Skip to main content

Pac-12 Hoops Central

All things Pac-12
Men's & Women's Basketball

Breaking down the Pac-12 men's basketball teams in the NCAA Tournament

Mar 17, 2022

The Pac-12 had an impressive run through the men's NCAA Tournament last season, putting UCLA in the Final Four, Oregon State in the Elite Eight, and Oregon and USC in the Sweet Sixteen.

The conference will try to make more noise this March as three of its teams — Arizona, UCLA and USC — fight for a national championship. Here's a look at the trio, what it has done this season, and what might could lie ahead in March Madness. (For a similar preview of the women's NCAA Tournament, click here.)

Arizona (31-3, 18-2 Pac-12)

  • Seed: 1
  • Region: South
  • First Round Opponent: No. 16 Wright State 
  • Date/Time/Location/TV: Friday, March 18 - 4:27 p.m. PT - San Diego, Calif. - TruTv
  • Recap: The Wildcats won the Pac-12 regular-season championship by three games, then beat Stanford, Colorado and UCLA to win the Pac-12 Tournament championship. Arizona was so dominant that it took home five of the conference's six annual performance awards, including Coach of the Year (Tommy Lloyd), Player of the Year (Bennedict Mathurin), Defensive Player of the Year (Christian Koloko), Most Improved Player of the Year (also Koloko) and Sixth Man of the Year (Pelle Larsson). Arizona earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in program history.
  • Outlook: The Wildcats enter this NCAA Tournament as one of the most complete teams in the country, boasting the No. 5 offense and No. 20 defense in the country, according to Arizona plays at a breakneck pace and uses its size and athleticism to dominate the paint. The Wildcats are top-5 in the country in 2-point percentage AND opponent 2-point percentage. There is not one player opponents need to focus on slowing down as Arizona shares the ball — it's No. 2 in the country in assist rate — and has four players averaging 10 or more points per game. One of them is point guard and sharpshooter Kerr Kriisa, who is making his way back from an ankle injury he suffered in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals. His availability will be key in how far the Wildcats can go in the NCAA Tournament, though he told local reporters that he is feeling “better than ever” after working hard in his rehab. Assuming Arizona avoids the upset vs. No. 16 Wright State, it would have to face No. 8 Seton Hall or No. 9 TCU, followed by No. 4 Illinois/No. 5 Houston and No. 2 Villanova/No. 3 Tennessee. The Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight in the South Region will be held in San Antonio.
  • Take Note: Arizona has already played two of the highest seeds in its region. The Wildcats beat No. 4 Illinois 83-79 in Champaign on Dec. 11 but lost to No. 3 Tennessee 77-73 in Knoxville on Dec. 22. UA is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2017-18.

UCLA (25-7, 15-5 Pac-12)

  • Seed: 4
  • Region: East
  • First Round Opponent: No. 13 Akron
  • Date/Time/Location/TV: Thursday, March 17 - 6:50 p.m. PT - Portland, Ore. - TBS
  • Recap: The Bruins posted another strong season after reaching the Final Four last March, finishing as the Pac-12 runner-up for both the conference regular-season and conference tournament championship. Like Arizona, the Bruins are a balanced team with a top-20 offense and top-20 defense, though they prefer to slow the game down. Returning its entire starting lineup from last season, UCLA has plenty of NCAA Tournament experience and shouldn't be overwhelmed by the pressure of a single-elimination tournament. Johnny Juzang was terrific in the NCAA Tournament last season, averaging 22.8 points per game with a stellar shooting line of .509/.375/.778.
  • Outlook: The Bruins' first-round matchup figures to be played at a snail's pace with Akron also being a team that likes to slow the game down, playing at the 351st-slowest pace in the country. The Zips have won eight games in a row, winning the MAC Tournament despite finishing tied for third in the conference in the regular season. Should the Bruins beat them, they would face No. 5 St. Mary's or No. 12 Indiana in the second round. Beyond that, a matchup with No. 8 North Carolina or No. 1 Baylor, the reigning national champs, could be looming. That matchup would take place at Wells Fargo Arena across the country in Philadelphia.
  • Take Note: UCLA's 25 wins this season are the most by a Bruins' team since finishing 31-5 in 2016-17. Led by Lonzo Ball, the Bruins reached the Sweet Sixteen that season. The Bruins are 43-4 all-time in the NCAA Tournament when playing games in the Pacific states of California (27-1), Oregon (11-3) and Washington (5-0).

USC (26-7, 14-6 Pac-12)

  • Seed: 7
  • Region: Midwest
  • First Round Opponent: No. 10 Miami (FL)
  • Date/Time/Location/TV: Friday, March 18 - 12:10 p.m. PT - Greenville, SC. - TruTV
  • Recap: The Trojans got off to a 13-0 start and were one of the last unbeaten teams in the country when they suffered their first loss of the season to Stanford on Jan. 11. USC dropped its regular-season finale to UCLA to finish third in the Pac-12, then lost again to the Bruins in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals. The Trojans occasionally have issues scoring, shooting under 40 percent in three of their last four losses, including their Pac-12 Tournament semifinals loss to UCLA. On the other hand, they are stout defensively, holding opponents to a 38.6 shooting percentage, the 10th-lowest mark in the country. Forwards Chevez Goodwin and Isaiah Mobley hold down the paint, limiting opponents to a 41.2 2-point field goal percentage, the second-best mark in the country.
  • Outlook: Mobley and Boogie Ellis are USC's top scorers, but Drew Peterson is the player to watch after he had some huge performances in USC's biggest wins, including 27 points and 11 rebounds in a win over UCLA on Feb. 12. The Trojans are also 20-2 when Goodwin scores nine or more points. gives USC a 54 percent chance of beating Miami (FL) in the first round. The Hurricanes have the No. 17 offense in the country, but do most of their damage inside the 3-point line, making them a good matchup for USC's potent paint defense. Should the Trojans advance, they would likely face No. 2 Auburn, the SEC regular-season champ, in the second round. From there, USC would likely be in line to face No. 3 Wisconsin in Chicago.
  • Take Note: When games are close, USC always seems to find a way to pull them out, going 10-1 in its last 11 decided by five points or less.