Larry Scott, commissioner of the league, is seen as a visionary, but taking this sort of approach is certainly next-level. Dumbing down the play to test how the Selection Committee will treat your teams despite the Big Conference label? It's a daring, inquisitive, unorthodox approach, even if eye doctors along the West Coast have had an uptick in patient treatment since November. Almost any slick college hoops fan knows that if the Pac-12 was billed as the WAC, and if it wore New Mexico State and Nevada jerseys instead of Washington and Cal ones, this would pretty certainly be a one-bid league.
Instead, we've got Washington, Cal and Arizona fans still believing they're in the conversation and should be considered in the field, or in Arizona's case, maybe just out. If Washington and Cal fail to reach the Pac-12 tournament game and both teams still wind up in the NCAAs, we're going to have one really interesting conversation after the bracket is released -- especially if teams like Drexel or VCU, Oral Roberts or Harvard are left out.
It's been a long, long time since we had a conference tournament like this, where every round's outcome is completely unpredictable and the league is probably worse off for that.
|Will this be one of the last Pac-12 tournaments in L.A.? Some have discussed a move to Las Vegas. (AP)|
Stanford (7) vs. Arizona State (10): I saw Stanford up close when it played at Madison Square Garden in November. The team was better then. But, and this is a theme you'll catch on to here in no time, I think the Cardinal can win this tournament. Seven seed? Bah. Might as well be a No. 2 in this bracket. The Cardinal get Arizona State -- putrid -- in the first game, then have Cal, who they just beat 75-70 Sunday afternoon. In this comedy of errors that will be the Pac-12 tournament, Stanford stands a chance because it's one of the best rebounding teams on both ends in the country, and it is No. 1 in efficiency defense. Plus, we need Andrew Zimmerman to remain on television for as long as possible.
Colorado (6) vs. Utah (11): Tad Boyle for Pac-12 Coach of the Year? I think he should get it. I spoke with Boyle last July about this team and his prospects for the upcoming season. He was cautious. There was no way he thought finishing in the top half of the league was in his future. But he managed to make it happen with a roster that most other coaches would've struggled to get 15 wins out of. Boyle got 19. And he gets Utah, a team that was once so bad this year, we were asking if any BCS conference team was rated so low. Buffaloes should advance. Should.
Washington State (8) vs. Oregon State (9): A year from now, I think Oregon State's the No. 4 seed in this tournament with a chance at an at-large bid if it gets two wins. Just a broad prediction. This year, the team faltered after getting a win over Texas and then losing by just two to Vanderbilt in November. What could have been! Now it plays Wazzu, which swept the Beavers this season. Oregon State's Jared Cunningham owes us at least one more eye-popping dunk before his season ends.
UCLA (5) vs. USC (12): How the Trojans have dodged getting mocked this year is a bit of a mystery. The team's only conference win came at home to the second-worst team, Utah, and so USC finished 1-17. I mean, DePaul is laughing at that. And now Kevin O'Neill has to coach his team against its rival to start the tournament off. Speaking of UCLA, anyone else feeling a Pac-12 championship game run for the Bruins? After that Sports Illustrated piece came out, UCLA hasn't lost, and wouldn't it be something if they ripped through the bracket here. They'd get Arizona with a win over USC Wednesday.-- Matt Norlander