Pac-10 Women's Tournament Predictions

Photo: Layshia Clarendon ranks second on the Bears with 12.8 points per game and first in assists with 3.5 per game. The sophomore point guard was an All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention.
Eugene W. Lau/Staff
Layshia Clarendon ranks second on the Bears with 12.8 points per game and first in assists with 3.5 per game. The sophomore point guard was an All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention.

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Tournament Winner: Stanford

This one is an absolute no-brainer. The No. 2 Cardinal went 18-0 in conference play - for the second consecutive year. Stanford has not lost to another Pac-10 team in over two years, 26 months to be precise. And that streak won't be broken this week.

The Cardinal has been dominant this season. All of its conference games' margins have been in double digits, usually 20-plus points, sometimes 30 and occasionally 40.

The new format also benefits Stanford, since it only needs to win two games, not three, as in years past. The top two teams receive two byes, which means the Cardinal and UCLA don't play their respective games until Friday. Stanford will likely play Arizona or USC. The Wildcats should not be a problem for the Cardinal. In the squads' two games this season, Stanford beat Arizona by a combined 63 points.

The Trojans could be a little more tricky. Although the Cardinal beat them by a whopping 44 points at Maples Pavilion, the margin was only 14 points in Los Angeles. That's where the Pac-10 tournament is held. Although Stanford won't have to play at USC's Galen Center, where the first two rounds will take places, the competition moves literally down the street to the Staples Center for the semifinals and final.

Nevertheless, with arguably the best guard and three best forwards in the conference, the Cardinal is a sure bet to win the tournament, solidifying its status as the national championship favorite.

-Jonathan Kuperberg

Dark Horse: None

There is no dark horse. See above. No team will challenge Stanford. It hasn't lost to another conference team in several years, and it's not going to happen this week. The second highest seeded team in the tournament is UCLA, and despite their No. 7 ranking nationally, the Bruins were little more than a blip on the Cardinal's radar.

USC is a dark horse in the fact that it has a golden opportunity to upset higher-seeded Arizona and make it to the semifinals. After all, the Trojans will be playing at home. The Galen Center hosts the first two rounds, and USC, the No. 5 seed, should be the favorite, even when it likely faces No. 4 seed Arizona. The two teams split their season series, with both squads winning at home.

Regardless of which two teams make it unscathed through the first two rounds, don't expect either to advance to the finals. UCLA will probably face the No. 3 seed Arizona State. One would think that would be a good matchup, but the Bruins beat the Sun Devils twice this season, both times by double digits. And Stanford is already penciled in on the championship trophy.

Perhaps Oregon State could be considered a dark horse. The 10th-seeded Beavers winning any more conference games - or any games, for that matter - would be surprising.

-Jonathan Kuperberg

MVP: Jeanette Pohlen, Stanford

You don't have to watch much Pac-10 women's basketball to know which team has the player who deserves the MVP honor. The more difficult part is the amount of Stanford women's basketball you have to watch to see which of those players is the best.

Jeanette Pohlen is just one of the many obvious choices. The senior is looking to end her career, which took off when she led the 2008 NCAA runner-up Cardinal in minutes with over 1200, with an actual NCAA title. She leads the team in minutes again this year, and Stanford is only topped in the national rankings by Connecticut, who the Cardinal beat during the preseason. Pohlen is tied with the Cardinal's junior superstar Nnemkadi Ogwumike for points with an average 15.8 per game. Pohlen has also been posting an impressive 43.2 percent for 3-pointers while she plays point guard for Stanford, not to mention she's also shooting over 90 percent from the free throw line.

Pohlen's strong senior season statistics have earned her a place as one of eleven finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award, an award for the NCAA's best point guard. Whether or not she wins that honor, however, Pohlen is undoubtedly one of the Pac-10's - and the country's - most valuable players.

-Alex Matthews

NCAA Chances for USC and Arizona

While it's obvious that No. 2 Stanford and No. 7 UCLA will be highly competitive in the national tournament and Arizona State has secured a place barring an Oregon State upset, USC and Arizona's places are far more precarious. The two are tied with a 10-8 conference record, the Wildcats' overall 19-10 record just barely topping USC's 18-11. While that stat gave Arizona a slight upper hand getting to face ninth-place Oregon instead of Washington State, arguably the better of the two, it's unlikely that either matchup will result in an upset. So it will be the tournament's second round that will say if either team breaks into the tournament. Again, though the Trojans have a marginally more difficult tournament seed, they have played consistently this year, the only real upset in their conference campaign being at Cal on Jan. 20.

The Wildcats have some undeniably talented individuals, like Ify Ibekwe who led the conference with an average 16.1 points and 10 rebounds per game, and they did beat USC. Statistics like that indicate Arizona is more prepared than USC, but neither has played with the consistency that has ensured Stanford, UCLA and Arizona State spots in the tournaments.

-Alex Matthews


Jonathan Kuperberg and Alex Matthews cover women's basketball. Contact them at [email protected]

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