The Cal Bears celebrate their first ever Pac-12 title after defeating Washington 78-50 win over Washington. (Photo courtesy of Cal Athletics)
The Cal Bears celebrate their first ever Pac-12 title after defeating Washington 78-50 win over Washington. (Photo courtesy of Cal Athletics)

Cal or Stanford? Rivals expected to decide season series in Pac-12 finals

March 4, 2013 - 11:21am

The Pac-12 Tournament is in a brand new city this year, and for the first time in many seasons, there could be a new champion too.

Seattle, with its large women's basketball fan base, will play host to the 12-year-old tournament March 7-10, and though Stanford has won nine of the previous 11 titles, unlike years past, the Cardinal are not necessarily the favorite this time.

Since conference play began, Stanford and Cal have spent most of it ranked side by side in national polls, as numbers five and six or six and seven. They split the regular-season series, and both teams are surging lately, with loaded benches. In the end, each team ended Pac-12 play Saturday at 17-1, which gives Cal a share of the title for the first time in program history.

If the two squads make it to the Pac-12 championship game next weekend, it will likely not be the lopsided affair that it was in 2012, when the Cardinal routed the Bears. Stanford lost go-to forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike and Cal graduated no one, which resulted in depth, chemistry and high energy this season.

The Cardinal are led by Chiney Ogwumike, who is potent both in scoring and in snagging rebounds at 22.9 and 12.7 per game, respectively. Layshia Clarendon heads up the Bears, both by point total and emotionally; she averages 16.1 points per game. The question is how the experience of the older Stanford team will match up with the youth, energy and determination of the younger Cal lineup.

As nothing in life is guaranteed, there are a few teams that could upset either of the top two seeds along the way.

Third-seeded UCLA has been nationally ranked anywhere from 12th to 19th for the entire season. Aside from one upset, they have been very consistent with a true team effort approach. Various players have stepped up in games to be difference-makers, creating a dangerous team: one with no real "stars," but a lot of workhorses and hidden weapons.

Chucky Jeffery has led the way for Colorado averaging 13 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. (Photo by Joel G. Broida)

Colorado, seeded fourth, has been ranked in the last third of the top 25 all season long, and ended conference play on a nine-game winning streak. The Buffs relied on point guard Chucky Jeffery -- their high-scorer and rebounder -- much of the way. But in conference, Arielle Roberson and Jen Reese stepped up, as did other players in various ways. Colorado plays well together and on the right day, could pull off an upset.

Washington also has an outside chance of being a spoiler. The Huskies played Colorado for fourth place last week and lost, but their 11-7 finish is a big step up for a team decimated by injuries last year. The Huskies are young, talented and energetic, with three of their top five scorers underclassmen. Leading point-getter Jazmine Davis, in particular, can shoot opponents into the ground. The sophomore averages 19.2 points per game.

Utah and USC may make some noise in the tournament in the first two rounds, as both squads are loaded with talent. But both the Utes and Trojans have been plagued with inconsistency, and have notched losing streaks throughout the season. If each can get their "on" teams to show up at the tournament, they will do well.

Arizona State is a young, inexperienced team that has flashes of brilliance at times, and the Sun Devils could make waves in the tournament's early rounds.

Washington State pulled off an upset in last year's tournament, but it's unlikely the Cougars will repeat this year with top scorer Tia Presley now out for the season. Arizona was also a spoiler last year, but with the improved talent of the Pac-12, the Wildcats will be hard-pressed to do it again.

Two teams that will be lucky to get out of round one are Oregon State and Oregon. Both teams have been racked with injuries and have occupied the bottom of the conference for the last two months.

Pac-12 Awards

Player of the Year

Chiney Ogwumike, Stanford

Freshman of the Year

Jillian Alleyne, Oregon

Defensive Player of the Year

Chiney Ogwumike, Stanford

Coach of the Year

Lindsay Gottleib, California

All-Pac-12 Team

Brittany Boyd, California

Gennifer Brandon, California

Alyssia Brewer, UCLA

Michelle Plouffe, Utah

Layshia Clarendon, California

Jazmine Davis, Washington

Lia Galdeira, Washington State

Cassie Harberts, USC

Chucky Jeffery, Colorado

Kristi Kingma, Washington

Atonye Nyingifa, UCLA

Chiney Ogwumike, Stanford

Joslyn Tinkle, Stanford

Markel Walker, UCLA

Davellyn Whyte, Arizona

All-Freshman Team

Jillian Alleyne, Oregon

Lia Galdeira, Washington State

Arielle Roberson, Colorado

Talia Walton, Washington

Jamie Weisner, Oregon State

All-Defensive Team

Brittany Boyd, California

Lia Galdeira, Washington State

Chiney Ogwumike, Stanford

Eliza Pierre, California

Joslyn Tinkle, Stanford

Markel Walker, UCLA

Pac 12 Tournament Schedule

All games will be played at Key Arena, and will be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks.

Thursday, March 7

Game 1: #7 USC (7-11, 10-19) vs. #10 Oregon State (4-14, 10-20), 12 p.m.

Game 2: #6 Utah (8-10, 17-12) vs. #11 Arizona (4-14, 12-17), 2:30 p.m.

Game 3: #8 Washington State (6-12, 10-19) vs. #9 Arizona State (5-13, 13-17), 6 p.m.

Game 4: #5 Washington (11-7, 19-10) vs. #12 Oregon (2-16, 4-26), 8:30 p.m.

Friday, March 8

Game 5: #2 California (17-1, 27-2) vs. #7/10 Seed, 12 p.m.

Game 6: #3 UCLA (14-4, 23-6) vs. #6/11 Seed, 2:30 p.m.

Game 7: #1 Stanford (17-1, 28-2) vs. #8/9 Seed, 6 p.m.

Game 8: #4 Colorado (13-5, 24-5) vs. #5/12 Seed, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 9

Game 9: Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, 6 p.m.

Game 10: Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, 8:30 p.m.

Sunday, March 10 • ESPN2

Game 11: Championship game, 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET