 Tournament is all 12 teams, no matter how they fared in the regular season, all control their own destinies now.
Just ask Oregon State. The Beavers made a magical run last year to win the Pac-12 Tournament despite being the No. 5 seed. They then turned their excellence in Vegas into their first trip to the Elite Eight since 1982.
Oregon did something similar in 2019, winning the Pac-12 Tournament as the No. 6 seed before advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.
Who could pull off such a stunner this year? No. 8 seed Arizona State is the team to watch. Like Colorado, the Sun Devils enter the Pac-12 Tournament as winners of seven of their last eight.
ASU has also shown a penchant for winning big games, boasting five Quadrant 1 wins, tied with Arizona and USC for the most in the Pac-12.
The Sun Devils should be extra confident heading into their Pac-12 Tournament opener against No. 9-seed Stanford after beating the Cardinal on Saturday to close the regular season.
Fans are back!
The 2021 Pac-12 Tournament was closed to the public due to COVID-19 protocols, so expect a lively atmosphere at T-Mobile Arena this year as fans look to make up for lost time.
Eleven games across four action-packed days is only part of what makes the Pac-12 Tournament so special. The Pac-12 Fan Plaza, located in front of T-Mobile Arena, will be buzzing all week with pep rallies, mascots and activations from Pac-12 partners that will include photo opportunities, giveaways, and more.
In 2018 and 2019, the two years T-Mobile Arena hosted the Pac-12 Tournament before the coronavirus pandemic, the event enjoyed back-to-back years of total attendance over 80,000, just the second time in the tournament's history that attendance surpassed 80,000 in successive years.