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Women’s basketball Pac-12 tournament predictions

The UCLA women’s basketall team huddles together inside the 3-point line. The Bruins will face No. 10 seed USC on Wednesday in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament. (Harold Lee/Daily Bruin)

By Lauryn Wang, Grace Whitaker, Francis Moon, and Jon Christon

March 2, 2022 1:55 p.m.

After two wins last week to close its regular season, UCLA women’s basketball (13-11, 8-8 Pac-12) will enter the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas this week as the No. 7 seed, facing No. 10 seed USC (12-15, 5-12) in the first round Wednesday for the chance to match up with No. 2 seed Oregon (20-10, 11-6) in the quarterfinals Thursday. Here’s the Daily Bruin staffers’ takes on how far the Bruins will go.

Lauryn Wang
Women’s basketball beat writer
Prediction: Lose to Stanford in the finals

If this season has shown anything, it’s that the Bruins can overcome adversity.

Their last two wins of the season last week against then-No.12 Arizona and Arizona State were evidence of that. If UCLA can maintain its defensive discipline and continue to keep its opponents off the boards, I predict that it will beat USC, Oregon and Washington State en route to a rematch of last season’s Pac-12 championship game against No. 2-seed Stanford.

The Bruins will dominate their first-round matchup against their crosstown rivals, who UCLA swept the season series with in back-to-back games in late January.

Awaiting the Bruins in the next round are the Ducks, who UCLA has only faced once this season when it fell to Oregon on Feb. 16 after a 24-point third-quarter surge wasn’t enough to overcome a 20-point halftime deficit.

If UCLA can be gritty and dial in from deep, they will be able to pull off the upset. Once the blue and gold gets past Oregon, I predict that it will face Washington State in the quarterfinals.

The Bruins split their games against the Cougars this season, beating them at home Jan. 16 while losing on the road by one point on a last-second three-point play Feb. 11.

By shutting down the Leger-Walker sisters – guards Krystal and Charlisse – and ensuring that their own duo – junior guard Charisma Osborne and graduate student forward IImar’I Thomas – are getting touches, UCLA can defeat Washington State in the semifinals.

In the final round, I predict that even heroics from Osborne and Thomas will not be enough to power through the Cardinal. The Bruins kept pace for the first quarter in their matchup last month but could not sustain the energy, and Stanford is deep with too many offensive weapons.

Though it may be unexpected, a run to the finals is not out of the question for the Bruins, who may be rewarded with an NCAA tournament bid – should they pull off a few wins this week.

Grace Whitaker
Women’s basketball beat writer
Prediction: Lose to Washington State in the semifinals

The Bruins have not won the Pac-12 tournament since 2005.

This season won’t change that.

However, after two road victories for UCLA against Arizona and Arizona State to close out the regular season last week, the Bruins are heading to Las Vegas amid a two-game winning streak. This, coupled with their regular-season sweep over their first-round opponent USC, will give UCLA a perfect opportunity to reign victorious against their crosstown rivals.

The Trojans are coming off a loss to Arizona, and while this may give them a drive to bounce back with a win and keep the game against the Bruins close early, USC will be unable to slow down UCLA’s dynamic duo of Osborne and Thomas.

After their victory over the Trojans, the Bruins will face a much bigger force in the quarterfinals, matching up with Oregon, who they lost to by 14 points in mid-February.

Some would see this as an easy victory for the Ducks, but the grit and tenacity the Bruins have shown this season shows they won’t give up without a fight.

While the Ducks will come out with a lead and be up at the half, the Bruins will string together a run of their own and in the last moments of the game, claim a slim victory.

Coming off an upset win against Oregon, UCLA will go in confident against Washington State in the semifinals Friday.

But with a spot in the championship on the line, the Bruins will ultimately be taken down by the Leger-Walker sisters and Washington State, who UCLA split the season series with, to end their Cinderella run.

Francis Moon
Assistant Sports editor
Prediction: Lose to Oregon in quarterfinals

The last time the Bruins finished seventh or lower in the Pac-12, the Obama administration was still in office.

That’s one way of saying that this season has not been typical from what we’ve seen from Cori Close-coached teams in years past.

But what matters is the present, and UCLA may have picked the perfect time to gain some steam after picking up two wins on the road last week, including its first ranked victory of the season. And after enduring injuries all year, Close said the team is the healthiest it’s been all year.

Entering as the No. 7 seed, the Bruins have a prime matchup in the first round against their neighbors across town. There’s no doubt this will add some extra motivation for the players – not that they would need it against a team they have beaten by double digits twice already this season.

USC is coming off two losses in its final three games of the regular season, and the one win came on a buzzer-beating game winner. Barring a meltdown from UCLA, this should be a win.

The next round won’t be so easy.

The Bruins have become accustomed to receiving a first-round bye in recent years, but this time they will have less than 24 hours to prepare for a bout with the Ducks.

At first glance, the matchup may seem too daunting for the blue and gold to even stand a chance. Oregon earned a wire-to-wire victory over UCLA in the only meeting between the two teams this year, and the Ducks out-performed the Bruins in almost every major offensive and defensive statistical category this season.

But Oregon is coming off two losses in its last three games to finish an up-and-down year, and the last time it met UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament in 2019, it took an extra period to determine the victor.

Riding its momentum from last week, UCLA will give the No. 2 seed a scare. But, though Thursday’s game won’t be as one-sided as the matchup in the regular season, the Bruins will simply be unable to match the Ducks’ firepower and bow out in the quarterfinals.

Jon Christon
Sports editor
Prediction: Lose to Oregon in quarterfinals

One of my last in-person memories from my freshman year was a trip to Las Vegas for the 2020 Pac-12 Tournament.

As a newly-minted reporter on the women’s basketball beat, I remember watching UCLA take down USC in its first matchup before being defeated by Stanford to end its tournament run – and, little did we know, its season as a whole.

After the loss, we packed up and headed back to Westwood. A few days later, the COVID-19 pandemic ramped up in full force, causing seemingly the entire world to shut down.

For the sake of drubbing out some nostalgia of a pre-pandemic world – and perhaps as a therapeutic act – I’m going to talk myself into the same exact outcome: a win over the Trojans in the Bruins’ first game, followed by a double-digit loss in the second contest.

I am extremely confident in the first part of that statement. UCLA is not losing to USC in round one.

The Bruins have already beaten their crosstown rivals twice this year – by an average margin of 16.5 points, no less – and have taken the last five matchups against the Trojans.

Round two, however, could get interesting.

UCLA will give higher-seeded Oregon a fight – certainly a bigger challenge than it presented in its 16-point loss to Stanford in 2020.

While they are coming off a 14-point loss to the Ducks in the middle of February, the Bruins have started turning a corner with two straight wins. Added to the fact that UCLA most likely has to win the conference tournament to make it to the Big Dance, means you’ve got a seriously motivated underdog candidate in the blue and gold.

But, even still, I’m going to stick to my initial hunch on this one and lean toward Oregon. A first-round bye is all the more important this season, following a condensed schedule filled with COVID-19 reschedulings, and the Ducks have looked much improved after a shaky start to the campaign.

So, in what may feel like deja vu, UCLA will return to a fan-filled stadium in Las Vegas and win its first matchup before losing its second.

Hopefully, that’s the only aspect of 2020 that repeats itself.

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Lauryn Wang | Assistant Sports editor
Wang is currently an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, men's soccer, women's golf, men's golf and track and field beats. She was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and women's golf beats.
Wang is currently an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, men's soccer, women's golf, men's golf and track and field beats. She was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and women's golf beats.
Grace Whitaker | Assistant Sports editor
Whitaker is currently an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats. She was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
Whitaker is currently an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats. She was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
Francis Moon | Sports senior staff
Moon is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, men's soccer, track and field and cross country beats and a contributor on the women's basketball and women's tennis beats.
Moon is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, men's soccer, track and field and cross country beats and a contributor on the women's basketball and women's tennis beats.
Jon Christon | Sports senior staff
Christon is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously the Sports editor on the men's basketball and football beats and the assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats. Christon was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and softball beats.
Christon is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously the Sports editor on the men's basketball and football beats and the assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats. Christon was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and softball beats.
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