Ladies and gentlemen: we made it. WE MADE IT TO CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK! I look forward to the next two weeks more than any others in the entire calendar. Wall-to-wall non-stop basketball action, with games being played around the country at all hours; what could be better?
What's more, this 2016 Pac-12 Tournament - the fifth ever and the fourth played in Las Vegas - projects to be the craziest on record. In a conference this deep, with as many star-studded lineups as will be on display, nothing is guaranteed. I figure as many as nine teams are capable of making a semifinal, leaving almost the entire action to chance. And even if there is chalk, could there be anything more exciting than a final four pairing of Oregon, Arizona, Utah and Cal? Friday night at the MGM Grand is going to be epic!
The best part? I'll be your guide once again, living life on the edge in the heart of Sin City. Keep your eye on this space throughout the week for daily analysis and reaction, as well as on my twitter page for random ephemera. Additionally, due to popular demand, I'll be keeping an ear out for the pep bands at the arena, selecting my daily best, and eventually picking my top band in Vegas at week's end. Should be a fun and interesting perspective to focus on.
With that business out of the way, let's get to the action.
Hype Music for the Week: "Shots" by LMFAO, Ft. Little John
A week spent in Las Vegas watching basketball is absurd. LMFAO was absurd. This was a match made in heaven. Enjoy!
- #9 Stanford vs #8 Washington - 1pm MT - Pac-12 Networks -
The tournament will start off with what could be a very interesting game (and the Stanford band!). Were this played a month ago, I would say Stanford would have no chance, but the Huskies collapsed in February, losing six of their last eight games. It's to be expected, I guess, with that pack of freshmen slowing down into this, their fifth month of collegiate-level basketball. Comparatively, the veteran Cardinal has been on fire (OK, sort of a quiet smoldering), winning four of their last seven. It's a battle of teams headed in opposite directions, playing dissimilar styles. That's a good set-up, right?
UW won the only regular season meeting, a rather dour 64-53 affair in Seattle played to only 70 possessions (UW's 'slowest' game since December). I would expect a few more fireworks this time, though; 70 possessions is like only reaching second gear for these guys. The Dawgs love to run, and they should be able to do just that on a neutral floor. Given that, I find it hard to believe the Cardinal could keep pace. I'll be betting Washington.
- #12 Washington St vs #5 Colorado - 3:30 MT - Pac-12 Networks -
The story here is the same as it has been all season between the Cougars and Buffaloes: there is no reason Colorado should lose. I'm serious, there just wouldn't be a rational explanation for a loss this afternoon; WSU has lost their last 16 straight, after all. However, as we saw in the games played in Pullman and Boulder, CU loves nothing more than playing down to their opponent. That scare in the Feb. 11th fixture was especially real, and served as a pseudo wakeup call. If Colorado comes into this one just as flat, just as willing to let Wazzou hang around, things could be just as scary upon approach to the final buzzer.
The big difference here, though, is that Josh Scott is healthy. If you remember, Jelly was out with his ankle issue for the home game, allowing Josh Hawkinson free rein to run amok. Josh is back, and on his final post season run. 'Baby-Face' Hawkinson, then, has his work cut out for him, and so do the Cougs.
I fully expect Colorado to stumble around for a bit, watch a few open jumpers clang off the rim, and generally allow WSU to hang... just as we saw in both meetings this season. But, just as we saw in both meetings this season, the Buffs will pull it out when they need to, and steal away into Thursday's matchup with the Wildcats. Give me WSU on the cover, though.
- #10 UCLA vs #7 USC - 7pm MT - Pac-12 Networks -
Ooooo, a rivalry game! The night session begins with this tasty little meeting between the two LA schools, featuring a reversal of seeding fortune as the Trojans come into the game as the 'favorites.' It's legit, though. Power program UCLA has played like trash this year, and clearly deserve their double-digit spot in the bracket. The Bruins, losers of their last four and seven of nine, certainly seem to be in a tailspin, and don't strike me as capable of anything resembling winning basketball right now. Not to be out-paced in the 'L' column, however, the Trojans have also struggled the last few weeks, losing six of their last eight. Really, these two deserve each other!
I expect this one will be a wide-open free for all, featuring ugly shot selection, questionable coaching decisions, and some righteously ridiculous shit. Essentially, what I'm saying is: if you're going to be next-level drunk for only one game today, make it this one. Give me the Trojans with a cover.
- #11 Arizona St vs #6 Oregon St - 9:30 MT - Pac-12 Networks -
Last, but not least, the Beavers and Sun Devils are ready to provide the night cap. Really, this one is all about the Gary Payton II show -- how good he is in this tournament will determine exactly far OSU can go, and how secure their NCAA Tournament position is. The run starts here, and I just can't imagine the 'Mitten' bowing out after only one game. Behind his all encompassing performance, the Beavers should win big, sending the masses out to the tables with plenty of time left on the clock.
GO BUFFS! PROVE ME RIGHT, AND BEAT THE COUGARS!