After failing to secure a first-round bye, the fifth-seeded Arizona Wildcats will open the Pac-12 Tournament on Wednesday against the No. 12-seeded Washington Huskies, the same Huskies who just humbled the Wildcats on Senior Day.
In order to win the Pac-12 Tournament, Arizona will need to win four games in four days. Can it get it done? Can it even get past Washington?
Our staff members predict how far the Wildcats will go.
Brian J. Pedersen: One round or three. It all depends on Wednesday.
Arizona was frankly humiliated at home by Washington, which while not the typical last-place team was still at the bottom of the Pac-12 standings. Anyone on the team that wasn’t embarrassed by that performance has already called it a season, something to keep an eye out on early in the rematch.
Sean Miller said last week that there are some advantages to playing in that first round, in that it helps you get used to the arena and get some momentum heading into the quarterfinals, so if Arizona can get past the Huskies it should be able to keep that rolling against USC. Beating Oregon (presumably) in the semifinals, however, is a completely different animal, since the inability to close against the Ducks twice this season makes it hard to think the Wildcats can do differently the third time around.
Ronnie Stoffle: I refuse to allow myself to buy into the notion that Arizona will make a run. The Wildcats started the season 9-0 but finished 11-11. The reality is this team simply doesn’t have it and it’s not going to magically appear overnight.
It pains me to say this but they won’t get by Washington on Wednesday. The Huskies are far more physical and that zone defense will once again give Arizona fits.
Mark me down for a one-and-done in the Pac-12 tournament.
Adam Green: It is impossible to predict Arizona’s future because nobody knows what Arizona team will show up. During each of their losses there have been sequences where the Wildcats looked dominant, yet they didn’t do that nearly enough to put themselves in the top four of a mediocre conference.
So, Arizona’s road in Vegas is a bit more daunting than it could have been, albeit their part of the bracket does — at least on paper — appear to be somewhat favorable.
Do I think Arizona will beat Washington? Sure. The Huskies did well in Arizona but it seemed to me like much of the Wildcats’ struggles were self-inflicted. Assuming the Wildcats shoot the ball better in Vegas, they should win on Wednesday.
They’d then get to play USC, a team they’ve already beaten this season, and if they get past the Trojans they’d face an Oregon team the Wildcats should have beaten twice.
Really, it’s pretty easy to talk yourself into Arizona at least getting to Oregon and possibly beyond. But can I predict it? Not confidently. But for the sake of this let’s say Arizona gets to Friday before losing to the Ducks for a third time.
Christian Mortensen: I’ll go ahead and be bold. If Arizona beats Washington on Wednesday, they are going to win the Pac-12 Tournament.
If the Cats can get that first win, USC doesn’t scare me at all, Oregon would have to beat the UA for the third time this year (an always complicated task), and in a championship game anything can happen.
It’s all about getting hot and there is no reason why the narrative can’t possibly change for this UA team. But it really all depends if Arizona can beat the red-hot Huskies on Wednesday.
Ryan Kelapire: Arizona certainly has the talent to win the whole thing, but this team cannot string together two consistent halves, so I have a really hard time believing they can win four games in four days, especially with only one backup guard (assuming Max Hazzard doesn’t play.)
Keep in mind that Nico Mannion played all 40 minutes against Washington on Saturday, and that kind of usage will show in a tournament in which there are no days off between games.
But I’ll go ahead and say Arizona will avenge the loss to Washington, then win against an unimpressive USC team before losing to Oregon in the semis. That’d be a pretty successful stint in Vegas all things considered.