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Pac-12 Tournament Preview

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What’s at stake for Stanford

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

As I sit and write from a hauntingly vacuous SFO, there’s only one certainty about this week: Bill Walton will have a good time. Other than that, we’ve got a bunch of Rumsfeldian unknown unknowns.

The conference released an official statement this afternoon, reaffirming their commitment to holding the tournament as scheduled. For now, all fans will be permitted without any considerations for ‘social distancing.’ Earlier in the day, the Ivy League cancelled their tournament, and the MAC and Big West conferences opted to allow only essential personnel in the arenas. But if Payton Pritchard starts coughing or Sean Miller stops sweating, the Pac-12 could conceivably follow suit.

Stanford will open its 2020 Pac-12 tournament Wednesday night with a rubber match against Cal. This year’s edition holds more weight than usual for the Cardinal. If the Selection Committee convened today, they’d likely be in the field of 68. But a loss to Cal would almost certainly spell doom for their tournament hopes.

Even if they win their opener, they will be sweating come Sunday if they can’t parlay that into another win or two. A hungry UCLA, also residing on the treacherous bubble, awaits the winner of the Big Game opener.

Per usual, you can throw out the records and all reason when the Cardinal lock up with their Bay Area rival. In the meeting in Maples, they won going away. In the venture to Berkeley, their offense went away.

Should they get through that one, they face a Bruin squad that is nothing like the one they trounced in Pauley. Mick Cronin guided his team to an all-time turnaround, and had them seconds away from a share of the league crown. The players bought into his gritty style of play, and it’s turned into excellent basketball.

If you believe Kenpom, Stanford has roughly a 51% chance to win their first two bouts and advance to the semis. That should be enough to send them dancing. According to the sports books, they have roughly a 10 to 1 chance at winning it all on Saturday. In this year’s topsy-turvy Pac-12, it’s surely conceivable. Anything is, really. Buckle up, and wash your hands!