March 15, 2007

Pac-10 looks to make a statement in tournament

The Pac-10 Conference managed to get six of its ten teams into this year's NCAA Tournament, which is definitely praise to the overall quality of the conference. With so many good teams in the Pac-10, here's a look at each of the six teams as they head into their respective first round matchups and how they should fare in their tournament runs.

ARIZONA - #8, Midwest Region

The Wildcats are a dangerous team with their sheer amount of talent. However, despite the raw talent, it will be emotion, hard work and the decision making of seniors Mustafa Shakur and Ivan Radenovic that will determine how deep this team can go in the tournament.

Given Arizona's play over the past two months and the amount of drive and heart Purdue has shown through the season, Purdue is the popular pick to win this one. If the Wildcats can play adequate defense, take good shots and limit turnovers on the offensive end then there should be no reason for them not to win this game. But, as most UA fans have found, those three things can be difficult to come by, especially all at the same time.

Give Arizona the benefit of the doubt in the first round but a peaking Florida team will require everything these Wildcats have in the second round for a win.

OREGON - #3, Midwest Region

By far the hottest team in the conference right now, Oregon looked like a team possessed in the Pac-10 Tournament, winning every game by an average of 20 points.

Riding a six-game winning streak with a Pac-10 Tournament Championship along the way, the Ducks are playing as well as anyone in the country. Their offense has been firing on all cylinders and their efforts on defense have been outstanding.

Oregon no longer needs to lean on Aaron Brooks as Tajuan Porter has really emerged as a game breaker and is a perfect fit, even at 5-foot-6, in head coach Ernie Kent's up-tempo offense.

The Ducks find themselves at a 3-seed in the Midwest Regional with a first round matchup against Miami (Ohio). The RedHawks will have everything they can handle as the frenetic offensive pace and an absolute barrage from behind the arc from every Oregon starter should put this one away early.

Look for Oregon's winning streak to extend to nine games before nearly upsetting Florida in the Elite Eight.

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