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Pac-12 Tournament Preview: Can anyone catch top-seeded Stanford?

The No. 4 Stanford Cardinal won the Pac-12 regular season title and are favorites to win the Pac-12 Tournament.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 19 Women’s Arizona State at Stanford
Kiana Williams looks to lead Stanford to a Pac-12 Tournament championship.
Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pac-12 tournament starts on Wednesday with the entire tournament being broadcasted on the Pac-12 Network. The No. 4 Stanford Cardinal are sitting on a No. 1-seed line in the NCAA tournament, according to the latest ESPN forecast, and are favorites to win the tournament.

The top four teams

The Cardinal went 19-2 in conference play, with close losses to the Colorado Buffaloes and third place UCLA Bruins (No. 9 in AP poll) in January. Since then, Stanford has won their last 11 games with just two being decided by less than 10 points. Anything short of a tournament championship could knock Stanford down to a No. 2-seed in the NCAA tournament.

The No. 11 Arizona Wildcats finished second in the conference by virtue of playing and winning one more game than UCLA, going 13-4 with five games postponed/canceled. Arizona did not finish strong, suffering their second blowout of the season to Stanford and ending the regular season with an upset loss against the Arizona State Sun Devils. The Wildcats could face the Washington State Cougars in the quarterfinals, a team they lost to earlier in the year. Currently projected as a No. 3-seed, the Wildcats likely need an appearance in the tournament final to bolster their resumé.

The No. 9 UCLA Bruins went 12-4 in the conference and will face the Washington Huskies or the Colorado Buffaloes in the quarterfinals. UCLA beat Washington in the only meeting between the teams, while both games against Colorado were canceled. The Bruins and the Wildcats met just once this season, with the Wildcats earning the win. The Bruins, like the Wildcats, are projected as No. 3-seed in the NCAA tournament and probably need a solid showing in the tournament.

The No. 19 Oregon Ducks enter the Pac-12 tournament having lost four of their last five games to end the regular season and only notched one win against a ranked opponent all season, a then-ranked No. 15 Oregon State Beavers team that finished 9-6 and “on the bubble”. The Ducks’ final game was an 88-77 loss against those same Beavers, who are likely to face the Ducks for a third time this season in the quarterfinals. If Oregon falls to the Beavers again, they could fall further down in the seeding than their currently-projected No. 5-seed.

First round matchups

The Oregon State Beavers went 9-6 this year, suffering 10 cancellations, two of which were against their first round opponent, the California Golden Bears, who went 1-15 this year. The Beavers ended Pac-12 play with wins against UCLA and Oregon and an appearance in the semifinal against Stanford could solidify their resumé and get them over the line into the NCAA tournament.

The USC Trojans face the Arizona State Sun Devils in the first round with the winner facing Stanford. The two teams split the season series with USC winning the second matchup. The Trojans went 10-11 while the Sun Devils went 12-9. USC is out of the contention for the NCAA tournament while Arizona State is likely to be on the outside looking in as well. The Sun Devils would probably need to beat Stanford to earn a berth in the tournament. Barring that the Sun Devils are probably NIT-bound.

The Washington State Cougars went 11-10 with wins over Arizona and UCLA and two wins over Oregon State. The Cougars are projected as a No. 11-seed as a “Last Four In” team. The Cougars swept the season series against the Utah Utes who went 5-15. A loss in the first round could see another “bubble” team take the Cougars’ spot.

The Buffaloes of Colorado are projected as “Next Four Out”, meaning that their performance in the tournament is paramount to earning a spot in this year’s NCAA tournament. The Buffaloes’ best wins this year are against Stanford and Washington State. Colorado beat Washington in both of their meetings this season.

Pac-12 Tournament Schedule

All games at Mandalay Bay Event Center, Las Vegas, NV

First Round — Wednesday, March 3

Game 1: No. 5 Oregon State vs No. 12 California, 2 p.m. ET

Game 2: No. 8 USC vs. No. 9 Arizona State, 5 p.m. ET

Game 3: No. 7 Washington State vs. No. 10 Utah, 8 p.m. ET

Game 4: No 6 Colorado vs. No. 11 Washington, 11 p.m. ET

Quarterfinals — Wednesday, March 4

Game 5: No. 4 Oregon vs. Game 1 winner, 2 p.m. ET

Game 6: No. 1 Stanford vs. Game 2 winner, 5 p.m. ET

Game 7: No. 2 Arizona vs. Game 3 winner, 8 p.m. ET

Game 8: No. 3 UCLA vs. Game 4 winner, 11 p.m. ET

Semifinals — Friday March 5

Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 8 p.m. ET

Game 10: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 11 p.m. ET

Final — Sunday, March 7

Game 11: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 8 p.m. ET