2007 Pac-10 Tournament Preview
by Jordan Adams - 03/05/2007
Ah yes, things are so much more laid back on the West Coast. That's the appeal of the Pac-10 and this offensive inclined conference, or at least don't mention that tidbit to Washington State. The rise of the Cougars this season makes the claim that you don't have to be all scoring to win out on the pacific coast. In fact, you could say Ben Howland inspired the West Coast Defense when his Bruins became quite possibly the best defensive minded program since he arrived from Pittsburgh.
Those Bruins come in as the top seed, as UCLA clinched the regular season title thanks in large part to a perfect home record this season. By winning the league tournament they will lock in one of the coveted No. 1 seeds, but some will argue they already have regardless of their result this weekend. But as dominant as they have been, five or six teams have the firepower to win this tournament.
Arizona is beginning to mold into the team they should have been all year, while Wazzou, Oregon and even USC could make their way into Saturday's title game. And don't count out the Cardinal or the suddenly hot Washington Huskies. It's going to be mayhem in Los Angeles, and expect guard play to dominate the headlines.
UCLA - Only four losses all season, so know that these Bruins are a legit title contender. They have solid interior players, but the bulk of their scoring comes from the perimeter. Aaron Afflalo and Darren Collison will make or break this team in March, but also expect a lot from Josh Shipp. It seems the majority of time this team struggles against higher scoring clubs. So expect tough games if they meet Arizona or Oregon.
Oregon - After Aaron Brooks and the Ducks came out of hibernation they started to show signs of the team that snuck into the top 10 over a month ago. They love the three ball, but that could wind up being the death of these Quackers. They do however have the guard play to cut down the nets in the Staples Center.
Washington State - Only these Cougars make playing in the 40s intriguing. Well, this Washington State team may not be bringing sexy back, but their defensive focus and mindset is putting Pullman, Washington back on the map. You probably couldn't name more than two players on this team, but who cares? These guys are just winning.
Arizona - Clean slate, clean slate, clean slate. Leave the regular season in the regular season because these 'Cats will make some noise in March, starting this week. But then again, they could flop out in the first round. Yes, they are that inconsistent, but I'd like to think this squad can do damage, especially with three of the more gifted players in the country in Marcus Williams, Ivan Radenovic and Chase 'Great White Hope' Budinger.
#8 California vs. #9 Oregon State - The Bears have showed promise at times, winning over Washington and Oregon. And they did sweep the season series with the Beavers, a team that won only three conference games.
#7 Washington vs. #10 Arizona State - You can't smoke UCLA and then drop the ball against lowly ASU. Well, you can, but it would be so unlike a Lorenzo Romar squad. The Huskies are young but talented, and the duo of Spencer Hawes and Jon Brockman down low will be too much here.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Personally, this is my favorite conference tournament. UCLA should find itself in the title game, but drawing Arizona or Oregon in one of the semifinals could easily be a championship in its own right. And the Ducks and Wildcats could simply wear each other out the previous game and make it that much easier for the Bruins to advance. Don't be surprised if USC makes some noise and meets fellow Los Angeles foe UCLA in the title game, but in the end it will be Ben Howland's team that takes this bracket.