The 2022 Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament begins this week, March 2-4 and March 6, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
Having gone undefeated in conference play, the Stanford Cardinal is the #1 seed.
But enough about Stanford.
With yesterday’s win over Utah, Oregon secured the number 2 seeding for the tournament. The upside of this is twofold: First, the Ducks have a bye in the first round. Second - and more importantly - the Ducks do not have to go through Stanford in order to get to the finals.
This conference season was a slugfest (with the exception of you-know-who), with 2 through 12 all having at least 6 losses to Pac-12 opponents. What this means is that, with the likely exception of Cal and Washington, any of these teams could make a bit of a tournament run this weekend. In theory.
However, upon closer examination - and with the possible exception of some of the first round contests - this tournament is likely to go chalk past the first round. Of course, that’s not a given, which is why we play the games. So what do we have in the first round?
First Round - Wednesday, March 2nd
#5 Colorado vs. #12 Washington
These teams met once during the season in a game that Colorado dominated. Washington’s only victories this season were against mid-to-bottom-dwellers Cal and Arizona State. The Huskies would need an unlikely miracle to not be one and done.
#8 Oregon State vs. #9 Arizona State
The Sun Devils came out on top the one time these teams met during the season. Both of these teams are riding losing streaks to end their regular season; The Beavers have lost two and AZ State collapsed and have notched six losses in a row. This one is a tossup, and my hunch is that Arizona State will pull out the win. It’s all moot, though, because whoever wins will lose against their next opponent - Stanford.
#7 UCLA vs. #10 USC
UCLA won both of their matchups with the Trojans in convincing fashion. Expect no different this game.
#6 Utah vs. #11 California
A few weeks ago, Utah prevailed in the Bay Area against lowly Cal, 80-75, but the Utes are better than their 8-7 conference record would suggest. If there’s a dark horse in this tournament, it will likely be Utah. Expect Utah to win again and advance.
The second round will probably find the upper seeds advancing. ATQ does not foresee anyone beating the Cardinal in their tier, so we’ll leave that alone. What about in the Ducks’ tier?
Second Round - Thursday, March 3rd
#2 Oregon vs. winner of UCLA/USC - 6:00 pm
If USC was to win in the first round, that would be quite the upset. Neither team is likely to overcome the Ducks, HOWEVER - Oregon has been wildly inconsistent this season. A positive sign was their last game of the regular season against Utah, because except for a bump in the 3rd quarter, Oregon played a solid game ... the kind of game they need to advance in tournament season. Look for the Ducks to play Friday.
#3 Washington State vs. winner of Utah/California - 8:30 pm
Again, lightning will have struck the Utes if somehow the Bears were to defeat them. That brings the Utes to a game against the Cougars, and this is going to be a very interesting matchup. Washington State lost in their mid-season contest and have won 5 of their last 6 games. Utah has won 7 of their last 10 games. This will probably be a close one and my hunch is that Utah will pull this one out and earn a rematch against Oregon.
Third Round - Friday, March 4th
Winner of Oregon/UCLA vs. Utah/Wazzu - 8:30 pm.
Oregon crushed the Cougars by 53 points when they met on Feb 9th in Pullman. Since then, Washington State appears to have righted the ship with a strong finish to their season. The Ducks will need to play solid basketball, but unless they completely fall apart they should reach the finals.
Pac-12 Championship - Sunday, March 6th - 3:00 pm
This tournament will have turned upside-down if Stanford has not reached the finals. They should, though, and it looks to be a chalk contest of the #1 seed vs. the #2 seed. Can anyone beat the Cardinal? If a team other than Stanford is going to be the tournament champion, that would be Oregon. The Ducks played a closely contested match in Eugene that was not over until it was over. The Cardinal is back in form as the gold standard in the Pac-12, and continues to be the team that the others in the conference aspire to. If the Ducks play to their full potential, this could be a final for the ages.