Submitted by Wayne Root on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 at 7:00 AM
Since this is the week that UCLA plays Arizona again (this coming Saturday night on ESPN), let’s check in on what’s been happening in the Pac 12 as we prepare for the coming postseason. You regulars know I pay particular attention to the only major conference with proximity to Las Vegas. It’s been so great having the Pac 12 postseason tournament here in Las Vegas in recent years!
March Madness was a relative disaster for the Pac 12 back in 2016. We talked about it a lot at the time. Here’s a quick review. Outside of Oregon…it was HUMILIATING!
*Oregon was a #1 seed…and at least made it to the Elite 8 round where they fell to #2 seed Oklahoma (what’s happened to the Sooners this season?). The Ducks didn’t quite play to their seed….but they were the best team in the Pac 12 and they beat Duke on the way to a good showing overall. The only bright spot.
*Utah was a #3 seed…and lost badly to #11 Gonzaga in the second round. They fell 82-59 despite being seeded eight spots higher.
*California was a #4 seed, and was dispatched in the first round by #13 seed Hawaii.
*Arizona was a #6 seed (poor for them historically), and fell right out of the gate to #11 seed Wichita State 65-55.
*Oregon State was a #7 seed, and dropped their opener to #10 seed VCU 75-67.
*USC was a #8 seed, and lost a 70-69 heartbreaker to #9 seed Providence.
Ultimately, all six Pac 12 entries lost to inferior seeds. There were FOUR losses to opponents seeded #10 or worse. Utah and Arizona lost by double digits to #11 seeds Gonzaga and Wichita State (who, to be fair, were royally hosed by the committee last year!). On the whole, the league was WAY overseeded. The whole lot outside of Oregon looked like bubble caliber teams in this high pressure situation. DISASTER!
It was hoped the league would bounce back stronger in 2016-17. Instead, things may have gotten worse! There’s a real chance that only THREE teams will be in the championship brackets this season. Joe Lunardi at ESPN currently has five teams in the Dance in his Monday Bracketology update. But, the last two are barely in…and have fairly lousy resumes. The most respected computers DON’T have more than three as Dance-caliber.
Let’s take a look…
Jeff Sagarin of USA Today:
The cut-off for any given year depends on how many mediocre “auto-bids” go out. USC is right on the cusp at the moment. Obviously Oregon, UCLA, and Arizona are in. None are top 10 according to Sagarin, but all are top 20. After that…it’s ugly. Only half the conference is in the top 65!
Ken Pomeroy (kenpom.com):
Similar situation here, except it’s California at #47 rather than USC. If you average the rankings together…none of those bottom three register in the top 50. That’s probably the wrong side of the cut-off.
Why did I use those six teams? Those are the only six who currently have winning records in the Pac 12 standings. Here’s a quick update of those…
Pac 12 (winning records only)
The conference is SO BAD this year, that Arizona can post a 14-1 record in league play but not crack the top 10 nationally in the most respected computers. Oregon can’t do it either with a 13-2 conference record. Stunning.
You’ll hear some in the media talking about those top three as potential darkhorses to win the national championship. Hey, it would be great for West Coast basketball if that happened! But, you really have to do some cherry-picking to get there. Yes…UCLA looked good early in the season in some TV games. And…yes Arizona looked good when they upset UCLA in Pauley Pavilion. And…yes Oregon looked great when they CRUSHED Arizona. But, there’s just too much inconsistency to really trust these teams to string together neutral court wins in the Dance.
Maybe you watched Arizona knock off UCLA. Did you realize the Wildcats are 2-6 against the spread since then? Something to keep in mind for this Saturday night’s rematch.
At the moment, I’m bearish on the Pac 12. But, I do realize that certain matchups could favor Oregon, Arizona, or UCLA in the Dance if they either (or all) get friendly draws. I’ll do more scouting in the big games that remain…and I plan to be on hand personally for the Pac 12 tournament at the new T-Mobile Arena starting March 8. Maybe a Pac 12 team will SHOCK THE NATION next month!
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Back later this week to talk more basketball. March Madness will be here before you know it. That means it’s time for you to go to W.A.R. alongside WAYNE ALLYN ROOT!