Pac-12 tournament appears wide open


How wide open is the Pac-12 tournament, which runs Wednesday through Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas?

“I don’t have any qualms saying nine teams are capable of winning the thing,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “You try to say somebody is clearly better than someone else—you could not say that.”

No argument from Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins. “Looking at how the season ended, based on the some of the upsets I’ve witnessed,” Dawkins said, “I think anybody has an opportunity.”

Exhibit A: Seven of 10 games last weekend were won by the lower team in the standings, including victories by Utah over Oregon and Oregon State over Colorado, and a sweep of the L.A. schools by Washington State.

Stanford, which opens Wednesday against Arizona State, must win four in a row here or be left defending its NIT crown. A win at Cal last Wednesday gives the Cardinal some momentum. “We’re practicing to keep our rhythm of how we played down the stretch,” Dawkins said.

Cal, the No.2 seed, gets a bye into Thursday’s quarterfinal. How many games do the Bears have to win to get good news on Selection Sunday?

“No idea,” Montgomery said. “I’ve been answering that question for 31 years. You do the best you can. It’s out of your control.”

The favorites

—UCLA: Yes, the Bruins (23-8, 13-5) lost at Washington State on Wednesday for the first time in 19 years. Then they beat Washington in Seattle for the first time since 2004, clinching the Pac-12 title. They’ve won five of six and freshman Shabazz Muhammad is excited to return to his hometown of Las Vegas.

—Arizona: Hard to believe the Wildcats (24-6, 12-6) haven’t won this event in 11 years. Winless in their past five games against the league’s upper division, they remain the Pac-12’s highest projected NCAA seed.

—Cal: The Bears (20-10, 12-6) missed a chance to get a piece of the Pac-12 title, but they’ve won seven of eight. The bracket is set up nicely for them: They open with a team (USC or Utah) they have beaten twice, and avoid UCLA and Arizona until the final.

They’ve got issues

—Oregon: The Ducks (23-8, 12-6) were dominated by 10th-place Utah with a piece of the league title on the line, and won just five of their final 12 games after a 7-0 conference start. In short, they don’t resemble the team they were six weeks ago.

—Colorado: The Buffaloes (20-10, 10-8) still own a healthy No. 36 RPI rating and also, junior forward Andre Roberson is feeling better and cleared to play. The nation’s leading rebounder missed both games last week with a virus.

Wannabes

—Arizona State: For two months, the Sun Devils (20-11, 9-9) and freshman Jahii Carson were the surprise of the Pac-12. But after a 14-2 start, they went 6-9.

—Stanford: The Cardinal (18-13, 9-9) has won its past two games after losing four of six. To get to the NCAAs for the first time in five seasons under Dawkins, Stanford must win four in a row—something it hasn’t done all season.

—Washington: The Huskies (17-14, 9-9) started the Pac-12 with four wins, but are 5-9 since. Why? Ailing sharpshooter C.J. Wilcox has made just 31.4 percent of his shots over the past 11 games, just 20.7 percent of his 3-point tries.

—USC: Interim coach Bob Cantu and the Trojans (14-17, 9-9) are without 7-footers Dewayne Dedmon and James Blasczyk, both suspended indefinitely for their alleged involvement in a fight at Spokane, Wash., early Sunday.

Dreamers

—Utah: The Utes (13-17, 5-13) come off a home sweep of the Oregon schools, including a decisive upset of the No.23 Ducks, their first win over a ranked team since November 2009.

—Washington State: The Cougars (13-18, 4-14) meet cross-state rival Washington in the tournament two years after Klay Thompson scored a record 43 points—and UW won anyway.

—Oregon State: What does it say about the Beavers (14-17, 4-14) that Colorado coach Tad Boyle apologized to the home crowd over the PA after the Buffaloes lost to OSU on Saturday?