Wildcats have something to prove in Pac-10 tourney
Both Arizona universities have something to prove in the 2011 Pac-10 tournament.
The Arizona State Sun Devils (12-18) have to undoubtedly win out as the 10-seed to earn the automatic bid into the NCAA tournament if they have any aspirations of playing further into March. And it will be quite the uphill battle, as the lowest seed to ever emerge victorious from the Pac-10 tournament was the 2009 six-seeded USC Trojans, who beat ASU 66-63 for the conference title.
The Arizona Wildcats (25-6) are on the entirely other end of the spectrum, snagging the one-seed and the outright Pac-10 title after a 14-4 conference record this season. Although it seems the Wildcats have already earned a tournament bid after their solid regular season body of work, they still have their own mountains to climb; Arizona hasn’t won a Pac-10 tournament since they won back in 2002.
The Wildcats are in fact 5-8 in the seasons following their 3-0 run in 2002.
This also marks the third time since the Staples Center began hosting the event that the Wildcats have been the top seed. In 2003, they were upset by an eighth-seeded UCLA Bruin team and in 2005 the Washington Huskies completed a 3-0 season sweep of Arizona with a victory in the title game.
The Wildcats do have good odds of returning to the title game this year, as they’re 6-2 against the teams on their side of bracket this season (Stanford, Oregon State, Cal, and USC). First up, Arizona must wait for the winner of the Stanford vs. Oregon State game taking place Wednesday at 5:10 p.m. MST. Arizona will play the victor of that match at 1:40 p.m. Thursday, and if they win, they will move on to play the winner of the USC vs. Cal game at 5:10 p.m. Friday in the semi-finals.
Arizona State, on the other hand, will start a day earlier than their cross-state rivals, taking on the seven-seeded Oregon Ducks Wednesday at 7:40. The Sun Devils are undefeated against the Ducks this season; coming off a 73-53 rout at home against them last Thursday (The Devils also beat them in Eugene 60-55 on January 1).
The Devils now own a six-game winning streak over Oregon, and are on a mini two-game win streak to end the regular season while the Ducks have dropped their past four games. If Arizona State were to end Wednesday night with a win, they would move on to face No. 2 UCLA at 5:10 p.m. Thursday.
In their first matchup with UCLA this season, the Devils overcame a 15-point second-half deficit to take the Bruins to overtime, only to lost 73-72 in a heartbreaker. Arizona State wasn’t as successful the second time around against UCLA. The Bruins started slow, but went on to pound the Devils 71-53 in Pauley Pavilion.
From there, assuming ASU is able to upset the Bruins, the Sun Devils would advance to play the winner of the Washington schools. Arizona State was 1-3 against Washington and Washington State this season with their sole victory coming against an injury-riddled roster in Wells Fargo Arena against the Cougars, 71-69.
If all falls into place and both teams win out, it is possible that the Pac-10 championship could be an Arizona in-state rivalry game, with one team battling to keep its postseason hopes alive and another aspiring to acquire its fifth Pac-10 tournament title in the 14 year existence of the event.