By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
The season boils down to one game. Win it and the Stanford men's basketball would at least be in consideration for a postseason tournament other than the NCAA.
Lose and the Cardinal (15-15) can call it a year, a tough learning experience during which the team endured without a single senior to shine the light toward the end of the tunnel.
Eighth-seeded Stanford opens the Pac-10 tournament, literally, Wednesday at 6 p.m. against ninth-seeded Oregon State (10-19) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
"It is important to keep coming out and playing well, to keep developing," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. "The tournament is one and done. Whoever we face is the most important team."
The Cardinal would need to win four games in four days to earn the Pac-10's automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, a task hard enough for a crew of five experienced seniors.
The winner of Stanford-Oregon State will be invited to participate in the quarterfinals against top-seeded and regular-season champion Arizona Thursday at 8:30 p.m.
After suffering through a stretch of nine losses in 11 games, the Cardinal finished the season winning two of its last three, including a nonconference game at home against Seattle.
Of Stanford's last 10 losses, four have been by less than 10 points. With a starting lineup packed with three freshmen and a pair of juniors, the Cardinal had some difficulty finishing close contests.
Oregon State defeated Stanford, 87-80, two weeks ago and has lost three straight since. The Beavers swept Arizona and Arizona State over the opening weekend of the conference season and were 3-13 the rest of the way. They are 1-12 away from Gill Coliseum.
Stanford has a 12-12 record in the conference tournament games after finishing 1-1 last year, losing to Washington in the semifinals.
The Cardinal is appearing in the play-in round for just the second time in school history. The last was two years ago: a 62-54 win over Oregon State.
Stanford continues to improve defensively, lowering their scoring defense for the third consecutive season under Dawkins. The Cardinal ranked second in the Pac-10 with its 65.0 average this year.
Jeremy Green, who was named to the first team All-Pac-10 on Monday, needs one 3-pointer to match Casey Jacobsen (222) for second all-time. Dion Cross tops the list with 241.
Green has been held to single-digits in just five of the team's 30 games, and has averaged 21.0 points over his past 10 games.
Stanford needs a victory over the Beavers to avoid its first back-to-back losing seasons since suffering through four straight between 1973-77.
Pac-10 tournament schedule
all games at Staples Center, Los Angeles
Game 1: No. 8 Stanford vs. No. 9 Oregon State, 6:10 p.m. (FSN)
Game 2: No. 7 Oregon vs. No. 10 Arizona State, approx. 8:40 p.m. (FSN)
Game 3: No. 4 USC vs. No. 5 California, 12:10 p.m. (FSN)
Game 4: No. 1 Arizona vs. Winner of 8-9, approx. 2:40 p.m. (FSN)
Game 5: No. 2 UCLA vs. Winner of 7-10, 6:10 p.m. (FSN)
Game 6: No. 3 Washington vs. No. 6 Washington State, approx. 8:40 p.m. (FSN)
Game 7: Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 4, 6:10 p.m. (FSN)
Game 8: Winner of Game 5 vs. Winner of Game 6, 8:40 p.m. (FSN)
Game 9: Pac-10 Tournament Championship, 3 p.m. (CBS)