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The PAC-12 title is 'wide open'

Published: Tuesday, March 12 2013 11:25 p.m. MDT

LAS VEGAS — Right after his team's win over No. 19 Oregon Saturday, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said he wouldn't necessarily call the Pac-12 Tournament "wide open."

Two days later, perhaps after seeing a couple more upsets by the league's bottom-feeders that evening, the Ute coach had changed his tune.

"It is wide open, there's going to be some great competitive basketball," he said. "It gives a lot of hope to teams that are near the bottom and the people at the top have to be aware there aren't going to be games they can mail it in."

On the final Saturday of the season, the Utes knocked Oregon out of a share of the championship, Washington State beat USC and Oregon State shocked Colorado on the road. Two days earlier, WSU upset eventual league champion UCLA by double digits.

"There's a heck of a lot of parity," Krystkowiak said. Speaking of the final weekend, he said, "That was the culmination of a league that was that way through most of the year, so it's all jumbled up."

After getting just two teams into last year's NCAA Tournament, five teams, UCLA, Arizona, Oregon, Cal and Colorado, are expected to make this year's tourney.

In its first year in Las Vegas after several years in Los Angeles, the Pac-12 tourney gets underway Wednesday at 1 p.m. when the 8th and 9th seeds, Stanford and Arizona State, square off.

Here's a look at how each of the teams stack up heading into Las Vegas:

THE FOUR BYES: The fact is, eight of the teams must win four straight games to win the title, which Colorado accomplished last year. However, these four teams only have to win three, although they won't be as warm as their opponents on Thursday night.

UCLA (23-8, 13-5) — The Bruins sneaked into a regular-season championship on the final day of the season, just two days after losing handily to last-place Washington State. Freshman forward Shabazz Muhammad (18.3 ppg) is one of the top players in the country and a likely lottery draft pick, while senior point guard Larry Drew II runs the show with 7.7 assists per game.

ARIZONA (24-6, 12-6) — The Wildcats tailed off after being ranked as high as No. 3. Seniors Solomon Hill (13.6 ppg) and Mark Lyons (14.9 ppg) lead the way for a well-balanced team that was probably overrated much of the year.

OREGON (23-8, 12-6) — The Ducks got as high as No. 10 in the national rankings this year and were No. 19 last week before losing back-to-back games by double digits in the Rocky Mountains. Sharpshooter E.J. Singler averages 11.5 ppg, while Arsalan Kazemi averages 9.6 rebounds per game and was named to the first-team all-Pac-12 defensive team.

CAL (20-10, 12-6) — The Bears were the hottest team in the league over the final month before losing the brawl-game against Stanford in the season finale. Allen Crabbe (18.6 ppg) was named league player of the year, but may always be remembered as the guy coach Mike Montgomery shoved during a game in February.

THE MIDDLE BUNCH: These five teams were separated by just one game and four ended up tied at .500.

COLORADO (20-10, 10-8) — The Buffaloes give hope to all the teams that must start on Wednesday after winning last year's tournament title as the No. 6 seed. The 6-foot-7, 210-pound junior Andre Roberson led the league in rebounding at 11.5 per game and steals and was named defensive player of the year, and Spencer Dinwiddie joined him on the all-Pac-12 first team.

WASHINGTON (17-14, 9-9) — Former Pleasant Grove standout C.J. Wilcox was the Huskies' top player this year, ranking sixth in the league in scoring (16.8 ppg). It was an overall disappointing season for Washington, which won the regular-season title last year but finished sixth this year.

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