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UCLA and USC get Pac-12 tournament bye, but that's not necessarily a good thing, Bruins coach Steve Alford says

UCLA and USC get Pac-12 tournament bye, but that's not necessarily a good thing, Bruins coach Steve Alford says
Kris Wilkes and UCLA beat USC in the teams' season finale to earn a No. 4 seed in the Pac-12 tournament. USC is No. 2. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA and USC don't play Wednesday in the Pac-12 Conference tournament, but they will be more than casual observers. The Bruins and Trojans will learn the identity of their next opponents when the tournament opens with four first-round games at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

UCLA and USC received byes into the quarterfinal round on Thursday. The second-seeded Trojans will play the winner of the game between seventh-seeded Washington and 10th-seeded Oregon State. The fourth-seeded Bruins will play the winner of the game between fifth-seeded Stanford and 12th-seeded California.

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UCLA split two games with Stanford and beat Cal twice this season. USC played Washington once, losing the conference opener at the Galen Center 88-81. The Trojans swept the two-game series with Oregon State.

UCLA coach Steve Alford said Tuesday that he was focusing more on his team than its first opponent because the Bruins wouldn't change much in their approach regardless of who they play.

"It's really about preparing for ourselves," Alford said.

Alford said opening a conference tournament on the second day against a team that already played can be a disadvantage.

"Even though you want the bye and the bye is important moving forward through the tournament," Alford said, "I've always felt the quarterfinal games favor the teams that have played the day before because they've been in the arena, they've shot in there, they've played."

The Bruins struggled last season for much of their Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal against USC before pulling out a 76-74 victory. The Trojans had beaten Washington in a first-round game the previous day. UCLA went on to lose to eventual champion Arizona in the semifinals.

Alford said his team would not practice at T-Mobile Arena before its game because he did not want to wake players up early for a scheduled 8 a.m. shootaround. The Bruins cannot hold an extended warmup because their afternoon game is immediately following another game.

"We're really looking at a warmup between 27 and 30 minutes," Alford said, "and that's it."

The most intriguing first-round matchup is between eighth-seeded Colorado and ninth-seeded Arizona State. The Sun Devils went unbeaten in nonconference games before stumbling to an 8-10 record in Pac-12 play.

Several analysts still project Arizona State to make the NCAA tournament based mostly its success earlier in the season, when the Sun Devils beat Kansas and Xavier.

Sixth-seeded Oregon will play 11th-seeded Washington State in the other first-round game.

Pac-12 tournament schedule

at T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas

Wednesday's first round

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No. 8 Colorado vs. No. 9 Arizona State, noon (Pac-12)

No. 5 Stanford vs. No. 12 California, 2:30 p.m. (Pac-12)

No. 7 Washington vs. No. 10 Oregon State, 6 p.m. (Pac-12)

No. 6 Oregon vs. No. 11 Washington State, 8:30 p.m. (Pac-12)

Thursday's quarterfinals

No. 1 Arizona vs. 8/9 winner, noon (Pac-12)

No. 4 UCLA vs. 5/12 winner, 2:30 p.m. (Pac-12)

No. 2 USC vs. 7/10 winner, 6 p.m. (Pac-12)

No. 3 Utah vs. 6/11 winner, 8:30 p.m. (FS1)

Friday's semifinals

Game 1, teams TBD, 6 p.m. (Pac-12)

Game 2, teams TBD, 8:30 p.m. (FS1)

Saturday's final

Teams TBD, 7 p.m. (FS1)

Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch

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