SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Happy Holidays! Did you come down with the March Madness bug? You may want to stay home from work the next two days. Just remember, lots of fluids plus continuous watching of CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV. You’ll be better by Monday.
I hope you enjoy your array of NCAA Tournament gifts that have been assembled under a green keg tree. It is the first Thursday of the tournament, everything else in our lives can take a back seat for the next three weeks.
We are 24 hours from No. 3 Oregon’s first round game against No. 14 Iona from the Golden 1 Center. Forgive me, but I still can not get past the disrespect from the NCAA Selection Committee toward the Pac-12 Conference this season.
The Pac-12 “Big 3” is the best combination of teams in the country. There is no conference that boasts a more powerful three-headed monster. Regardless, no Pac-12 team has reached the Final Four since 2008. Time for change is upon us.
Where is the love from the committee? The Pac-12 has been treated like someone who works for Daniel Tosh, cruel and unusually. Why? Let’s take a look at the resumes.
It may be going out on a limb here, especially with the ACC’s nine teams, but I believe the three Pac-12 teams will combine to win more tournament games than every other power conference or “Big 5.” Better yet let’s add all four Pac-12 teams, including No. 11 USC who made a heroic 15-point comeback in Wednesday’s play-in game vs No. 11 Providence.
The ongoing scoreboard:
BIG 5 POWER CONFERENCE NCAA TOURNAMENT SCOREBOARD
Big 12: 4-2
B1G 10: 7-3
No. 2 Arizona (30-4, 16-2 Pac-12)
The Wildcats can thank the Ducks for their golden path to the Final Four. After their win against UO in the Pac-12 Tournament finale, 83-80, the Cats assumed the coveted two-spot the Ducks were eyeing all season.
The West region really sets up nicely for a No. 1 Gonzaga vs No. 2 Arizona rematch. The Cats lost by seven to the Zags earlier in the season, but that was without their star Allonzo Trier.
Nevertheless, why is the top team from the Pac-12 just the No. 2 seed? If it wasn’t for the injury of Chris Boucher, Oregon may have been a No. 1 with a win in the final. Instead, Arizona won and was handsomely NOT rewarded by seed, but by region.
Honestly, Gonzaga is not as good as everyone believes. Arizona should cruise through that region. I can see a Final Four appearance for the Cats. Depending on their path from there, it is anyones guess. They may be the most balanced team in the nation right now.
No. 3 Oregon (29-5, 16-2 Pac-12)
The story on the Ducks is pretty clear. Oregon was the darling of college basketball prior to the injury of Chris Boucher. However, his injury has shuttled people off the bandwagon faster than passengers from the movie Speed.
Understandably, the Ducks lost a great deal on both ends of the floor with their leader going down. Minus CB, they played Arizona the same day they learned of the news and only lost by three.
The selection committee has ALWAYS stated that injuries DO NOT play a part in their decision-making process for the NCAA Tournament seeding. Let’s just get this out of the way, that is a boldface lie! If it was true, Oregon would be the No. 2 seed in the West region. Instead, they are the No. 3 seed in the Midwest region.
It is the old “Kenyon Martin” adage. In 2000, Martin was the king of college basketball. His Cincinnati Bearcats were the favorites of the sport at 29-3, and 16-0 in conference heading to their annual tournament.
Martin was injured during the conference tournament. That same weekend, the committee dropped the Bearcats from a predicted No. 1 overall seed (No. 1 RPI) in the Midwest to an outlandish No. 2 seed in the South. Sound familiar?
How many 29-win teams from a power conference are a No. 3 seed? The committee CLEARLY moved the Ducks down because of the injury. Did they do any research on UO? If so, they would’ve realized this team is more than just one player. Sometimes you, sometimes me, always us. They didn't get the memo.
It can’t be stated how important Boucher was, you can see from all my work this week that I have mentioned him daily. Yet, this is a piece focusing on NOW and not what was for Oregon. Boucher is an amazing player and better person, but we must move forward without him on the floor.
With that said, Chris Boucher was NOT even a starter for the Ducks this season. Sure, he started a few games to open the season when Dillon Brooks was recovering from offseason foot surgery. Yet, this team is more than CB and has talent everywhere.
Oregon is the ONLY team in the nation to defeat both UCLA and Arizona this season.
The Ducks’ offensive efficiency has not suffered with the loss of Boucher. In fact, Oregon has moved up from 1.13 points per possession with Boucher to 1.17 PPP WITHOUT him.
The same is true for Oregon’s defensive efficiency, with a 0.3 PPP boost without the senior on the court. I think people forgot this team is still explosive, athletic, intelligent and battle-tested.
Don’t be so quick to dismiss this impressive unit. A Final Four run is not out of the question. If Dillon Brooks finds a new level of greatness, this is an undersized title team from the 2016 Villanova mold.
No. 3 UCLA (29-4, 15-3 Pac-12)
We don’t need to talk about the Bruins much, it usually makes me nauseous. Yet, this is a very good team. They could be considered great with a deep run in March. However, defensive questions rightfully have followed them around all year. Can they contain a high-powered offense?
The other question is why was the AP Top 25 No. 3 ranked team in the nation dropped to a No. 3 seed OVERALL in the tournament? With one loss to arguably the best team in the country (Arizona), which they beat a week earlier in Tuscon, UCLA dropped 6-9 spots by committee standards. You figure a No. 3 seed can range from the ninth-best to No. 12 overall for No. 3 seeding purposes. That is an awful large drop in a few days.
The Bruins are the ONLY team in the nation to defeat Arizona, Oregon and Kentucky. Not bad for a team ranked No. 9-12 in this pool.
Obviously, Lonzo Ball has been the name on the lips of everyone. Whether you’re a college basketball fan or just interested to see what his dad will say next, this story has drawn national interest.
They will give everyone in the South region a run for their money. A rematch with UK would be interesting, but how is Kentucky ranked ahead of them? What have they shown us this season besides inconsistency? It must be a popularity contest or based on potential. This is what puzzles me about the committee and their constant disrespect of the Pac-12.
Don’t penalize the great teams of the conference because the bad ones are really bad.
I don’t think the committee values the Big 3 enough, therefore they don’t weigh the wins against one another as much as other conferences like the ACC. The Bruins are deep, young and talented. A Final Four run is possible but not likely. Back the PAC, not the Bruins, if that makes sense.
No. 11 USC (25-9, 10-8 Pac-12)
Clearly, the Trojans are not in the same class as the three aforementioned Pac-12 powers. USC is a solid team, capable of some great moments. They have scorers, role players and emerging young guns. Oregon ended their perfect season on December 30.
Blame Oregon State. Plain and simply, it’s their fault. The Beavers are so bad they’re actually dragging down the top teams with them. Their 1-17 Pac-12 record certainly is working against the conference.
The Trojans charged back from 15 down at halftime to win the First Four to move on and play No. 6 SMU on Friday.
Nevertheless, USC did not deserve to play a highly underrated Providence team in the first round. Both teams should have been higher seeds, starting their respective journey on Thursday or Friday instead of a Wednesday night. The Pac-12 continues to illustrate its top-heavy talent.
At the end of the day, Pac-12 respect will not be given, it will be earned. Cliche enough? Where is my Under Armour endorsement? The Pac-12 is going to justify their “Conference of Champions” nickname in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Bet on it.