2013 Pac-12 tournament preview: Why an Arizona 'upset' wouldn't be all that surprising

USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 Pac-12 tournament begins today with four games in Seattle, Washington. To get started, we'll look at the two afternoon games first, highlighted by a potential "upset".

Today marks the beginning of the Pac-12 tournament in which the bottom eight seeds play for the right to advance to the next round. Tomorrow, the top four seeds - Cal, Colorado, Stanford, and UCLA - get into the mix.

So for now, we're going to take our preview piece by piece and start by looking at the conference statistics for the four teams playing afternoon games today.

Schedule (PST)

Noon: #7 USC vs. #10 OSU

2:30 p.m.: #6 Utah vs. #11 Arizona

Analysis:

USC Women of Troy vs. OSU Beavers

Non-conference breakdown: USC | OSU

USC had two major problems during conference play. First, their top two scorers (Cassie Harberts and Ariya Crook) are high volume, low efficiency scorers. Secondly, Christina Marinacci missed eight games in conference play, which really hurt their rebounding numbers.

eFg%

Fta/Fga

Oreb%

Tov%

USC

39.97%

38.01%

35.32%

0.19

Opp

41.67%

30.73%

35.23%

0.16

Weighted

eFg%

fta/fga

Oreb%

Tov%

USC

-0.17

0.15

0.00

-0.21

USC's Four Factors statistics during conference play. Click here for their non-conference numbers.

Nevertheless, USC finished better than their non-conference numbers might have projected for them in large part because they defended better, not allowing opponents to shoot as well or putting them on the line quite as often.

So when looking at this first matchup of the tournament, the spotlight should probably be on USC - we pretty much know that OSU is going to turn a hard-fought, if not necessarily efficient, performance that will keep them in the game. However, if Harberts can establish herself in the paint early and USC can control the boards as they should be expected to do against a poor rebounding Beavers team they should be able to win this game.

One key statistic to watch in this one will be points off turnovers. Both of these teams are relatively turnover prone, which was a major concern for the Beavers entering conference play. Of note though is that freshman Jamie Weisner, the main culprit in non-conference play when it came to turnovers, cut her turnover ratio 5% from 20% to 15%. If OSU is going to win this game, capitalizing on turnovers - in addition to getting hot from 3-point range as Weisner has shown she can do - will probably be the key.

Utah Utes vs. Arizona Wildcats

Non-conference breakdown: Utah | Arizona

Arizona was picked to finish last in the preseason media poll and they at least outdid that projection: they finished tied for 10th with Oregon State but lost the tie breaker to get the 10th seed because they lost the head-to-head meeting. And that loss to OSU might be a good way to sum up this team.

In that 57-48 loss to OSU, senior guard Davellyn Whyte shot 8-for-26 (30.76%) and the rest of the team shot 11-for-45 (24.44%). In other words, Arizona is an inefficient scoring team led by an inefficient volume scorer.

Utah, in contrast, is an efficient scoring team that features three scorers in the rotation who were more efficient than Arizona's most efficient scorer (Whyte, 50% TS%). That made Utah the second most efficient scoring team in conference play behind the methodically efficient Stanford Cardinal.

eFg%

Fta/Fga

Oreb%

Tov%

Utah

45.08%

29.18%

25.75%

0.20

Opp

41.61%

25.02%

29.73%

0.17

Weighted

eFg%

fta/fga

Oreb%

Tov%

Utah

0.35

0.09

-0.17

-0.29

Utah's Four Factors statistics in conference play. Click here for their non-conference numbers.

However, scoring efficiency has defined both of these teams in opposing ways, neither team is particularly efficient handling the ball and that could be used to explain why Arizona somewhat surprisingly swept Utah in conference play.

eFg%

Fta/Fga

Oreb%

Tov%

Ariz

40.01%

27.43%

31.36%

0.20

Opp

45.81%

26.19%

38.06%

0.20

Weighted

eFg%

fta/fga

Oreb%

Tov%

Ariz

-0.58

0.03

-0.28

-0.04

Arizona's Four Factors statistics during conference play. Click here for their non-conference statistics.

While it looked as though Utah's trouble in non-conference play was their inability to force turnovers rather than actually committing them, in conference play they started to commit them more often. In both games against Arizona, Utah committed 19 turnovers and had no answer for Davellyn Whyte, who had 23 points, 11 rebounds, 6 steals, and 6 assists in 40 minutes in Arizona's win at Utah.

Utah simply had no answer for Whyte this season and her scoring efficiency against Utah made all the difference: in the first meeting, she was 8-for-16 from the field. In the second, she was only 7-for-18, but went 4-for-9 from 3-point range in addition to another five steals.

Arizona plays the second-fastest pace in the conference - behind the breakneck Oregon Ducks - and their combination of speed, athleticism, and Whyte's dominance has been too much for Utah this season.

Predictions:

USC def. OSU

Ariz def. Utah

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