The Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals wrapped up Thursday, with only four teams now remaining. The Arizona Wildcats, UCLA Bruins, USC Trojans, and Oregon Ducks are still competing for the Pac-12 crown and the automatic bid to March Madness.
Here’s how each team won their quarterfinal and advanced to the Pac-12 semifinals.
Arizona 83, Colorado 67
Despite a huge amount of adversity, the Wildcats have been the class of the Pac-12 for most of the season. Colorado kept the game close throughout the first half, with George King and McKinley Wright IV giving the Arizona defense fits.
However, Arizona used its talent and emotional fire to pull away in the final 20 minutes. After halftime, the Wildcats looked like the Final Four contender they were expected to be in the preseason. Deandre Ayton, Dusan Ristic, and especially Allonzo Trier continued to dominate their opponents, with Trier dropping 22 points.
If the Wildcats play like they did Thursday, no team should want to see Arizona in their bracket on Sunday.
UCLA 88, Stanford 77
Coming into Thursday, UCLA was probably in the tournament, but far from a sure bet. A loss to Stanford would’ve hurt more than win helped, but the Bruins don’t have to worry about that anymore.
The second game of the afternoon featured another close first half, with the Bruins and Cardinal remaining close. In the second half, the distance between the two didn’t grow much, but thanks to an amazing performance by Aaron Holiday (34 points, 7 assists, 8 rebounds), UCLA pulled away, setting up a rematch with Arizona on Friday.
USC 61, Oregon State 48
The Trojans were in a similar position to UCLA, faced with a high-risk and low-reward matchup. Also similarly to their crosstown rivals, the Trojans avoided a bad loss and advanced to Friday’s semifinals.
This was the slowest — and not always the prettiest game to watch — on Thursday.
Chimezie Metu was the main attraction, posting 22 points and 11 rebounds, affecting nearly every possession. He showed why USC was seen as the Wildcats’ biggest threat coming into the season. If Metu is on, and the Trojans aren’t brutally snubbed by the committee, USC is another team nobody will want to play next week.
Oregon 68, Utah 66
In a day full of exciting finishes across the country, the final game of the day was quite the thriller. In a game both teams desperately needed, the Ducks managed to pull off a win thanks to a late block by Kenny Wooten for the second night in a row.
Utah entered the game a fair distance away from the cut line, and for most of the game it looked like the Utes would still be fighting for a tourney berth. But thanks to a solid second half by the Ducks, Utah is likely out of the NCAA Tournament. Oregon is scary for many reasons, ranging from their fantastic coach to their potential to be a bid thief and their underrated roster.
The Pac-12 Bubble
After Thursday’s games, Arizona is still the only sure bet to still be playing next week. That being said, it’s hard to see the Pac-12 ending up as a one-bid league. The three other teams in the tournament conversation are UCLA, USC, and Arizona State, in order from most safe to least safe.
The Bruins wouldn’t be punished for a loss to Arizona, and a win would probably make them a lock. Therefore, UCLA is probably going to be in March Madness. Crazier things have happened, but a 21-10 Pac-12 semifinalist should be safe.
The other LA school, USC, is in almost the same position as UCLA. The main problem is a loss to (Utah/Oregon) could push the Trojans down the s-curve a little bit, and the smallest of margins can be huge on Selection Sunday. USC is 22-10 heading into Friday’s game.
The Sun Devils have fallen harder than any other team in the country save Oklahoma over the last two months. Once a potential one-seed and national title contender, the folks in Tempe have legitimate reason to hold their breaths until the brackets are revealed. ASU lost their first-round game to Colorado on Thursday, and finished the year 20-11.
Despite a few other teams with passable records (mainly Washington at 20-12 and Oregon at 22-11), it’s hard to see any other team from the Pac-12 has the resume to sneak into the NCAA Tournament with an at-large.
The third day of the tournament will get underway Friday night, with Arizona and UCLA playing first at 6 p.m. PT, followed by USC taking on Oregon immediately after at 8:30 p.m. PT. The winners of those two games will play on Saturday at 7 p.m. PT for the championship.
With three out of four teams still fighting for their chance to play in March Madness, this is shaping up to be a dramatic and fun conclusion to the proceedings in Vegas.