T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Shutterstock)

A different big game: Cal, Stanford to clash in Pac-12 Tournament

It isn’t the Big Game, but the stakes are fairly high for the Cal and Stanford men’s basketball teams this week.

While there won’t be an Axe at stake like there is when the respective football teams meet, the two Bay Area rivals will square off against one another in the first round of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament on Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Tipoff is 7 p.m. and can be seen on the Pac-12 Network.

Stanford (14-12) is seeded sixth after matching Oregon State by going 10-10 in conference play. Cal (8-19) is seeded 11th after finishing last in the Pac-12 at 3-17. The Cardinal have won three of the last five matchups, including both this season in a four-day span last month. Stanford won 70-55 on Feb. 4 in Berkeley and 76-70 on Feb. 7 on the Farm. Both teams enter the Pac-12 Tournament on four-game losing streaks.

This is a rematch of last year’s first-round game in the Pac-12 Tournament, won by Cal 63-51 on March 11. Most of college basketball and much of the sports world came to a halt the next day due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The only hope of either team to make the NCAA Tournament is to win the Pac-12 Tournament. Stanford could potentially land an NIT bid. Both tournament fields will be announced Sunday.

The winner of Wednesday’s game will take on 23rd-ranked Colorado (20-7), the No. 3 seed, in the quarterfinals. Colorado and No. 24 USC (21-6) are the only ranked teams in the conference, with Pac-12 regular-season champion Oregon (19-5) just on the outside looking in. The top five teams have a first-round bye.

Arizona (17-9), which finished fifth in the Pac-12, is serving a self-imposed postseason ban and will not participate this week. The program is under NCAA investigation for various rules violations, including allegedly paying for false or inaccurate transcripts for two prospective athletes, according to the Notice of Allegations that was made public Friday. One athlete eventually enrolled at Arizona and played in games.

The Pac-12 Tournament championship game is Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Meanwhile, USC’s Evan Mobley was named the Pac-12’s Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year on Tuesday. It is the first time in Pac-12 history one player has swept the three awards. Andy Enfield of USC was named Coach of the Year and Stanford’s Jaiden Delaire was Most Improved Player.

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