SAN JOSE -- The hierarchy in Pac-10 women's basketball has been restored.
After spending most of the conference season chasing rival Cal in the standings, perennial power Stanford finally passed the Golden Bears on the final day of the regular season and head into this weekend's Pac-10 tournament as a clear favorite.
It's a development that even the 10th-ranked Bears (24-5) are embracing, despite the sting they felt from a loss at Washington in their regular-season finale that cost them a share of their first Pac-10 title ever.
"We didn't feel like we played our best but we're going to come back with a vengeance now," guard Lauren Greif said. "We're back in our underdog position that we've done well in the past in. So we'll try that again. We need to show that our season wasn't a fluke and that last game was."
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The tournament begins today in San Jose when Oregon (13-16) plays Washington State (5-24) and Oregon State (11-18) takes on Arizona (10-19). The other six teams begin play in the quarterfinals on Saturday, with the semifinals Sunday and the final on Monday night.
No. 6 Stanford (27-3) is riding a 15-game winning streak since getting swept in Los Angeles on the first weekend in January. But none of that will matter to guard Candice Wiggins, the conference MVP, if she can't finish her final college season out strong in the Pac-10 and NCAA tournaments.
"This is the last imprint, the lasting memories that you will have. The way you leave Stanford is the way you're going to remember it," she said. "I'm a senior so you really have a sense of ownership when you're not looking up at anyone anymore. You feel like everyone is looking to you."
Wiggins has been a leader on the court ever since arriving at Stanford. She has been a second-team All-American her first three seasons and became the conference's career leading scorer last weekend at Washington State.
The only credential missing in her impressive career comes in March. Stanford has not been to the Final Four since 1997.
"If there's one thing that she wants to do and I want her to do is put our team on her back and take us to the Final Four and have a shot at the national championship," coach Tara VanDerveer said. "That's something that she wants and we want for her too."
Stanford and Cal are locks to make the NCAA Tournament and are playing to improve their seeding. The Cardinal will probably be a No. 2 seed but could have an argument for being a No. 1 if they win the tournament, based on having five wins already against top-10 teams.
The Bears could be anywhere between a No. 2 and a No. 4 seed and are hoping for the best possible matchup so they can win an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in 15 years.
USC 93, CAL 89 (OT), at Los Angeles -- Freshman O.J. Mayo scored five of his 22 points in overtime, and the Trojans (19-10, 10-7) beat the Bears to take a big step toward earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Patrick Christopher led Cal (15-13, 6-11), which has lost four in a row, with 24 points before fouling out with 17.8 seconds remaining.
OREGON 67, ARIZONA STATE 61, at Eugene, Ore. -- Malik Hairston scored 19 points and the Ducks hit eight free throws in the final minute to earn a win over the Sun Devils.
Tajuan Porter had 12 points for the Ducks (17-12, 8-9), who moved into a three-way tie for fifth-place in the Pac-10 with Arizona State (18-11, 8-9) and Arizona. The Ducks and Wildcats face each other in the regular-season finale.
ARIZONA 81, OREGON STATE 45, at Corvallis, Ore. -- Jerryd Bayless scored 20 points to help the Wildcats (18-12, 8-9) strengthen their bid to make a 24th consecutive NCAA Tournament. Lathen Wallace had 11 points to lead the Beavers (6-23, 0-17), who shot 32 percent and lost their 19th game in a row.
LONG BEACH PENALIZED -- The NCAA imposed stiff penalties on the Long Beach State men's basketball program, in addition to some sanctions that were self-imposed.
Penalties against the 49ers include three years' probation, forfeiting their 18 victories from the 2005-2006 season, reduced recruiting and fewer scholarships. The limited probation will allow the 49ers basketball team to participate in postseason play.