(AP) — Rule number one in Pac-12 men’s basketball this season has been to expect the unexpected. Parity is king in 2019.
It’s been clear since early in the conference schedule that just about any team could beat any other team. That became reality when 12th-seeded California got its first Pac-12 win two weeks ago against Washington, which started 10-0 in Pac-12 play and claimed the top seed in this week’s conference tournament before the final week of the regular season.
The wide-open tournament’s first-round games tip off Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The top four seeds have an advantage in only having to win three games, instead of four, to claim the championship and the Pac-12’s automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. But that title is undoubtedly up for grabs.
Here’s a look at the first-round games and potential quarterfinal matchups Thursday. The semifinals will be held Friday and the championship game Saturday.
First round (Wednesday)
(8) USC vs. (9) Arizona, noon
The matchup: The Trojans (15-16, 8-10) won the only game between the two, by 23 back on Jan. 24 in L.A. It was the first of seven defeats in a row for the Wildcats (17-14, 8-10) who have lost two after winning three straight. But USC is even worse off, with seven losses in its last nine.
The winner gets: Washington, noon Thursday
The Huskies (24-7, 15-3) are far from a heavy favorite after losing two of their last four, including California’s first conference win. Washington played each of its possible quarterfinal opponents once, beating USC by 13 at home and Arizona by seven on the road.
(5) Colorado vs. (12) California, 2:30 p.m.
The matchup: Colorado (19-11, 10-8) won its lone meeting with California (8-22, 3-15), 68-59 on Jan. 24 in Berkeley. Losses at the Washington schools’ are the Buffaloes’ only hiccups in the last 10 games. But the Golden Bears, winners of three straight, are playing their best ball of the season.
The winner gets: (4) Oregon State, 2:30 p.m. Thursday
The Beavers (18-12, 10-8) played and defeated each once, Colorado by two on the road and Cal by eight at home. OSU won when it had to in order to clinch the first-round bye. Not much has come easy for the Beavers this season, so a close battle with either team should be expected.
(7) UCLA vs. (10) Stanford, 6 p.m.
The matchup: The Bruins (16-15, 9-9) and Cardinal (15-15, 8-10) traded home wins by 22 and 24 points respectively. Both teams are likely just playing for pride. UCLA has two straight losses after winning four of five, while Stanford has dropped five of five since winning five of six.
The winner gets: (2) Arizona State, 6 p.m. Thursday
The Sun Devils (21-9, 12-6) appear off the NCAA bubble and solidly in the bracket for the moment after winning five of six, including road victories at Utah and Oregon State. They swapped blowout home wins with Stanford and won by 11 on the road in the only game with UCLA.
(6) Oregon vs. (11) Washington State
The matchup: The Ducks (19-12, 10-8) nearly pulled off the first-round bye in closing with four straight wins. They were undone by one too many second-half collapses. Oregon beat Washington State (11-20, 4-14) by 20 at home and 11 on the road. The Cougars have lost six of seven but beat Colorado and have been competitive in the second half.
The winner gets: (3) Utah, 8:30 p.m. Thursday
The Utes (17-13, 11-7) got to the third seed by avoiding a three-game losing streak in conference play and winning six road games. They won three of four to finish, rebounding from a 62-45 loss at Washington. Utah lost to Oregon by six at home in their only matchup but beat the Cougars twice by double digits.