Pac-12 Tournament: It’s Arizona’s to lose
Men’s basketball • Wildcats aiming for a No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament
Published: March 10, 2014 05:39PM
Updated: March 10, 2014 11:25PM
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Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune UCLA's Kyle Anderson goes up for two against Jordan Loveridge in second half play, Saturday, January 18, 2014. Utah beat UCLA 74-69.

The Pac-12 tournament is finally here. And Arizona is the team to beat.

The Wildcats, the best team in the league all season, are coming off a loss to Oregon and are trying to cement themselves as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

That’s bad news for the rest of the league. From UCLA to Colorado to Stanford to Utah, there are many teams in the league that could use a four-game run to the championship. But can you honestly bet against a motivated Arizona team?

That’s one question that will be answered this week. There are a few more below:

The favorite

Arizona’s not only the top team in the Pac-12, the Wildcats are one of the three top teams in the country. They defend, they rebound, they are so deep and athletic. But the way Sean Miller gets this team to play hard, including defensively, is a thing of beauty. Having a talented team guarantees nothing — just ask John Calipari down at Kentucky. This Arizona team is selfless, makes the extra pass and has excellent chemistry. That will make beating the Wildcats a difficult endeavor.

The contenders

UCLA is dangerous because it’s the best team in the Pac-12 when it comes to simply putting the ball in the basket. Between Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams, Zach Levine and the Wear twins, it’s very hard to shut the Bruins down for a long period of time. Thing is, UCLA is pretty vulnerable defensively. There could be a huge shootout between the Bruins and Oregon, should these two teams meet in the Thursday quarterfinals.

Speaking of Oregon, the Ducks have won seven straight and defeated Arizona in last Saturday’s finale. This was once a top-10 team, but started conference play 3-8. Now, the Ducks are close to being ranked again, and are perhaps the most dangerous team in the league.

The dark horse

The way Larry Krystkowiak’s team makes it difficult for opposing offenses, it’s hard to see many teams wanting to run into Utah this week. This is a team that could win the tournament on Saturday. It’s also a team that could lose to Washington in Wednesday’s first round.

Keep an eye on …

Pleasant Grove native C.J. Wilcox is playing in his final Pac-12 tournament for the Huskies. And he’s the kind of shooter who can carry a team like Washington. That should truly concern Utah fans. The Utes lack a shot-maker like Wilcox, and if he gets hot, it could be a short tournament for the Utes.

Best first-round game

Oregon is definitely on fire. But the Ducks have a dangerous matchup with Oregon State. OSU doesn’t have better personnel, but rivalry games are always a risk for the favored team.

tjones@sltrib.com

Pac-12 Tournament

Utah vs. Washington, Noon.

Colorado vs. USC, 3:30 p.m.

Oregon vs. Oregon State, 7 p.m.

Stanford vs. Washington State, 9:30 p.m.