Posted on March 12, 2022
There isn’t a more fitting end to the Pac-12 Conference season than an Arizona-UCLA showdown for the Tournament title.
The two teams separated themselves from the rest of the league over the past two months, elevating themselves to another level.
As the only two Conference programs in the Top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, according to KenPom, it’s only right that they battle it out in the Championship Game at T-Mobile Arena.
I preview the matchup here, and my pick along with Stephen Vilardo’s appears at the bottom.
No. 2 UCLA v. No. 1 Arizona
T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV
Friday, March 11
6:00 pm PT, Fox
In a rematch of the 2014 Pac-12 Championship Game, the top two teams in the league face off for the title.
Arizona played slightly better than expected in its first game without Kerr Kriisa, as Justin Kier posted 13 points and three assists in the Semifinal.
Tommy Lloyd stuck with a seven-man rotation, arguably contributing to UA’s 18 turnovers, with the Wildcat players looking visibly tired.
Bennedict Mathurin had his least productive game since February 5th, potentially suffering the most without Kriisa’s elite passing.
But the Pac-12 Player of the Year rarely has poor back-to-back games and figures to carry Arizona in the Championship.
On the other side of the coin, UCLA looked comfortable all game against the Trojans. The second Semifinal never appeared in doubt, with Mick Cronin receiving balanced scoring from his starting five.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Jules Bernard combined for 34 points on 16 field goals, and the Bruins committed just nine turnovers.
Normally, analytics and the eye test can provide a general sense of which team will walk away with a victory in any given game.
But the metrics and traditional thinking can be thrown out the window in the Pac-12 Championship.
Heart, effort, and unselfish commitment is what will determine this game.
Whichever roster fights harder for loose balls, is better conditioned on defense, and is more willing to sacrifice individual success for the betterment of their team will end up as the tournament champion.
Efficient nights from the free throw line, three-point defense, and turnovers will make a difference, but strength and skill can always be negated by pure effort.
It doesn’t matter what happened before tonight, or what will happen in the NCAA Tournament. The Pac-12 Tournament Championship is on the line, and the time for talking is over.
Arizona and UCLA have the biggest rivalry of any two programs west of the Mississippi River, and tonight’s matchup is another historic game for the record books.
Nights like this one don’t happen every year, and it’s easy to get lost in the moment.
But with two of the premier teams in College Basketball going at it on the national stage for a banner win, it’s worth taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture.
This is Pac-12 Basketball.
Pac-12 Tournament Championship Picks
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