Day 1 of the Pac-12 Tournament was, to put it nicely, lackluster. Four games, three blowouts and a wire-to-wire win. The four higher-seeded teams shredded the four lower-seeded teams. The four losers (Stanford, Washington State, UCLA and Arizona State) led those four games for a COMBINED 33 seconds. It was not pretty.
The bright side? The fans in Las Vegas were in for a treat on Thursday as the undisputed, eight best teams in the conference met up. Surely it had to be more exciting than Wednesday, right? It absolutely was. Every team showed up hungry and eager to advance. All eight teams used the MGM Grand Garden Arena as their proving ground.
When the dust settled, the top four seeds still remained.
Oregon 83, Washington 77
The number one seed and regular season Pac-12 champion Oregon Ducks found themselves in a fast-paced slugfest with the Washington Huskies to kick off the day on Thursday. But, behind a fantastic effort from Chris Boucher, the Ducks were able to hold off Washington. Boucher finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. The loss means the end of Washington's season but it went down swinging against the conference's best. Oregon will be meeting Arizona in the next round.
Arizona 82, Colorado 78
I talked about this game at length right when it ended. Long story short: It appeared as if the Arizona Wildcats could win by 40. Then, Tad Boyle's Colorado Buffaloes didn't just battle back, they suddenly looked like the Monstars from Space Jam on the glass. Arizona's lead slowly dwindled as every 50/50 ball ended up in the hands of a Colorado player. The large red mass of Arizona fans that filled the arena found their Wildcats in a one-possession game in the closing moments. But, after two game-clinching free throws from Gabe York, Arizona was victorious and moving on to the next round. Allonzo Trier led the team with 23 points.
Utah 80, USC 72
Fresh off a beat-down of their crosstown rival, the USC Trojans came out firing against the Utah Utes. Sophomore guard, Jordan McLaughlin, was very good, finishing with 24 points. Unfortunately for them, Utah's Kyle Kuzma was better. Kuzma had 23 points on a near-perfect 11/12 from the field and Utah was able to put a game USC team away. The Utes entered the tournament as winners of seven straight and don't appear to be slowing down any time soon. Up next for Utah is Cal.
California 76, Oregon State 68
In Thursday's late game, the Oregon State Beavers proved that they belonged on the floor with the conference's best, pushing the California Golden Bears to their absolute limit. Cal was able to pull away behind a dominant performance from Ivan Rabb (Career-high 21 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks) and a clutch performance from Jabari Bird (20 points, 5/7 from deep). Oregon State freshman guard, Derrick Bruce, entered tonight's game with a career-high of 11 points. Needless to say, tonight was the game of his life as he single-handedly kept the Beavers in the game with 25 points. Despite the loss to Cal, the so-called "bubble team" Beavers showed the selection committee what they're made of with their performance.
1-seed Oregon vs. 4-seed Arizona -- 7:00 PM MT, Pac-12 Network
This is a game that Arizona fans have been clamoring for since the Ducks rudely interrupted Arizona's 49-game win streak in McKale Center. Oregon crashed Arizona's house party with an 83-75 win back on Jan. 28. That was the only time the two teams met this season and the Wildcats assuredly still have a bitter taste in their mouths. Oregon has looked like the Pac-12's best, most consistent team. While Arizona has had flashes of brilliance, like its first half against Colorado for example. What's standing between Arizona and a third consecutive Pac-12 Tournament championship game appearance? 40 minutes of solid basketball. If Arizona can play consistently well for 40 minutes, especially on the defensive end, the Wildcats can beat the Ducks. If they don't? Oregon will beat Arizona for a second time this season in front of a ton of Wildcat fans.
2-seed Utah vs. 3-seed California -- 9:30 PM MT, Fox Sports 1
Arguably the two hottest teams in the Pac-12 will meet up in the second semifinal on Friday night. The two teams split the season series with each home team walking away with a win. Utah, behind Pac-12 Player of the Year, Jakob Poeltl, has won eight straight but it's facing a physically imposing Cal squad that is 9-1 in its last 10 games. The Poeltl versus Rabb matchup could be what decides this game. Both men finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds in the first meeting, in what was a Cal victory. But in the second meeting, Poeltl torched the Golden Bears for 21 points and nine rebounds, en route to a win. If Rabb can keep Poeltl in check or at least match him, Cal can pull the upset.
The four best teams in the Pac-12 are remaining, and two will separate themselves on Friday night. One thing is certain -- the class of the Conference of Champions will be bringing its best to Sin City.