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Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament tiers

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Jackie Cabrera | The Daily Wildcat

Christian Koloko scores two points against Stanford on March 3 in McKale Center. Koloko ended up scoring a total of 21 points. 

The 2021-22 Pac-12 Conference Men's Basketball Tournament will take place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas starting this Wednesday, March 9. This will be the first tournament that the Arizona men's basketball team will participate in since the 2019-20 season and didn’t appear last season due to a self-imposed ban. 

Front runners:

Arizona Wildcats

The Wildcats have reached peak Sean Miller greatness in the first year of the Tommy Lloyd era. They have won their first Pac-12 regular-season Championship since 2018 and have exceeded all pre-season expectations. The key for Arizona is shooting efficiency, containing the turnover issue and keeping the game fast-paced allowing the Wildcats to run on the fast break. If Bennedict Mathurin and Kerr Kriisa catch fire from deep, Arizona will be very hard to beat. 

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UCLA Bruins

When healthy, the UCLA Bruins pose the scariest offense in the Pac-12. They have three players in Johnny Juzang, Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Jules Bernard that can all create their own shot and score at a very high level. However, they have slipped up a few times in the last month (Oregon, ASU, and USC). Mick Cronin will have all five starters from last season plus defensive monster Myles Johnson and talented freshmen Peyton Watson. They wouldn’t have to face the Wildcats until the finals of the Pac-12 Tournament, where we would potentially see the trilogy play out. 

USC Trojans 

Although the season may not have ended the way Trojans fans had wanted it to, their losses came from Arizona, which is No. 2 in the country, and to No. 12 UCLA in Pauley Pavilion. They still have one of the best veterans in the conference with Isaiah Mobley, who is their leading scorer while being able to rebound at a high level and hit 3-pointers at an above-average rate. USC also has a good backcourt in Drew Peterson and Boogie Ellis that excel at hitting shots and getting their teammates involved. They just have come up short in big games this season, being 1-4 against top-25 opponents. The Trojans have a bye in the first round of the tournament and will play the winner of No. 6 University of Washington and No. 11 University of Utah. They would potentially face off with their in-state rival UCLA in the semifinals if they can advance. 

Sleepers:

Colorado Buffaloes

After having a rough start to the season, the University of Colorado Boulder has come alive in the second half of the year finishing with a 20-10 overall record. They have won seven of their final eight games of the season, including a huge win against No. 2 Arizona in Boulder. Senior Evan Battey, along with Jabari Walker and former Arizona commit K.J. Simpson will look to play spoiler in a possible rematch with the Wildcats in the semifinals. 

Oregon Ducks

The University of Oregon Ducks have a good backcourt with Will Richardson and Jacob Young but do not excel shooting the ball from deep. A few weeks ago, Oregon took Arizona to its limit but ended up losing and then followed it up with a win against UCLA. They couldn't keep that momentum up, which resulted in losing their last three games. With Dana Altman still as their head coach, we know they will come ready to play, and they face off against their in-state rival Oregon State in the first round. 

Long-shots:

Washington State Cougars

Regular season play ended well for this Cougars team, beating Oregon state twice and blowing out the Ducks at home. They normally play small ball with their three talented scoring guards, Michael Flowers, Tyrell Roberts and Noah Williams, but over time it will be hard for them to keep up with bigger and more physical teams. They face off with University of California, Berkeley in the first round, who they beat in two close matchups during the regular season. 

RELATED: Arizona MBB dominated Cal by 27 points in their final regular season game

Washington Huskies

The University of Washington Huskies have the eighth-leading scorer in all of college basketball with hometown kid, Terrell Brown Jr. After one season in Tucson, where he took on a smaller role than normal, he decided to transfer to Washington. This is his third school in four seasons, and he thrives at creating his own shot while driving to the basket at a high rate. They have been up and down the whole season but will play a weak Utah team in the first round. The Huskies are in a good spot in the bracket because they wouldn’t have to face the Bruins until the semifinals. 

Arizona State Sun devils

ASU had one of the worst starts of the season in the conference where they were 6-12 while many started to call for Bobby Hurley’s job. Since then, they have won seven of their final eight games of the regular season while beating UCLA, Oregon twice and keeping it close with the Wildcats. As a No. 8 seed in the tournament, they will face a tough Stanford team in the first round before the chance to meet up with their biggest rival with Arizona in the quarterfinals. 

Stanford Cardinal

The Cardinal spilt the season series with the Sun Devils, but things haven’t been going well for them lately. Stanford ended their regular season schedule winning only two out of the final 10 games. They have a talented duo on the wing with Harrison Ingram and Spencer Jones, but they struggle to shoot the ball at a high rate. They face ASU for the second straight game in the first round of the tournament on Wednesday at 1 p.m.

The bottom:

California Golden Bears

There isn’t a ton of positive for the Golden Bears this season after losing four of their last five games while having a 10-game losing streak in the middle of the season. They will face a hot Washington State team in the first round at 7 p.m. 

Utah Utes

The University of Utah Utes will have a tough time guarding one of the best scores in the country with Washington's Brown. They lost the season series to the Huskies in two close matchups, and their hopes of making a deep Pac-12 Tournament run is looking very slim. That is because they haven’t won at least three straight games since November. 

Oregon State Beavers

After winning the Pac-12 Tournament a season ago, Wayne Tinkle’s team hasn’t been able to continue their momentum from last year. Jarod Lucas is an incredible scorer and is a good shooter and playmaker, but he cannot do it all by himself. 


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