One of the more intriguing conference tournaments will kick off on Wednesday, when, for the first time ever, the Pac-12 Tournament will be played in Las Vegas.
The UCLA Bruins enter the tournament as the No. 1 seed with a 23-8 overall record and league-best 13-5 record in Pac-12 games. However, CBSSports.com's Jeff Goodman believes that if UCLA were to falter in Las Vegas and struggle in the NCAA Tournament, head coach Ben Howland might lose his job at the end of the season:
Howland has won the regular-season title, but his fate likely won't be settled until the NCAA tourney. Former Bruins great Bill Walton has teed off on Howland all year long, and the UCLA fan base won't be content with just an NCAA tourney appearance. It may take a Sweet 16 appearance for Howland to stick around in Westwood.
Beyond UCLA, Arizona, Oregon and Cal all finished in a three-way tie for second place in the Pac-12 standings, with 12-6 conference marks. Colorado finished two games behind that trio, following a stunning loss last weekend against Oregon State.
And it's because of the turmoil at the top, that ESPN.com's Bubble Watch page has UCLA and Arizona listed as the only NCAA Tournament locks entering the Pac-12 Tournament. ESPN lists Cal, Oregon and Colorado as "teams that should be in," while adding Arizona State (which lost its last four regular season games) with "work left to do."
If you're looking for a sleeper outside of the top tier to potentially win the tournament, NBCSports.com's Raphielle Johnson lists Stanford as his pick.
Here is what Johnson had to say about the Cardinal, via CollegeBasketballTalk.com:
Guards Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle are solid on the perimeter, and in Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell head coach Johnny Dawkins has two of the league’s better front court players as well. But will Stanford score as they did in wins over Utah and Cal to end the regular season? If so, the Cardinal may have a run left in them.
Finally, over at Yahoo! Sports, Jeff Eisenberg has selected UCLA to take the conference tournament crown, while colleague Pat Forde went a bit off the radar and took Cal.
Here was Forde's take on what is likely to be a wild week in Las Vegas:
Honestly, almost anybody could win this tournament. The top of the league collectively staggered to the finish line, absorbing one bad loss after another, so chaos seems like a good bet.
The Pac-12 Tournament will kick off on Wednesday, with four games broadcast by the Pac-12 Network.
The league championship game will be Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.