2013 Pac-12 Tournament Preview

Where and when: Wednesday through Saturday, Las Vegas

Last year: Colorado did the four-games-in-four-days trip through the bracket, beating Oregon by a point and Arizona by two points. As an 11-seed in the NCAA Tournament they beat UNLV, while Cal (the only other Pac 12 team dancing) lost as a 12-seed.

This year: UCLA watched Oregon lose their final two games, and the Bruins skated through with their first regular season title since 2008.

The favorite: Is it possible for the 4-seed to be the favorite? It is if you're the Pac-12. Arizona has slightly better odds than the 2/3 seeds to reach the Finals, but if they do they'll be significantly favored.

Sean Miller's squad lacks a true point guard, but they make up for it with four guys who can fill it up. Xavier transfer Mark Lyons is the high volume guy (can we stop with the 3s yet?) who is solid in his slashing game. 6-7 senior Solomon Hill is essentially the undersized stretch-4, and 6-6 senior Kevin Parrom plays the role of your typical exceptionally efficient scorer who's also been shot. 6-3 sophomore Nick Johnson does Nick Johnson things, which often include dunks and other leaps of faith that appear to have been pulled off with mirrors.

Defensively they're solid. You have to wonder how they have the 49th best 2-pt defense and the 287th best 3-pt defense. Typically those two metrics are linked. So have the Wildcats been exceptionally unlucky with the 3-pt lottery, or are they truly an outlier?

The contender: Last year it was Kentucky getting everything done with freshmen. This year that team was supposed to be UCLA, but it turns out that not all uber-talented freshmen are made alike. Who knew?

To know UCLA you need to know who is no longer there. Tyler Lamb left the program. As did the perennial underperforming and overweight Joshua Smith. What about Tony Parker? No comment.

When Smith and Lamb left the team was 4-2 and had just lost to Cal Poly. After that they went 11-1 and began conference play 5-0. They've struggled a bit down the stretch as the freshmen hit the wall, but the Bruins are still a dangerous team. They've won five of six heading into the tourney.

Freshman Shabazz Muhammad really really likes to shoot the ball, and he's taken a shot on 31% of UCLA's possessions, which is more than every Pac 12 player not named Brock Motum. But he's also been fairly efficient. He's made 42% of his 3s, and decent (46%) of his 2s, and he's a solid 72% from the line. Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson are the other freshmen stars, while UNC-west provides the rest of the team: Travis Wear, David Wear, and Larry Drew all play pivotal rolls.

The dark horse: Can the Colorado Buffaloes do it again? They didn't earn a first round bye, so they'll once again have to win 4-straight. But in the regular season they were 4-2 against the 2,3, and 4 seeds.

Their specialty is defense, and only three teams in the nation allow fewer free throws. So in a game called tightly, they could be waltzing to the line while their opponent's fans go nuts. If that happens look for sophomore Spencer Dinwiddie to live at the line. He has the 2nd best free throw rate in the conference, and has had games where he made a remarkable number of free throws: 11-12 vs Murray State, 16-18 against Texas Southern, 8-10 vs Colorado State, and ten conference games where he went to the line at least eight times.