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March 7, 2007
Pac-10: Bruins, Cougars on collision course
The top seed: UCLA. The Bruins (26-4, 15-3) will likely be one of the favorites to win the NCAA Tournament, no matter what happens in the Pac-10 Tournament. Arron Afflalo and Darren Collison form the best guard duo in the conference.
The pair kept UCLA in first place in the conference all season. UCLA has beaten every team in the Pac-10 at least once. After clinching its second consecutive regular-season conference title, the Bruins lost on the road to Washington in the final game of the season.
Next best bet: Washington State. Despite finishing second in the Pac-10, the Cougars (24-6, 13-5) still play with the energy of an underdog under Pac-10 coach of the year Tony Bennett.
The Cougars' depth will be an asset during tournament time. In the regular-season finale against USC, reserves Aron Baynes and Taylor Rochestie combined for 46 points. The Cougars also would not have to face either UCLA or Oregon - against whom the Cougars are 0-4 - until the final.
Dark horse: Stanford. Oregon and Stanford (18-11, 10-8) are the only teams to defeat both Washington State and UCLA this season. The Cardinal lost three of four games going into the tournament, but starting point guard and second-leading scorer Anthony Goods is set to return from an ankle sprain in the first round against USC.
NCAA locks: UCLA, Washington State, Oregon (23-7, 11-7), Arizona (20-9, 11-7)
What others must do to make NCAA Tournament:
Washington: The Huskies' No. 75 rank in the RPI at the start of the week and 1-10 record on the road probably means Washington (18-12, 8-10) has to win the tournament even after the Huskies defeated UCLA and USC in the final week of the season. The bracket doesn't do them many favors in picking up statement games. Washington draws Pac-10 bottom feeder Arizona State in the first round, No. 2 seed Washington State in the quarterfinals and then either USC or Stanford in the semifinals. Washington will have to wait until the final before facing Pac-10 champion UCLA again.
Must win tournament: Cal (14-16, 6-12), Oregon State (11-20, 3-15) Arizona State (8-21, 2-16)