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UCLA Basketball: PAC-12 Tournament Preview

UCLA seems likely to go to the championship game or flame out in their first game

Kyle is always key but someone like Zach LaVine or Tony Parker will have to step up for UCLA to have a chance in the PAC 12 tourney.
Kyle is always key but someone like Zach LaVine or Tony Parker will have to step up for UCLA to have a chance in the PAC 12 tourney.
Harry How

As has been much discussed, UCLA lost every second game of a road trip this season.  A PAC 12 tournament is not a road game but a neutral site game.  However, there are a lot of reasons to doubt the Bruins ability to get beyond the first round, let alone the second round.

#2 seed UCLA will play its first game Thursday night at 6 pm against the winner of the #7 Oregon and #10 Oregon State.  Oregon State is a team UCLA fears the match-up because of their big inside talent.  However, UCLA is more likely to play Oregon which has won seven games in a row and despite its number seven seed is the third favorite in Vegas to win the tournament.  Has Oregon righted its ship or is that win streak a product of playing 5 games at home and one road trip to LA to play UCLA without Anderson and Adams?  (It goes to show no game is meaningless as that win over UCLA gave Oregon momentum.)

If UCLA should win that game they will play the winner of the Stanford v. WSU play in game and ASU.  There is no way UCLA plays WSU.   WSU had one win in February and their win over UCLA is likely their only win in March.  Stanford is interesting.  Johnny Dawkins is coaching for his job.  Bracketology has Stanford as a 10 seed in the tournament but as losers of three of their last four, Stanford needs to beat WSU to at least give Johnny Dawkins a chance to save his job.

ASU is not a team built for a tournament.  They have some great individual players but not a lot of depth.  Will two games in two days hurt them?  Stanford is similarly in lacking depth.  If UCLA beats the Oregon/Oregon State winner the second game UCLA would play would like be a team that has less depth than UCLA.  In Tony Parker (a killer match up for Stanford), Zach LaVine (all freshman) and Bryce Alford (all freshman), UCLA has three players off the bench that if one gets hot could easily lead UCLA to victory.  It is part of the reason that Coach Alford seems more scared about the first game of the tournament in this interview then the second.

The other side of the bracket begins with the fact the best team is not deep.  Tournament favorite Arizona is really a six man team.  Not exactly the lineup you want to win three games in three days.  On the other hand, Arizona plays great defense, so maybe the grind it out style will help against any team with tired legs in third game, if Arizona gets that far.

The next highest seed on that side of the bracket is the most confusing team, UC Berkeley.  Berkeley may be playing for a bid in this tournament as currently most lists have them as one of the first four teams out.  Berkeley beat Arizona once but also lost to USC.  They seem unlikely to do much damage but Mike Montgomery is a good coach who knows that Berkeley needs to do well or win the tournament to go to the big dance.

Arguably the best coach, Tad Boyle, is the five seed.  Boyle and Colorado overcame the injury of arguably the conference's best player, Spencer Dinwiddie, to have a solid season.  Will they make some noise in the tournament?

Eight seed Utah is a much better home team than road team.  They certainly could get real hot for one game but seem very unlikely to win the tournament.

Nine seed UW under Coach Lorenzo Romar had a history of doing well in the PAC 12 tournament.  In part it was because UW went 9-10 deep in talented, if poorly coached, players.  This year the talent pool is not deep at UW.

The only good news about UCLA's loss to WSU is it locked Just SC into the basement of the PAC 12.  Next to UCLA's loss to WSU, the second biggest shocker this was Berkeley's loss to just SC, a really bad team with a coach whose claim to fame will always be his wife.

UCLA has a relatively deep team with a number of players who can get hot.  Not a bad recipe to win the PAC 12 tournament.  However, UCLA is cold as of late, having lost three of their last five including an inexcusable loss to WSU so  a first round knock out seems more likely than a title.

Go Bruins.