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Pac-12 Tournament 2023: Bracket, schedule and history

Pac-12 Tournament bracket

All times are Pacific.

First Round — Wednesday, March 8

Quarterfinals — Thursday, March 9

Semifinals — Friday, March 10

Championship — Saturday, March 11

This isn’t the NCAA Tournament.

This isn’t the honorable John Wooden, and those glasses and suits that made him look like your 10th-grade geometry teacher.

This isn’t your father’s (or grandfather’s) Pac-12 World that you once learned about where UCLA ruled with an iron fist.

And it isn’t the Pac-12 basketball record book you browsed through where “UCLA” was mentioned in every other sentence.


This is the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament, where anything has been possible during its brief and dazzling history and where UCLA doesn’t necessarily win all the time.

Or even the most times. Or the 2nd-most times, for that matter.

For the record, the Bruins have won the tournament 4 times, trailing Arizona (8 titles) and Oregon (5) on the conference tournament title scoresheet.

Had the Wizard of Westwood been coaching UCLA during these years of the Pac-12 Tournament, perhaps the Bruins would have the most tourney crowns. But he hasn’t been, and UCLA does not.

This isn’t to suggest UCLA hasn’t been really good and really competitive since the Pac-12 Tournament came about in 1987 (for a few years anyway) and resumed in 2002 after more than a decade hiatus. It’s just that this conference’s new-age, post-Wooden event mostly staged in Los Angeles and Las Vegas has contained a little glory for most of its schools (but not all).

Plainly put, it has shared the wealth.

And that’s kept West Coast basketball fans from the Pacific Northwest to the Arizona desert, from the beaches of Southern California to the Rocky Mountains guessing who was going to prevail that particular year in early March.

So, here we are again.

It’s March Madness, western style.

It’s the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Where anything is possible, but nothing is guaranteed — especially not UCLA winning.

Pac-12 Tournament history

As recently as the mid-1980s, the then-Pac-10 was 1 of just 3 conferences that still gave their automatic NCAA Tournament berth to the regular-season champion, along with the Big Ten and the Ivy League.

But it all changed for the Pac-10 in 1987, when the conference staged its first postseason tournament. That incarnation of the tournament lasted 4 years, from 1987-90, when the event was staged at various school sites, starting with UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion in ’87.

Suddenly though, the West Coast’s new college basketball March showcase was gone, at least temporarily. Because of academic concerns, a lack of revenue and a lack of attendance, the tournament was done away with despite push-back from coaches. The conference returned to having the regular-season champion be awarded the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament from 1991-2001.

By 1998, even the Big Ten had its own conference tournament, leaving the Pac-10 and Ivy League as the only conferences without a tourney. But then everything changed out West — again. The Pac-10 (eventually the Pac-12 starting in 2011) Tournament was restarted with an 8-2 vote of the league’s athletic directors in 2000 after they determined that a conference tournament would be excellent for exposure and benefit their schools’ seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

Stanford and Arizona were the 2 schools that opposed the tournament. Meanwhile, UCLA and USC’s “yes” votes were helped by the fact that the 2nd incarnation of the tournament would be staged annually at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, which did end up hosting the event from 2002-12.

By the 2011 tournament though, attendance began to wane at Staples Center, and league commissioner Larry Scott reopened bids from other cities to host the event. Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Seattle submitted bids. On March 13, 2012, the Pac-12 Tournament was officially moved to the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, where it was held from 2013-16 until it moved down the road to Vegas’ new T-Mobile Arena in 2017.

The tournament has been staged at T-Mobile Arena from 2017 right through to this year, except in 2020 when the event was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pac-12 Tournament previous winners

1987 — UCLA
1988 — Arizona
1989 — Arizona
1990 — Arizona
2002 — Arizona
2003 — Oregon
2004 — Stanford
2005 — Washington
2006 — UCLA
2007 — Oregon
2008 — UCLA
2009 — USC
2010 — Washington
2011 — Washington
2012 — Colorado
2013 — Oregon
2014 — UCLA
2015 — Arizona
2016 — Oregon
2017 — Arizona
2018 — Arizona
2019 — Oregon
2021 — Oregon State
2022 — Arizona

Top 10 moments of the Pac-12 Tournament

For a tournament that’s only been played 24 times, picking the all-time top 10 moments is both easy and hard, since there aren’t that many moments to choose from. But we’ll give it a go. You could throw these 10 moments into a hat, shake it up and come out with a whole different order, especially depending on your school allegiance. But we’ll rank ’em like this:

1. The Cinderella Beavers: Oregon State was a middling team in the Pac-12 a few years back during the heart of the COVID Era. The Beavers finished just 10-10 in the conference. There was nothing to suggest they would suddenly catch fire in Las Vegas and capture their 1st and only conference tournament title.

But they did catch fire at the 2021 tourney, and they did finally put a Pac-12 Tournament piece of hardware in their school trophy case back in Corvallis. Oregon State was a sleepy 5 seed in the tournament, and the Beavers needed overtime just to get past UCLA in the quarterfinals. Then things really got juicy in the semifinals, as Oregon State took down top-seeded and in-state rival Oregon, 75-64.

The dream was almost complete, but not yet. Third-seeded Colorado, which was ranked 23rd in the country at the time, awaited in the championship game. But the underdog Beavers didn’t blink. They outlasted the Buffaloes, 70-68, in a thriller to cap a stunning weekend surge. Making Oregon State’s Pac-12 Tournament championship run that much more amazing was the COVID Era factor — there were no fans in the stands at T-Mobile Arena to push the Beavers to the finish line, as only the players’ families were allowed to attend.

Somehow, all the quirkiness of the 2021 tournament worked just fine for Oregon State and tournament MVP Warith Alatishe. The Beavers were a team of destiny that particular weekend, and their timing was impeccable. And they weren’t done, either. Oregon State used the momentum from that Pac-12 Tournament victory and advanced all the way to the Elite Eight, where Houston finally ended the Beavers’ magical run.

2. For the first time, it’s Miller Time: Before he was an NBA legend for the Indiana Pacers, Reggie Miller developed his own little legend in Westwood. And in the inaugural Pac-12 (then Pac-10) Tournament played in the friendly confines of UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion in 1987, Miller became the tourney’s 1st official hero while playing for the host team.

Miller was blazing hot for the duration of the tournament, powering the top-seeded Bruins to a 76-64 victory over 3rd-seeded Washington in the championship game. It was another title for a program with an embarrassment of riches, and it was also a measure of retribution, as the Huskies beat the Bruins twice during the regular season.

Miller poured in a combined 83 points in the Bruins’ tournament championship run, and so of course he took home tourney MVP honors. A basketball legend was most definitely born in that inaugural conference tournament, and Miller never stopped shooting on the way to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

3. A ‘Zona 3-peat: Arizona has won the conference tournament a league-high 8 times, and 3 of those championships came from 1987-90. After UCLA captured the inaugural tournament in ’87, rival Arizona took over for the next 3 years, and in the last of those 3 consecutive tourney crowns, the Wildcats went wild.

In the 1990 tournament hosted by in-state rival Arizona State in Tempe, the 2nd-seeded Wildcats broke their own record for points scored in the title game in a 94-78 pounding of 4th-seeded UCLA. In the 1988 title game, Arizona routed Oregon State 93-67.

The 1990 Wildcats were the 1st Pac-12 (Pac-10 at the time) tournament champion that wasn’t a No. 1 seed, but Arizona was as dominant as any top seed. The Cats’ average margin of victory in the tournament was an astounding 23 points. Arizona’s dynamic duo of Jud Buechler and Matt Muehlebach were the tourney’s co-MVPs. The Wildcats got the conference’s final say, at least for the time being, as the 1990 tournament was the league’s last 1 until the tourney resumed in 2002.

4. CJ for 3: CJ Wilcox was only a freshman at the 2011 tournament at Staples Center, but you would’ve never known it. Wilcox was only averaging 8.1 points per game that season for 3rd-seeded Washington, but in the biggest moment of the championship game against top-seeded Arizona, Wilcox behaved like a seasoned veteran.

Wilcox was 0-for-4 from 3-point land on the night, but he made his 5th attempt from downtown count, knocking down a 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds left that helped send the title game to overtime. The underdog Huskies took it from there, outlasting the Wildcats 77-75 to win their 3rd conference tournament crown.

Wilcox might’ve been the man at the biggest moment in the championship game but point guard Isaiah Thomas was named tournament MVP as the Huskies celebrated back-to-back tourney titles. Thomas, incidentally, was also the MVP of Washington’s 2010 tournament championship run.

5. Thomas has his time — in overtime: After our ode to CJ Wilcox in the previous spot in the countdown, it’s only right that we follow it with an entry devoted to the heroics of Isaiah Thomas. Wilcox willed Washington to overtime against favored Arizona in that 2011 tournament at Staples with his insanely clutch 3-pointer.

Then it was the aforementioned tournament MVP Thomas who took over in the overtime. Thomas’ step-back, buzzer-beating jumper in the OT lifted the Huskies to the 77-75 victory over the Wildcats that gave Washington its 2nd straight conference tournament title. The stunning shot also secured Thomas’ 2nd straight league tournament MVP award.

Thomas had 28 points in his electrifying performance back in 2011, which unfortunately for the Huskies still marks their last conference tournament championship.

6. Lute’s dynasty in the desert: We really can’t have a Pac-12 Tournament countdown without paying tribute to the late, great Lute Olson. In this spot of the countdown of all-time greatest tournament moments, we pay homage to what this Arizona coaching legend accomplished during the 1st and 2nd carnation of the event.

Olson patrolled the Wildcats’ sideline for a quarter-century from 1983-2008. He was in Tucson for so long that the conference tournament didn’t even exist for the 1st 3 seasons of his tenure. But once the tournament was kick-started in 1987, Olson’s teams were right at home. He led Arizona to 3 straight league tournament crowns in 1988, ’89 and ’90 and then, after the tournament went on an 11-year hiatus, guess who was waiting when the event resumed in 2002?

Yep, Olson and his Wildcats. So, it can be said that Olson led Arizona to 4 straight tournament titles in 2 different centuries, because of that long hiatus. Olson fell 1 win shy of a 5th tournament title, as his Wildcats lost in the final of the 2005 tourney to Washington. In the 2002 tournament, the 1st one held at Staples Center, Arizona beat USC, 81-71, in the championship game to secure its much-delayed 4-peat behind tournament MVP Luke Walton.

7. Powe puts on a show: Sophomore Leon Powe didn’t lead Cal to a conference tournament crown in 2006 at Staples Center, and the Golden Bears still haven’t won a Pac-12 (or Pac-10) Tournament title to this day. But they came awfully close in ’06, and Powe was reason 1, 2 and 3.

Powe powered the 3rd-seeded Bears to a 91-87 victory over Oregon in double overtime in the semifinals. He poured in a tournament-record 41 points in the thriller against the Ducks. And all Powe did the day before in the quarterfinals against USC was rip down 20 rebounds in an 82-67 victory.

The magic evaporated for Powe and the Bears in the championship game, where Cal got blown out by top-seeded UCLA, 71-52. But despite being on the losing team in the final, Powe was still named tournament MVP. He averaged 26.7 points and 11.3 rebounds in the Bears’ 3 games.

8. Luke leads the way: Oregon has won 5 conference tournament titles, 2nd-most only to Arizona, and its 1st crown came in 2003 at Staples Center when Luke Ridnour literally led the underdog Ducks to the championship from start to finish. His layup in the quarterfinals helped lift 5th-seeded Oregon to an 83-82 victory over Arizona State, which started the Ducks on their unlikely championship run.

The layup with 3.3 seconds left gave Oregon life in a tournament it had no business winning. And then the Ducks just kept on winning, edging UCLA in the semifinals before taking down 7th-seeded USC in a title game between unexpected teams. Not surprisingly, Ridnour was named tournament MVP, averaging 19 points and 8 assists in the 3 games.

Oregon was brought back to reality in the NCAA Tournament, losing in the 1st round to Utah. But Ridnour’s March magic in the conference tournament helped kick-start the Ducks’ basketball success during this century.

9. Collison is clutch: In the 2008 tournament at Staples Center, UCLA’s home away from home of sorts, point guard Darren Collison brought it home for the Bruins. With 2.9 seconds left in the championship game against 2nd-seeded Stanford, Collison calmly sank both free throws to give top-seeded UCLA a 3-point cushion.

The Bruins weren’t totally out of the woods after Collison’s free throws, with it still being a 1-possession game. But they gave UCLA a bit of breathing room, and when Stanford’s desperation heave hit the front iron, the Bruins had a 67-64 victory and their 3rd conference tournament championship.

Collison was UCLA’s leader on the floor and its leader that weekend at Staples. Sure enough, he captured tournament MVP honors. Collison and the Bruins would reach the Final Four a few weeks later before falling to Memphis in the national semifinals.

10. The Cardinal’s 1 and only: Hard to believe, but Stanford’s only conference tournament title came almost 2 decades ago, in 2004 at Staples Center. If ever there was a year for the Cardinal to break through, it was ’04. They entered the tournament as the top seed and were the No. 2-ranked team in the country.

But seedings and rankings don’t always guarantee success. In this case, the seeding held up, and Stanford held up quite well that weekend in 2004. The Cardinal blew out Washington State in the quarterfinals, then dispatched Oregon in the semifinals. Stanford had to deal with 2nd-seeded Washington in the final, but there was no drama there either, just Cardinal domination in a 77-66 victory that produced the 1 Pac-10 tournament trophy that resides in Palo Alto.

Stanford became the first No. 1 seed to win the tournament since Arizona in 1989. Swingman Josh Childress was named tournament MVP. But Childress and the Cardinal would ultimately flame out in the NCAA Tournament, getting upset in the 2nd round by Alabama.

Where the Pac-12 Tournament has been played

In the early days of the tournament, the Pac-12’s basketball celebration hopscotched its way around California and Arizona. The first Pac-12 Tournament in 1987 was hosted by UCLA at venerable Pauley Pavilion, and the Bruins celebrated that occasion by winning the tourney. In 1988, it was Arizona’s turn to host the tournament at its basketball shrine (the McKale Center in Tucson) and win the tournament. The historic Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California, hosted the tourney in 1989 and Arizona State took its turn to host the event in 1990 at its University Activity Center in Tempe, Arizona.

After the tournament’s 11-year hiatus from 1991-2001, the event returned in 2002 and began an 11-year stay at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Then Vegas came calling.

In 2013, the Pac-12 Tournament headed east to the bright lights of the Las Vegas desert. From 2013-16, the tournament was staged at MGM Grand Garden Arena on the Las Vegas Strip. After that 4-year stay on The Strip, the tournament moved a few blocks away to the brand-new T-Mobile Arena on South Las Vegas Boulevard. T-Mobile Arena hosted the Pac-12 Tournament from 2017-22 — except in 2020 when the tourney was cancelled because of COVID-19 — and will again host the event this year.