Colorado already figured any run to the Pac-12 Conference tournament championship would require wins against Oregon and one of the Los Angeles teams.
On Sunday night, the order of those possible challenges was cemented. With its win Sunday night against Oregon State, the Oregon Ducks claimed the top spot in the Pac-12 heading into this week’s tournament at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
That leaves USC, which posted a dramatic victory against UCLA on Saturday, as the No. 2 seed, setting up a possible showdown against the third-seeded Buffs in the semifinals. First, of course, CU must survive its quarterfinals date in the late game Thursday night (9:30 p.m. MT, ESPN) against the winner of Wednesday’s first-round battle between sixth-seeded Stanford and 11th-seeded Cal.
The Cardinal and Cal play on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. MT on Pac-12 Networks.
“We’re going to use the time as wisely as we can,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said after the Buffs completed the regular season with a 75-61 win against Arizona State. “There’s some guys on our team that need to get rested up and take care up some of the banged-up injuries they’ve been fighting down the stretch here.
“Our team, at the appropriate time, needs to get together and work on what we need to work on as we prepare for our game on Thursday, whoever it might be against.”
USC relegated UCLA to the fourth seed when Tahj Eaddy beat the buzzer on a 3-pointer from the corner off an inbounds play, giving the Trojans a 64-63 win. The Trojans would have claimed the top spot with a loss by Oregon on Sunday, but the Ducks took command early at Oregon State.
While the Buffs still have work to do in the quarterfinals, a possible semifinal date against USC might be an advantageous matchup for CU, which has posted a 6-0 mark against USC over the past three seasons. It is the first time the Buffs have enjoyed a first-round bye at the Pac-12 Conference tournament, which usually go to the top four seeds but this year includes five teams with Arizona serving a self-imposed postseason ban.
In addition to the Cal-Stanford battle, Wednesday’s first-round matchups also include seventh-seeded Utah taking on No. 10 Washington (5 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks) and eighth-seeded Arizona State facing No. 9 Washington State (2 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks).
Top-seeded Oregon will open Thursday’s quarterfinal round against the winner between Arizona State and Washington State. Second-seeded USC plays the winner between Utah and Washington, while fourth-seeded UCLA takes on fifth-seeded Oregon State.
Pac-12 Conference men’s basketball tournament
T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
(All times Mountain; Games in bracket order)
First round (Wednesday, March 10)
(9) Washington State (14-12, 7-12) vs. (8) Arizona State (10-13, 7-10), 2 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks).
(10) Washington (5-20, 4-16) vs. (7) Utah (11-12, 8-11), 5 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks).
(12) Cal (8-19, 3-17) vs. (6) Stanford (14-12, 10-10), 8 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks).
Quarterfinals (Thursday, March 11)
(9) Washington State-(8) Arizona State winner vs. (1) Oregon (19-5, 14-4), 12:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks).
(5) Oregon State (14-12, 10-10) vs. (4) UCLA (17-8, 13-6), 3:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks).
(10) Washington-(7) Utah winner vs. (2) USC (21-6, 15-5), 6:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks).
(6) Stanford-(12) Cal winner vs. (3) Colorado (20-7, 14-6), 9:30 p.m. (ESPN).
Semifinals (Friday, March 12)
Game 1: 6:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks.
Game 2: 9:30 p.m., ESPN.
Championship: Saturday, March 13, 8:30 p.m., ESPN.