March 8, 2007

What to look for at Staples Center

With the Pac-10 tournament set to begin today, here are some things to look out for as each team tries to make a statement and improve seeding.

  • What kind of lineups will we see? Each win is important, but you have to wonder just how important it is for certain teams. Arizona, UCLA, Washington State, and Oregon are truly the only teams that have a locked bid. Stanford and USC will likely get in, but it would not surprise anybody if Stanford was left at home for the tournament, should it lose. This brings up the question as to what lineups we will see.

    UCLA is a little banged up, thus it would not be surprising to see a deeper bench or at least more minutes given to the bench. Then again, the Bruins are making a push for the number one overall seed and if they can coast through the conference tournament, it would make it harder for the committee to deny the Bruins the top seed.

    Arizona head coach Lute Olson has already stated that he will use more of the bench, while Washington State will likely stay the same. The Cougars want to continue their magical run and the best way to do that would be to keep everything as is. There could be some different mentalities in the game and it should be interesting to see how they clash, if at all.

  • Which Arizona team will show up? As we all know by now, there have been two Arizona teams this season and it seems that a different squad could show up any game. If Arizona is going to win the Pac-10 tournament, the Wildcats need to play the style of basketball that is likely to lead to their success.

    That means passing, smart shots, and solid defense. If the Wildcats look that the team that frustrates often, Arizona is simply not going to have much of a chance to win the tournament. It will be interesting to see what Arizona team shows up and if it could stay around for a while.

  • The year of the point guard. The conference is loaded with top point guards and much of each team's success will depend on the play of their point guard. The chances of Oregon winning without Aaron Brooks playing well or Washington State without Derrick Low playing well are minimal, thus those players and the other point guards around the conference will need to step up.

    At this time of year there are those players that perform well and others that fail. It will be interesting to see which point guards can perform up to expectations and which disappoint. The answer to that question will likely determine the success of the teams in the conference tournament and even the postseason as a whole.

  • Who is the freshman of the year? Sure, Chase Budinger won it, and rightfully so. However, Spencer Hawes and Ryan Anderson likely feel as if they have something to prove and there is no better time to do so than the post season.

    Hawes and Anderson may only wind up playing two games, but spectacular efforts from both could lead to some second guessing. That is not to say that Budinger did not deserve it, because he certainly did. However, it simply adds fuel to the fire of those that now want to prove him and those that voted wrong.

  • Who will be the spoiler? Early indications are that there really is not a team that is capable of an upset in the tournament as a whole. The only team that is capable of playing that role would be Washington but seeing as how this tournament is on the road, it will not be an easy task for the Huskies.

    The prediction here is that a team from the top half of the conference will win the tournament, but since it is March, there are certainly no guarantees.

  • Can anybody beat the Bruins? Well, Washington and Oregon would like to believe they can, but it seems unlikely that either would be able to beat the Bruins in Los Angeles.

    The winner of the Stanford-USC game and possibly Arizona have the best shot at beating UCLA, but it will certainly not be an easy task. If anything, a UCLA's loss in the regular season finale was a bad thing for the best of the conference.

    It is difficult to see the Bruins losing two games close together, especially when Ben Howland is likely using the loss as motivation. Each opponent that UCLA faces is going to play its best game in order to beat the Bruins, but that certainly does not guarantee anything.

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