The Pac-12 tournament kicks off on Wednesday, from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Two teams are locks for the tournament, as UCLA enters the Pac-12 tournament ranked second in the current AP Top 25, and Arizona checks in ranked eighth.
But whether another team, or two, joins them in the big dance will be determined over the next few days.
USC is one team to watch, as the Trojans finished the year with a 22-9 record (14-6 in conference play, matching Arizona) and USC split the season series with their crosstown rivals, beating UCLA at the end of January. The Trojans have a fascinating pair of guards in Boogie Ellis and Drew Peterson. Ellis averaged 18.1 points per game during the regular season, and converted from three-point land at a 39.1% rate. Peterson checks in at 6’9, with the size of a big, but he can create off the dribble and shot 36% from behind the three-point line this season.
Oregon likely needs a few wins in the Pac-12 tournament to secure a spot in the big dance. Dana Altman’s team finished the year with an 18-13 record, but the Ducks finished with the fourth-best record in the conference, and are coming off three-straight wins to close out the season. N’Faly Dante is the man in the middle for Oregon, as the 6’11 center averaged 13.5 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game for the Ducks. Will Richardson starts the offense, as the guard averaged 12.5 points per game, and 5.2 assists per game, this year.
The Arizona Wildcats put up points in bunches, averaging 83.1 points per game, which ranks Arizona fourth in the nation and tops in the conference. They’re led by 6’11 forward Azuolas Tubelis, a two-time First-Team All-Pac-12 selection. Tubelis is both the top scorer (19.9 ppg) and the top rebounder (9.2 rpg) in the conference. Arizona split their season series with UCLA, losing in the season finale on Saturday.
As for UCLA, the Bruins enter the tournament the top-ranked team in the conference, and as the top seed for the Pac-12 tournament. But they face a big question, and that is how they will fare without Jaylen Clark. Their defensive wizard — Clark averages 2.6 steals per game and was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year — suffered a lower-leg injury in the season finale against Arizona, and UCLA coach Mick Cronin announced on Tuesday that he will miss the Pac-12 tournament. There is also reporting breaking Wednesday that Clark’s season may be over. The Bruins will turn to fellow guards Jaime Jaquez Jr. (17.5 ppg and the Pac-12 Player of the Year) and Tyger Campbell (12.9 ppg, 4.7 apg) to pick up the slack. Having one of the top defenses in the nation — UCLA allowed just 60.1 points per game this year, sixth-best in the country — will help as well.
2023 men’s Pac-12 tournament bracket
2023 men’s Pac-12 tournament schedule (all times Eastern)
March 8 First Round
Game 1: Colorado 74, Washington 68
Game 2: Washington State 69, California 52
Game 3: Stanford 73, Utah 62
Game 4: No. 6 Arizona State vs. No. 11 Oregon State, 11:30 p.m., PAC12
March 9 Quarterfinals
Game 5: No. 9 Colorado vs. No. 1 UCLA, 3 p.m., PAC12
Game 6: No. 5 Washington State vs. No. 4 Oregon, 5:30 p.m., PAC12
Game 7: No. 10 Stanford vs. No. 2 Arizona, 9 p.m., PAC12
Game 8: Winner Game 4 vs. No. 3 USC, 11:30 p.m., ESPN
March 10 Semifinals
Game 9: Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, 9 p.m., PAC12
Game 10: Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, 11:30 p.m., ESPN
March 11 Championship
Game 11: Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 10, 10:30 p.m., ESPN