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PAC 10 Tournament Preview

By: Toby Columnist
Contact Toby

PAC 10 Basketball Tournament

March 11 - 13, 2004

Los Angeles, CA

Staples Center

Tournament Bracket
Updated with Results

Tournament Favorite > Stanford
Stanford The nation's best team for the bulk of the season, Stanford is the favorite to win its conference tournament. Stanford, undefeated until its final contest of the regular season, spent a month at number one, and features Conference POY in small forward Josh Childress to go along with PAC 10 Coach of the Year Mike Montgomery. The Cardinal, long known for their stifling man-to-man defense, have become more comfortable playing zone in the last two years and now effectively employ a 1-1-3 "amoeba" look that creates turnovers and allows points in transition. This year's Cardinal, behind the court vision and speed of Chris Hernandez, does want to run and put pressure on the D. Hernandez and his backcourt mate, Matt Lottich, shoot nearly 90% from the free throw line, so it's curtains when teams are down in the final minutes. The front line looks forward to the return of Justin Davis, the physical 6'9" power forward, against WSU Thursday night. Remember, the starters started only seven games together all year, so there's still room for improvement.

Tournament Dark Horse > Oregon
Oregon Tough. Can a two or three seed be a dark horse? Nope, Arizona or Washington are too good to be dark horses. Let's see, the Bruins went 2-13 in their last 15. USC hasn't won three in a row all year. The home schools aren't it. That leaves the Oregon Ducks who lucked out a little with their draw. The Ducks beat Cal and led Stanford by 19 in the second half at MacArthur Court. It's amazing this team didn't win more than 14 games; there's strength on the inside, with twin trees Mitch Platt and Ian Crosswhite inside. There are shooters on the outside with Andre Joseph and James Davis, both senior guards who average in double figures and can really shoot from distance. Their best player, Luke Jackson, will need production from this cast if the Ducks are to repeat as conference champions.

Matchup of Intrigue > Arizona vs Washington
Arizona vs Washington The lower half of the draw. Arizona and Washington are both capable of winning the tournament or bowing out in the first round. Their second round meeting will feature two teams who need a win for different reasons. A third win over Arizona, and the Huskies have punched their dance card, no questions asked. An Arizona loss and they slip dangerously close to double-digits.

NCAA Tournament Impact
NCAA Tournament Stanford's a #1 unless they lose to Washington State. Arizona probably lands in the 8-9 game unless they appear in the championship. Washington needs at least one win to assure themselves of an at-large bid. Thus, the match-up of intrigue above.

Tournament Ramblings
This year's PAC 10 Tournament is set for Los Angeles, but it doesn't appear that either the hometown Trojans or Bruins will be much of a threat in 2004. Oregon won last year's tourney, but the Ducks have been less than impressive for a better part of this season. With just a 14-11 record, it will certainly take a repeat for UO to make a return to the Big Dance. The PAC 10 is one of eleven conferences from around the country that will award its automatic NCAA bid on Saturday. The championship game is set for 5:00 PM CDT on CBS. Eight of the conference's ten teams placed a player on the all-conference team, released this past week. Only two teams who are playing in the tournament, UCLA and Washington State, did not have a player on that list.

Projected Winner > Stanford
Stanford An angry Stanford Cardinal team bounces back from their only loss of the season to win three in a row in the Staples Center. I'd like to pick the Huskies, but I don't have the backbone and don't see them beating Stanford twice in a week.