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Pac-12 men's basketball tournament roundtable


ASU freshman guard drives towards the basket against Cal at Well's Fargo Arena in Tempe in March 7. The Sun Devils won 74-70 on Senior Day. ASU freshman guard drives towards the basket against Cal at Well's Fargo Arena in Tempe in March 7. The Sun Devils won 74-70 on Senior Day.

LAS VEGAS — ASU men's basketball beat writer Matthew Tonis and sports editor Justin Janssen sat down for a roundtable discussion about the Pac-12 men's basketball tournament, which begins at 12 p.m. on Wednesday. Among the topics discussed: the champion, darkhorse and MVP.

Which team comes away from Las Vegas with the Pac-12 championship?

Matthew Tonis: I think that Arizona and Utah have been the clear two best teams in the conference this season. The Wildcats are 2-0 against the Utes, but I don't think they can make it three in a row. I would not be surprised at all if Arizona were to win, but it's so difficult to beat the same team three times in a row in the same season that I'm not sure if Arizona can do it.

Justin Janssen: Arizona is the heavy favorite to win the Pac-12 Tournament, something that hasn’t happened since 2002 (the Wildcats have lost four times in the title game since). Arizona has been the best team in the conference from start to finish, and they will be motivated, as they are looking for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Forward Stanley Johnson was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, while senior guard T.J. McConnell may have been snubbed for the conference’s top player.

Which team playing on Wednesday is the most likely to make a deep tournament run?

MT: Stanford has the most talent and experience of any team that did not earn a bye, which is why the Cardinal are my pick. Led by senior guard Chasson Randle and senior forward Stefan Nastic, this team knows how to win when it matters, as shown by their trip to the Sweet Sixteen last year, including a huge upset over Kansas in the third round. I don't believe they have a real chance, but the Cardinal are more prepared than any team playing on Wednesday.

JJ: While I don’t think any of the teams seeded in the 5-12 range have a great shot at winning the tournament, it’s probably Stanford because of its experience. Randle is second in the Pac-12 in scoring (19.1), while senior swingman Anthony Brown (15.1) is also in the top-10, while Nastic is one of the conference’s top bigs. Notice all the seniors. This is a group that not only has Pac-12 tournament experience, but also NCAA.

 

Who wins the Pac-12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player?

MT: In my scenario, I don't think that anyone other than Utah's Delon Wright could be named MOP. The senior guard was a frontrunner for the Pac-12 Player of the Year for most of the season and was named to the first team of the Sporting News's All-American teams. Wright has been the most important player to the success of the Utes this year and it is only fitting that he would lead the team to three straight wins in March, and maybe more.

JJ: Unlike the Pac-12 Player of the Year, I think this award will be won by a player who wins the league title. This means that the best player from the best team has to win it. McConnell has been that for the Arizona Wildcats in 2014-15 – he leads the conference in assists (6.3), so I think he’ll take the honor. Any number of Wildcats could step up, including Johnson and forwards Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson – which is why it’s so difficult to pick one, but it’s McConnell who runs the show.

How far do the Sun Devils advance?

MT: This Sun Devils team has come together as the Pac-12 season has gone along and has beaten the first three teams it would face in the Pac-12 Tournament. I think that ASU will hold serve against USC and then squeak by UCLA, a lá James Harden Night, but they will fall to Arizona. The Trojans haven't been very good this season and the Bruins have been inconsistent throughout the season, so its hard to know which team will show up. ASU has beaten Arizona, but that was in Tempe with the home crowd and the Curtain of Distraction, which won't be the same here in Las Vegas.

JJ: I think the Sun Devils hold their seed by defeating USC on Wednesday and losing to No. 4 seed UCLA on Thursday. It was tempting to pick ASU into the semifinals, especially considering the Sun Devils won their first matchup of the season against the Bruins, but UCLA is the more talented team and the Sun Devils don’t have the luxury of playing this one at home. The Bruins have balance with five players averaging double figures in points, and the Bruins are the defending conference champions.

 

 

Reach the reporters at mtonis@asu.edu and jmjanss1@asu.edu or follow @Tonis_The_Tiger and @jjanssen11 on Twitter.

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