Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament predictions

With the first round starting Wednesday, one columnist gives his guesses for day one in Las Vegas

Junior+guard+Isaac+Bonton%2C+left%2C+and+Sophomore+forward+CJ+Elleby%2C+right%2C+prepare+for+play+against+UW+on+Feb.+9+at+Beasley+Coliseum.

OLIVER MCKENNA | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

Junior guard Isaac Bonton, left, and Sophomore forward CJ Elleby, right, prepare for play against UW on Feb. 9 at Beasley Coliseum.

CODY SCHOELER, Evergreen sports columnist

First Round

No. 9 Utah vs No. 8 Oregon State at noon Wednesday

Both of these teams got big wins over the weekend to improve their tournament seeding and now, as a result, will play each other. They split their season series with Utah, winning the first matchup by 12, and Oregon State, evening it up with a 19-point victory in the second game. Both teams have been better on the offensive end all season. The Beavers rank fourth in the conference in points per game with 71.2 while the Utes rank fifth with 71 points per game. Each team boasts their own top-five conference scorer. Oregon State has senior forward Tres Tinkle, who is third in the Pac-12 at 18.4 points per game. Utah has sophomore forward Timmy Allen, who is fifth in the conference with 17.5 points per game. The two have been even in the season series; Allen has outscored Tinkle 31 to 30 in the two contests. The difference in the matchup will be the supporting casts for each of the teams’ respective stars. Allen will be helped by sophomore guard Both Gach and freshman guard Rylan Jones, but neither player is in the top 25 in scoring in the conference. The Beavers’ next two top scorers both rank in the top 25. Junior guard Ethan Thompson and senior forward Kylor Kelly are averaging a combined 25 points to help out Tinkle. The Beavers’ scoring and experience will prove to be too much as they take down the Utes.

Prediction: OSU 82-76

No. 12 Washington vs No. 5 Arizona at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday

The Wildcats are catching the Huskies at a bad time for them. Washington has won two games in a row, which might not seem like much for most teams but was something they had not accomplished until last weekend. The second of those wins came against Arizona, who is on a bit of a cold streak by losing four of their last five games. They split the season series in two close games; the games were decided by a combined nine points. The teams match up well because they are built very similarly. They both rely on star freshman to lead their team and they have produced similar numbers. Freshman forward Zeke Nnaji is leading the Wildcats with 16.3 points per game while freshman guard Nico Mannion has contributed 14 points per game. The Huskies have been led by freshman forwards Isaiah Stewart with 16.6 points per game and Jaden McDaniels with 13.1 points per game. Despite similar numbers, the team success has not been close to the same. Arizona finished with double the amount of conference wins as Washington. The biggest reason is their high-powered offense; they lead the conference with 76.4 points per game. The Huskies’ offense has not been as potent, finishing seventh in the conference with 70.6 points per game. If the Arizona offense shows up in Las Vegas than they should be able to earn the victory and win the season series.

Prediction: Arizona 79-72

No. 10 California vs No. 7 Stanford at 6 p.m. Wednesday

The third installment of this in-state rivalry will take place in Las Vegas after a series split in the regular season. Both teams are coming off of being on the wrong side of a sweep over the weekend. California has largely been a one-man-show all season long. Sophomore guard Matt Bradley is the Golden Bears leading scorer; he is sixth in the conference in scoring with 17.5 points per game. Bradley has been the leading scorer in 74 percent of the teams’ games and led the team in scoring in 10 of their 13 wins. Stanford has been led by the high-scoring duo of junior forward Oscar Da Silva and freshman guard Tyrell Terry. They are one of the three pairs of teammates to both be in the top 12 in the conference in scoring, averaging a combined 31 points per game. The Cardinal relied on its defense to get their 20 wins on the year. Stanford allowed opponents to score an average of 62.5 points per game, the best mark in the Pac-12. Both Terry and junior guard Daejon Davis are in the top 11 in steals per game in the conference. Davis is tied for second with 1.71 steals per game and Terry is 11th with 1.43 steals per game. The Cardinal also have one representative on the all-conference defensive team: sophomore guard Bryce Wills. They should match up well with California since the Golden Bears registered the worst scoring offense in the Pac-12. They averaged 63.2 points per game, over six points less than the team in 11th and almost seven points worse than Stanford’s average. The mix of good defense and bad offense will prove too much for California to overcome and the Cardinal will move on to the next round.

Prediction: Stanford 65-58

No. 11 Washington State vs No. 6 Colorado at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday

These two teams met just once in the regular season with the Buffaloes winning a 78-56 contest. Both teams found themselves experiencing slides to end their seasons. Colorado lost its last four games and WSU dropped six of its final seven contests. The Buffaloes were ranked for most of season behind strong play from their starting lineup. Their top four players in minutes played all averaged over nine points per game led by junior guard McKinley Wright IV with 14.2 points. He also was one of the better distributors in the conference, averaging the third most assists per game with 5.1. The Buffaloes are another team with a stout defense. They were second in the conference to Stanford in points allowed, letting opponents score an average of 63.7 points per game. They also have the most players named to the all-conference defensive team. Wright earned the honor by averaging 1.1 steals per game. Junior guard Tyler Bey was recognized for his 1.5 steals per game and 1.2 blocks per game, both marks are top six in the Pac-12. WSU’s chances for a win will be riding on the shoulders on sophomore forward CJ Elleby. He is averaging a team-high 18 points per game, good for fourth best in the conference. Elleby has scored in double-digits in each of the Cougars’ 15 wins and has reached at least 20 points in 12 of the wins. Junior guard Isaac Bonton will provide Elleby with assistance. He is averaging 15.3 points per game, the 11th most in the conference, making the pair the highest ranked set of teammates in scoring. If those two both play well, WSU will have a legitimate opportunity to pull off the biggest upset of the first round.

Prediction: WSU 75-74