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Pac-12 Tournament: Predictions, full breakdown

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Let’s dive into what could happen during the PAC-12 Conference Tournament this year.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Pac-12 Conference Tournament-Stanford vs Oregon Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s that time of the year again -- championship season. The upcoming Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament will be held at the KeyArena in Seattle, Washington. The first round will start Thursday, March 1 and end with the championship game on Sunday, March 3, on ESPN at 6:00 pm PT.

This is what you need to know:

No. 9 Colorado vs. No. 8 Utah at 11:30 AM PT

The Utah Utes will face off against the Colorado Buffaloes in the first round of the tournament. In regard to the team’s standings, the game will be close. Although Colorado is on a two-game losing streak, they enter the tournament with the advantage of five returners. Thus, the experience will be critical for this game. Utah (8-10 conference) does have a better record when playing away, but I think this is the type of game to come down to the wire because both teams are compatible on the court.

The winner will play the No. 1 seed in the Oregon Ducks at 11:30 AM PT the next day.

No.12 Washington vs. No. 5 Cal at 6:00 PM PT

It will be back-to-back games for these two teams. California is coming off an 83-67 win against Washington on Feb. 25, where California was able to hold Washington to six points in the first quarter. If Cal is able to hold them to a low scoring percentage in the first, it should not be a tough game. Plus, Washington is 1-17 in conference play.

Key players to focus on will be Cal’s junior Kristine Anigwe, who posted 23 points and 12 rebounds on Feb. 25, and Washington’s sophomore guard Amber Melgoza, who led her team with 24 points on Feb. 25. Anigwe and Melgoza were both voted Pac-12 All-Conference team earlier this week, so I believe this two will go head to head, but Cal will 100% take the win.

I predict the Golden Bears moving onto the next round to play the No. 4 seed in UCLA at 6:00 PM PT on Friday

No. 10 WSU vs. No. 7 USC at 2:00 PM PT

USC is split at 9-9 in conference play, but this game shouldn’t be hard to win because they have momentum riding with their two-game winning streak, compared to Washington State who has lost its last six games. The Trojans have four players averaging in double-digits and is led by Kristen Simon which will play to their advantage.

Washington State’s only hope lays in the hands of Borislava Hristova, who is averaging 18.1 points and four rebounds per game and is one of two Cougar players averaging in double digits. The sophomore forward was also named to the Pac-12 all-conference.

USC should take the cake, but there usually is one upset, and I would put money on it that it’s this game.

The winner of this game will play Friday against the No. 2 seed in Stanford at 2:00 PM PT.

No. 11 Arizona vs. No. 6 Arizona State at 8:30 PM PT

And for an in-state rivalry, Arizona (2-16 conference) will play against Arizona State (10-8 conference) in the first round, but there won’t be much to see here…unless Arizona can pull off a huge upset.

The Sun Devils have four players scoring in double-digits with their lethal weapon being Ibis Kianna. The Sun Devils can score in bunches and have the confidence of blowing out the Wildcats in both times they met in the regular season. Both teams are entering the tournament on a losing streak, Arizona’s lasting longer (six-straight losses) considering they haven’t won since early Feb. when they snagged a close win over Washington.

I doubt this will be a hot game, as I predict Arizona State will win take the victory and move on to play last year’s regular season champions, No.3 seed Oregon State at 8:30 PM PT in the next round.

Right Side of the bracket

After the first round, no. 2 seeded Stanford and no. 3 seeded Oregon State will easily beat the winner of these games and go to the semifinals. Last year’s championship game was between these two teams, with Stanford taking a 48-43 victory in the lowest scoring game of the 2017 tournament. Stanford was led by Alanna Smith and Karlie Samuelson, who posted 32 of the team’s 48 points.

The Cardinal has six-foot-four junior Smith returning, but not Samuelson. Smith, who is averaging 12.9 points a game will also be assisted by returner Brittany McPhee, who is averaging 18.5 points and has really been a force lately for the Cardinal.

On the other hand, Oregon State does have Marie Gulich, who is the only senior on the team. Gulich posted 10 points in the 2017 championship game, but will not be accompanied by former teammate Sydney Wiese, who posted a team-high of 13 points. Since this team is so young, I think Stanford’s upperclassmen leadership will help take the win and face off against Oregon, who currently holds the number one spot.

Left side of the bracket

Whoever wins the Colorado-Utah game, will definitely lose in the semifinals to the No.1 seeded Oregon Ducks, who clinched the outright 2018 Pac-12 regular season championship last weekend. Like I said above, Cal will most definitely beat Washington, unless one of the best upsets of the year happens, but unlikely.

The game between UCLA and California will be the one to watch. This can go either way. As I have already stated, the center focus will be the play of Anigwe, yet she will have the help of Mi’Cole and Asha Thomas who also are averaging at least 10-points per game.

On the opposing end though, the Golden Bears will have their hands full facing the dynamic duo of Jordin Canada and Monique Billings. Clearly, both teams have a 50/50 chance at advancing in the conference tournament, but my money would be on the UCLA Bruins.

The Bruins then would move on to face the no. 1 seed in Oregon in the semifinals. While each of their meetings were close during the regular season, third time around I think Oregon will once again come out on top.

Championship

I am picking Oregon and Stanford to face off for the tournament title game. This could be another low scoring final game just like the year before because both teams are good on defense. I am going with Stanford, though, to repeat as conference tournament champions.

For Oregon, Lexie Bando and Justine Hall are the only seniors for the team, but they are led by the sophomore duo of Sabrina Ionescu, who is averaging 19.2 points, and Ruthy Hebard, who is averaging 18 points. Their biggest challengers will be Stanford senior Brittany McPhee and junior Alanna Smith.

All games will broadcast on the Pac-12 Network or the ESPN family of networks.