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MGM Grand Arena
Las Vegas, NV
Record: 23-8, 13-5
UCLA's start to the 2012-2013 season was plagued by inconsistency (and no Shabazz Muhammad) that eventually lead to a loss against Cal Poly. The Bruins, however, found their rhythm and rattled off ten straight wins and suddenly crept up on the Pac-12 regular season title. Even so, winning a conference tournament is a lot more difficult.
The same team that beat Arizona twice also lost to USC and Washington State. If the Bruins want to make a run at the title, they will need to offset their poor rebounding with terrific shooting. That means Shabazz Muhammad, along with Jordan Adams, and Travis Wear will need to carry the scoring load while Larry Drew II builds on his 7.7 assists per game. The scoring trio averaged 44.5 points per game during the regular season.
Record: 24-6, 12-6
Arizona entered the season as the favorite to win the Pac-12. They proved that notion right to begin the season with a last-minute victory against Florida and a dominant 69-50 win over Miami (FL). The Wildcats went undefeated in non-conference play, but faltered against the likes of UCLA, Oregon and California who they were 1-5 against.
The road for Arizona to the Championship game isn't pretty. They'll likely get Colorado in their first game and if they advance, a third meeting with UCLA. The only win Zona has against those two teams is an OT game back in January over Colorado. Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill and Nick Johnson are a lot to deal with, but the lack of a consistent ball-handler on the offensive end will likely be a main reason for their potential exit.
Record: 23-8, 12-6
Oregon was the surprise team to begin the season and really began to turn some heads with a win over UNLV. Unfortunately, starter Dominic Artis got injured in the midst of a nine-game winning streak. At that point, Oregon went on a skid and lost three straight to inferior Pac-12 opponents. Even after his return, the Ducks dropped their final two games to Colorado and Utah. Their top-heavy roster, highlighted by two freshman guards, most likely will become a disadvantage to them as they advance.
Oregon will take on the winner of Washington/Washington State and may eventually play California in the semis. That potential re-match could have a different outcome with Artis in the lineup.
Record: 20-10, 12-6
California seems to be the dark horse of the Pac-12 heading into the tourney even with their unexciting non-conference schedule. The Golden Bears have wins over the top three teams in the conference, beating Oregon twice. Even more impressive is the fact that back-to-back wins against Arizona and UCLA were in the midst of seven-game winning streak. They won those games by defense as no opponent hit the 70-point mark during that streak.
While they do play solid defense, their backcourt can play with the best of them led by Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs. Those two both have the ability to shoot and drive when they please and score a combined 33 points per game.
Record: 20-10, 10-8
Unfortunately for Colorado, Andre Roberson may be unavailable to play due to a viral illness. If so, that would be a huge blow to a Colorado team that depends on Roberson's nightly double-double of 10.8 PPG and 11.5 RPG. The Buffaloes continue the trend of inconsistency in conference play by beating high-caliber teams like Oregon and Arizona but losing to Utah and Oregon State. They play the Beavers in the first round of the tournament so they can't get caught sleepwalking. If they pull off a victory, they will find themselves in a matchup against a team they would love to play again in Arizona.
UCLA has been inconsistent at times, but they will be the favorites going into this tournament. They have a balanced squad that has played well as of late and can stick with any kind of team. The Bruins have size with the Wear brothers and sport a backcourt of freshman studs, Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad.
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