After countless games fans wish to remember and others that, frankly, should be forgotten, Cal men’s basketball is set to compete in the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament. Whether they will succeed or even try is the question: a question that The Daily Californian men’s hoops beat reporters are looking to answer.
How many rounds do you think the Bears will get through in the tournament?
Justin Kim: While the hearts of many are saying Cal will make it to the quarterfinals, minds across the fan base say Cal is getting ousted in the first round. Regular-season matches aren’t everything, but they are certainly indicative of how well teams match up against one another. Considering the Cougars sweeped the Bears regardless of Andre Kelly’s status, Cal may have already seen its last win this season.
Ali Fazal: If Cal goes out in the first round, it won’t be for a lack of trying. The Bears played the Cougars close both times this season, losing by just an average of 4 points. However, it doesn’t help that they also got a taste of life without Kelly against the Cougars, as Washington State’s Efe Abogidi crashed the boards 11 times in their Feb. 5 meeting. And with both teams ranking at the top of the conference in scoring defense, it could be WSU’s fourth-ranked offense that tips the game in its favor.
Benjamin Coleman: The odds will be against the Bears in their first round matchup against a Cougars team who beat them both times this regular season and is riding a three-game win streak. Cal under Mark Fox has proven to be a tough out in the Pac-12 tournament before, though, pulling off first round upset wins in each of the last two seasons. If everything goes right for the Bears — including having a healthy Joel Brown and stellar performances from Jordan Shepherd and Grant Anticevich — they may be able to recapture March magic once again. The blue and gold likely won’t get further than that, though.
Tina Xue: Taking into account Jordan Shepherd’s sporadic 30-point nights, it’s not a total gamble to say the Bears will not be able to enjoy the city of lights for more than a day. Though WSU — Cal’s first opponent to open this perilous tournament — has had a victorious grasp on the broom handle this season; who knows what the Vegas air and tournament nerves may bring to this matchup. But just to be safe, fans should expect nothing more than a first-round exit for the Bears come Thursday morning. But this is nothing to shed tears over: The Bears have had their fair share of tragic defeats and noble upsets this season, and there’s definitely nothing shameful in a first=round exit — just ask Luka Doncic and the Mavericks.
Who’s the dark horse team to watch out for?
JK: The Oregon Ducks. Oregon will have no problem getting out of the opening round, and it matches up well with its quarterfinal matchup (Colorado Buffaloes). Last time the Buffaloes and Ducks sparred, the latter thrashed the former by 15. If Oregon makes it as far as the semifinals, it is capable of running with the Wildcats, whom it fell short to by just 3 points in their Feb. 19 matchup.
AF: Look out for Washington. It boasts the Pac-12’s top scorer in Terrell Brown Jr. and holds a sizable advantage in the turnover battle against both Utah and USC, should it advance. If the Huskies can get past the Utes in what should be a close game based on their regular-season meetings, their reward is a sliding Trojans team who lost its final two games to close out the season.
BC: Arizona State started the season slow, but it has quickly turned into the kind of team no one wants to face in March. Winners of seven of their last eight games, the Sun Devils let the Bears witness their prowess firsthand last weekend in a 71-44 conquest. They are only the eighth seed but have the potential to go on a much deeper run than their 14-16 record gives them credit for.
TX: With the way that Arizona is looking, I don’t quite believe in the concept of underdogs — for this tournament, at least.
Who’s taking it home?
JK: Ultimately, Arizona will win the tournament. While UCLA will be a formidable matchup as one of the two teams who beat the Wildcats this year, the discrepancy in the talent and matchups have me leaning toward Arizona.
AF: Arizona. The Wildcats’ dominant run through the Pac-12 has them set to cap off one of the most successful seasons in program history with style. They’ve beaten their prospective semifinal opponents by an average of 13.25 points, and they rank in the top half of the conference in every major statistical category. Colorado and UCLA could give Arizona a run for its money, but its balanced offensive attack might be too much to handle.
BC: No. 2 Arizona is absolutely the favorite; the team has a legitimate chance to win March Madness, not to mention the Pac-12 tournament. But No. 13 UCLA is a well-coached, veteran team fresh off of a final-four run last season. I think that experience will be enough for the Bruins to surprise and win the tournament this year.
TX: Place your bets on Arizona because it’s on its way to a win. With their near flawless execution of plays and especially off ball movement to create the best shots, combined with a well-rounded team energy founded in a depth of roster — the Wildcats have got it all to win it all.