Coming into the Pac-12 Men’s basketball tournament there are teams that don’t really have a worry about making the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The Arizona Wildcats, Oregon Ducks, and the UCLA Bruins are guaranteed to have spots in The Big Dance. The question becomes who goes the farthest in the NCAA Tournament?
Currently, these three teams are ranked fourth, fifth, and sixth in the AP Top 25 men’s basketball rankings. Arizona is ranked fourth, UCLA fifth, and Oregon sixth.
With three quality Pac-12 teams ranked so closely together it is tough to say who will go the farthest in the NCAA Tournament. Anybody who follows the NCAA Tournament on a regular basis knows that it all depends on match ups as they progress through the tourney. In the opening rounds it’s just about avoiding the upset, once you get to the Sweet 16, match-ups become a bigger factor for teams.
All three of these teams have great positives to them and to project which three will go the farthest in the men’s tournament is almost like splitting hairs.
Let’s look at all three teams.
Year after year the Wildcats bring as much talent to the basketball floor as anybody in the nation. The Cats have really been the dominant program in the Pac-12 for many years, but the success in the tournament has been fairly average.
Being knocked out early for the Cats has been something they are known for in the past. Obviously Arizona is looking to make that kind of though a thing of the past. In my opinion, Arizona can make a deep run.
With the Cats having the talents of Lauri Markkanen who is averaging 15.7 and nearly eight rebounds a game it’s certainly going to make the Wildcats a threat to do some damage in the NCAA tourney. However, he’s not the only threat the Cats have.
If you haven’t been following Arizona much this year, then you need to know the name Allonzo Trier. He spent the first 19 games on the sidelines for an undisclosed reason. That reason came to light in the last few weeks. He had taken a PED and was suspended by the NCAA.
Trier is a player. In only nine games this season he has averaged 13.9 points a game. He is a sophomore as well, so he has experience dealing with big games. Trier also hits the boards for a guard too. He grabs five rebounds a game and can lead the break after getting that rebound. Allonzo is the type of player that puts the pressure on the defense and that’ll create match up issues for the other tournament teams.
If Arizona can play the way they did against UCLA in Los Angeles then the Wildcats have a good shot at traveling up the freeway to Glendale, Arizona for the Final Four. There is no doubt that head coach Sean Miller will have his squad ready to go come tournament time. Now it comes down to the Cats focusing on the team in front of them and not looking too far ahead of themselves.
The high flying Oregon Ducks are looking to build off their experience in last year’s NCAA tournament. What do the Ducks offer in terms of making a solid run in the tournament?
Versatility and unselfish play. Plain and simple.
“For a player to say, ‘coach, however you want to use me, we just got to win the game,’ you know, that’s kind of special. That creates chemistry, that unselfishness.” Altman said about his team.
They have guards who have no fear taking the ball to the rim, the Ducks have big men that can out race most other big men in the country. The Ducks can play the outside game, Oregon can play the inside game with their size and length, the Ducks can also bring guys off the bench who can contribute, and finally they have a solid coach in Dana Altman.
The Ducks have to guard against becoming over confident and starting games slow like they did against California on Wednesday night. Oregon can’t rely on Dillon Brooks or somebody else to bail them out of a dicey situation. The Quack Attack needs to stay focused on running right through any team that stands in their way.
Are the Ducks good enough to make to the Final Four?
UCLA is the team that everybody else in the country wants to break through and make a deep run in the tournament. The Bruins are the biggest brand out of the three listed here. It’s much like in college football when USC is doing well, everybody roots for the Trojans. I get the same feeling with the Bruins.
The Bruins are led by all everything point guard, Lonzo Ball. He is arguably the best point guard in the Pac-12 Conference and certainly one of the top five guards in all of college basketball. Ball averages 15.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 7.6 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. He also shoots 56% from the field, 43% from three point land. His only struggle is at the free throw line where he shoots 68%.
The Bruins do have a balanced scoring attack which causes defensive problems for the opposition.
T.J. Leaf scores 16.7 per game, Bryce Alford scores 16.2 a game, Isaac Hamilton scores 14.3 per game, Aaron Holiday scores 13 per game, and Thomas Welch scores 10.6 per game. Leaf and Welch also pull down 8.7 rebounds a game.
Like I stated, the balance of the UCLA Bruins is undeniable. Having this type of balance tells people that the players don’t necessarily care who scores the ball, just as long as the team scores on their possessions. Much like the Ducks, the balance on the team creates good chemistry. Chemistry can lead a team to heights not yet imagined and that is what could be in store for the UCLA Bruins.
When it’s all said and done, I think the Oregon Ducks make a deeper run in the Big Dance than the other two. I like the experience factor with the Ducks, the way Dillon Brooks is playing right now, and the length the Ducks bring to the table. Now, I am not saying that the Ducks win the National Championship, but I believe they stand as good a chance as any other team in the country to do so.