The 2012 Pac-12 Tournament will kick off on Wednesday March 8 with each team participating hoping to make folks forget about just how awfully they performed for most of the regular season. In a conference mired with disappointment and embarrassment from start to finish, this is the group of teams that wound up being the worst of the worst.
You can probably expect that the motivational pitch every coach involved will be trying to peddle to their team before the fireworks start will be this: because of how weak every single team in this conference is, everyone participating in this tournament has a shot at winning the whole thing. And while that’s technically factually accurate, it remains to be seen how inspirational that message truly is.
Here are Day 1’s showdowns:
No. 8 Washington State vs. No. 9 Oregon State
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12:00 p.m. PT on FSN
Washington State has beaten Oregon State twice already this year, and the second win came by a decisive ten points. The Beavers may have had a mildly better run up to this point (same in-conference record, though) and a two-game winning streak compared to Oregon State’s one-game winning streak to end the season, but the Cougars play better defense (the Beavers give up nearly 73 points per game) and seem to have this squad’s number. Washington State is listed at -4 to win this one and face off against Washington in the next round.
No. 5 UCLA vs. No. 12 USC
2:30 p.m. PT on FSN
The Bruins continued to regress under Ben Howland this year and, despite their recent win over No. 1 Washington, the general trajectory this team is on is unlikely to change in this tournament. Of course, it’s also worth noting that USC has only managed to win six games this year (and one in-conference outing), so it’s safe to say the Trojans are probably incapable of beating pretty much anyone, including the Bruins, at this point. If Lazeric Jones (this week’s Pac-12 Player of the Week) plays up to his 13 point per game ways, UCLA (listed at -12.5 in this one) should walk away with a win here and lock up a spot versus Arizona for Thursday.
No. 7 Stanford vs. No. 10 Arizona State
6:00 p.m. PT on FSN
Stanford played Arizona State once this year already, and it proceeded to smoke the Sun Devils in a 24-point romp. Aaron Bright proved to be the key in that one scoring 16 points (on six-of-12 shooting) for the day, but it will probably be Josh Owens who will play the biggest role in Wednesday’s showdown (much in the way he did versus Oregon). He’s currently averaging nearly 12 points and six boards on the year, and he is doing his damage on a solid 59 percent shooting. Arizona State is riding high after a strong showing versus Arizona to close out the season, but there is a reason that this Stanford bunch is listed at -9 to win this one and go on to face off against Cal on Thursday.
No. 6 Colorado vs. No. 11 Utah
8:30 p.m. PT on FSN
Ironically the last two teams playing on Wednesday will be the last two teams to enter the Pac-12. Colorado has beaten Utah twice already this year, and one of those victories was a 40-point dismantling back in December. (The other was a more respectable seven point game). Utes big man Jason Washburn is coming off an impressive performance versus Oregon (26 points), but it’s hard to envision Utah being able to handle all of Colorado’s depth over the course of an entire game. The Buffaloes are favorites to win this one (-13) and face off against Oregon on Thursday.