By: Grant Pomatto
In my mind, the Pac-12 is the 3rd best league behind the Big 12 and the Big 10 in terms of top contenders and close races in the league making this conference tournament something to watch if you’re able to. In my mind, there are only really five teams in the conference that actually have a really good shot to call themselves Pac-12 champions.
Usually we aren’t talking about Oregon seriously this late in the year. Usually a fast start team, Oregon many of the past years haven’t been able to close seasons out. This year, they might just get over that hump. With an impeccable 26-6 regular season record, the Ducks finished undefeated at home (18-0) and 14-4 in the conference. Finally, a team that isn’t Arizona is a top the league and looking to stay that way. The keys for Oregon to win the conference championship is score often and early. Fill up that part of the stat sheet as 10 of their wins have come when they have scored 80 points or better. On the defensive side, they must keep their opponents off the glass and make their possessions one and done. As for players to look out for, both Elgin Cook and Dillon Brooks need to continue having good games or Oregon can say goodbye to a conference championship. They will be in the big dance so momentum going in is key for them
Utah was a team that started off well in the regular season and really didn’t hear much about until a few weeks ago when they finally started playing better basketball as they have won 8 of their last 10 games and Jakob Poeltl has come into form making him one of the best big men on college basketball right now (averaging 18.5ppg). For Utah to win the Pac-12, they must keep their hot shooting up as they shoot 48 percent from the field and just holding their opponents to 40 percent from the field. Poeltl needs to take control in the paint and Utah must look inside to the big man before they start playing behind the perimeter. I think Utah has a very good shot to win the league championship and the top teams do not want to face this deadly team early on in their tournament.
It’s kind of weird talking about Arizona as the third team to most likely win their league tournament. The Wildcats are good again this year, but so is the rest of the Pac-12 finally. They have the most experience over the past few years and that will help them stay in contention for the championship. Arizona must be able to adapt to difficult situations and learn to play through adversity this tournament as any team in this league can beat you, besides maybe Arizona State or Washington State. In order for the Wildcats to win the championship again, they have to beat the teams they are supposed to beat and not let them stay in the game or they can find themselves sitting on the sidelines watching the rest of the league tournament. Ryan Anderson and Gabe York also need to stay hot as Anderson is shooting 56 percent from the field and York is shooting 42 percent from three-point range. Arizona is not the favorite this year but they will be there at the end fighting for a position to win their conference.
Kind of a surprising team this year. Most people didn’t see it coming that the Golden Bears would be in the top 25 at the end of the year and in contention for their conference championship. Let’s just put this to bed now, California is a very good team this year, no matter what anyone says. Averaging 75ppg. and only giving up 65 to their opponents and holding team to just 36 percent shooting from the field shows how balanced of the team they are both offensively and defensively. Now I don’t think they have as much of chance to win their tournament as a team like Oregon or Utah does, but they will be in contention and the talks with the rest of the top team in this conference.
Colorado the past few years has been sort of the heartbreaker team in the Pac-12 conference giving teams all that they can handle and this year was no different. With not a whole lot of fire power, the team finished fifth in the regular season standings with a 21-10 record (10-8 in the conference) and look like the team again to spoil some teams’ chances of advancing to the big dance. The keys for them in order to win are to control the rebound game as they are a +8.6 margin a game team on the boards. Team play is another big factor for them as they average close to 14 assists a game. If Colorado can keep their composure and go through Josh Scott and George King on the offensive side of the ball, they have a very good shot to punch their automatic ticket to the big dance.
With these teams in mind, I have Utah wining the Pac-12 conference championship. I just think nobody in the league can stop Jakob Poeltl in the paint especially when he gets hot. The team is well balanced enough to be able to compete with any team in the conference and with any team in the country when they make it to the big dance. Utah will still be playing in March after their conference season has ended no matter how they finish in their tournament but to ride a long winning streak into the tournament is always a good thing to have. Utah, let’s go dancing.