Stanford takes on Washington State in first round of Pac-12 tournament

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinal hopes a strong performance in the Pac-12 tourney can assure them a spot in the Big Dance

Sometimes in Vegas you come up rich. And other times you end up broker than you've ever been.

It's kind of that way for Stanford basketball this week at the Pac-12 tournament - a few wins and they'll end up in the Big Dance, but a flub in Vegas would almost inevitably lead to an NIT berth and Johnny Dawkins hitting the unemployment line.

The Cardinal draws Washington State in the first round, with Arizona State waiting to play the winner - and the matchup with the Cougars should be easy enough based on this season's results. Stanford swept WSU with 80-48 and 69-56 wins this season, including a 30-point outburst by Anthony Brown in the second game. The Cougars only managed 3 wins over their Pac-12 conference schedule.

So Washington State isn't necessarily the big issue. That, of course, would be the fact that Stanford's NCAA tournament status is still up in the air. It doesn't seem likely that six Pac-12 teams will make the Big Dance (unless I have misread the bubble), but the Cardinal should make it in if they prove to be a top four or five team in the conference.

Two wins, including a W over perennial tormentor ASU (who bounced the Cardinal from the Pac-12 tourney last season), would all but assure the Cardinal of a spot. One win and a loss to Arizona State would probably put the Cardinal in the tournament, but they do risk being left out with teams like Colorado, Arizona State and Cal all too willing to nab that spot should it be left waiting. Stanford should aspire to remove all doubt from the selection process this weekend. A loss to WSU, and it seems obvious what's going to happen.

So the stakes are high in Vegas. It's up to Johnny Dawkins and his squad to see if they can finally cash in and go dancing.

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