The Pac-10 Conference Tournament begins play on Wednesday with one game followed by four more games on Thursday. Check the latest NCAA basketball lines.
The 2011 Pac-10 Conference Tournament features two top seeds that are both looking to get back to the Big Dance after missing out last year due to disappointing seasons. That should not be an issue for top seed Arizona (25-6, 14-4 Pac-10) or #2 UCLA (22-9, 13-5) since each are locks to make the NCAA tournament no matter what they do at the Staples Center in Los Angeles this week.
The Wildcats saw their streak of 25 straight years making the Big Dance end after going 16-15 last season following a 75-69 loss to the Bruins in the quarterfinals of the Pac-10 tournament. UCLA proceeded to lose to top seed California in the next round and did not make the NCAA tournament either for the first time in six seasons under head coach Ben Howland.
Arizona returned with a vengeance this year though behind Pac-10 Player of the Year Derrick Williams and Coach of the Year Sean Miller. Williams averaged 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game for the Wildcats while Miller helped lead one of the top turnarounds in college basketball in just his second season at the school.
UCLA split two meetings with Arizona during the regular season and won 10 of 12 games down the stretch to beat out #3 Washington (20-10, 11-7) for the next-best seed. The Bruins will face the winner between #7 Oregon (14-16, 7-11) and #10 Arizona State (12-18, 4-14) in the quarterfinals on Thursday while the Wildcats get Wednesday’s survivor of #8 Stanford (15-15, 7-11) and #9 Oregon State (10-19, 5-13) in the opening round of the tournament.
The Huskies knocked off the Golden Bears 79-75 in the tournament championship game as the #3 seed last year, and Cal (17-13, 10-8) will need to make a similar run this year to get into the Big Dance. Washington meets #6 Washington State (19-11, 9-9) in Thursday’s quarterfinals while the fifth-seeded Bears play #4 USC (18-13, 10-8).
The Trojans likely need to win at least two games to have a shot at the NCAA tournament, including an upset of Arizona in the semis. They did beat the Wildcats 65-57 at home on February 24, rallying back from a 28-25 halftime deficit and holding Williams to a season-low eight points. USC missed last year’s Pac-10 tournament due to self-imposed sactions for violations of NCAA rules stemming from the illegal recruitment of former star O.J. Mayo. The Trojans had won the previous tournament in 2009 over Arizona State.