If the NCAA Tournament is March Madness, then consider this to be its pre-psychotic warm-up—in the run-up to Selection Sunday on March 13th, all 32 Division 1 conferences will stage their conference tournaments and reward the champion of their mini-fiefdom with a bid to the Big Dance. With tons of high-stakes games on tap over the course of six, this is the best and most disorienting part of the college hoops calendar. Luckily, we’re here to help. Here is our guide to the Pac-12 tournament.
Pac-12 Conference Tournament Preview
Arizona (28-3, 18-2; -120 to win): This is the best team in the conference, if not the country. The Wildcats went 16-2 in conference play this season, with 14 of those wins coming by double digits. They play fast, yet disciplined, turning any mistake from the other team into a quick-strike 10-0 run.
UCLA (23-6, 15-5; +160): Hyped as one of the best teams in the nation entering the season, the Bruins have largely lived up to expectations. Injuries to Tyger Campbell, Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez have prevented the team from fully finding its groove, but this is still a talented, veteran team that made the Final Four last season.
USC (25-6, 14-6; +1000): To some, the 25-6 Torjans are a juggernaut who bury opponents with their size and experience. To others, they’re an overranked, semi-fraudulent squad who has compiled a gaudy record by beating up on inferior competition. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
Kerr Kriisa, Arizona: Despite being the smallest player on Arizona, Kriisa is why the Wildcats are such a swaggering, unstoppable behemoth. His passing and shooting are definitely good, but his biggest contribution to the Wildcats is his trash-talking confidence that osmotically seeps into the rest of his teammates.
Bennedict Mathurin, Christian Koloko, Azuolas Tubelis, Arizona: While Kriisa is Arizona’s heartbeat, these three are their best players. Mathurin is a sweet-shooting, athletic wing who glides over the court like he’s on figure-skates; Koloko is massive and blocks every shot; Tubelis is a skilled, post-up presence who facilitates the offense from the elbows and low-block. So, who’s actually the best? Depends on the night.
Johnny Juzang, UCLA: Beyond having some of the best hair in college basketball, Juzang is an elite shot-maker. Last year, Juzang carried UCLA to the Final Four by drilling a procession of Kobe-ian fadeaways and tough shots and he’s continued to do so throughout this year too.
Jamie Jaquez, UCLA: Jaquez is the steak to Juzang’s sizzle. While Juzang is the glamorous scorer, Jaquez fills a more blue collar role with his toughness and versatility. UCLA is a fairly small team, but Jaquez’s capacity to play as a playmaking power forward is what makes them such a dangerous unit.
Isaiah Mobley, USC: The older brother of budding NBA superstar Evan Mobley, Isaiah Mobley has ably stepped up as USC’s offensive fulcrum. He’s the rare college center who can pass, dribble and shoot, making him a tough match-up for clumsier college big men.
Arizona. Not only will they win the Pac-12 Tournament, they might win the NCAA Tournament too.