Dribble the ball up and down the court, try to shoot the ball into your opponent’s basket while attempting to defend your own from the other team — with that being the simplest description of the game of basketball, it is one we have come to know and love. Basketball provides entertainment for those watching it, and endless amounts of joy for those playing it. In college, these players play their hearts out for a chance to advance past the regular season. Now, with it being the beginning of March, one thing lies on the forefront of every college basketball player’s mind — “Will my team make it to the tourney?”
This season, the Pac-12 has been interesting. I would not say it has disappointed, but I would not say it has exceeded expectations. Everyone knew the Arizona Wildcats were the favorites, but who knew our beloved Oregon Ducks would be the clear cut No.3 team in the Pac? What about the Washington Cougars, and their inability to play consistently throughout the season? This season has definitely been exciting, but with the exception of Arizona, nobody would have expected the division to look the way it does now. We’ll now take a quick look into each team, and whether they still have a shot at making the tournament. To view the latest and most up-to-date bracket, click here.
The three in:
1. Arizona (26-3; 14-2, Pac-12)
As expected, the Wildcats are clearly the top team in the Pac-12. A tough loss to a bad Arizona State team a few weeks ago has made this team stronger. The Wildcats are coming off a massive win over then No.13 Utah, and are looking to close out the season with wins over California on Thursday and Stanford on Saturday. Barring a massive collapse to end the season, the Wildcats are looking at a No.2 seed in the tourney. Expect this young, talented team, coached by Sean Miller, to do some damage down the stretch in March.
2. Utah (22-6; 12-4, Pac-12)
Many expected the Utes to have a good season, but not many expected them to be playing the way they are thus far. Despite recent losses to Oregon and Arizona, the Utes have been the Pac’s steady surprise this year. Coming into the season, many expected them to battle for a mid to upper seed within the Pac-12. Right now, the Utes are the clear No.2 seed in the division, and having played Arizona quite well shows that this team is ready to compete in the tourney. The Utes play Washington on Thursday and Washington State on Saturday. Barring a collapse, the Utes are looking at a No.3 or No.4 seed (most likely No.4) in the tourney.
3. Oregon (22-8, 12-5; Pac-12)
With the Utes being the Pac-12’s steady surprise this season, Oregon has been the Pac’s Cinderella story. Losing three definite starters before the season left coach Dana Altman with an NBA talent in Joseph Young, and a bunch of talented, inexperienced freshmen. It was not looking good for the Ducks, and the start to the season reaffirmed that. Once Pac-12 play started, however, the Ducks started to fly. Yes, they have some bad divisional losses, but going 12-5 in a deep division, beating Utah at home, and now locking up the 3rd seed in the Pac means the Ducks have accomplished far more than anyone thought possible. A win against Oregon State tomorrow will help cap off an incredible season for the Ducks. Expect the Ducks to receive anywhere from a No.10 to a No.12 seed in the tourney.
4. UCLA (18-12; 10-7, Pac-12) 5. Stanford (18-10; 9-7, Pac-12) 6. Oregon St. (17-12; 8-9, Pac-12) 7. California (17-12; 7-9, Pac-12) 8. Arizona St. (15-14; 7-9, Pac-12) 9. Colorado (13-15; 6-10, Pac-12) 10. Washington St. (12-16; 6-10, Pac-12) 11. Washington (15-13; 4-12, Pac-12) 12. USC (11-18; 3-14, Pac-12)
The only team from these last nine that has any realistic chance of making the tournament is UCLA. The Bruins are a prime example of how inconsistency kills teams in college basketball. Winning out-of-conference games is as important as winning in-conference games, because RPI (Rating Percentage Index) is used to weigh a team’s wins and losses against its strength of schedule. Going 8-7 in Pac-12 and hanging onto a 4th seed in the division is great, but boasting an 8-5 out-of-conference record doesn’t help their cause. The Bruins showed signs of good play this year, but they coupled that with bad play as well. They are listed as one of my first four teams out, but they do still have time to work their way in, with help from other bubble teams, and a win over USC tomorrow night.
In last year’s tournament, six teams represented the Pac-12 (Arizona, UCLA, Oregon, Colorado, Stanford, and Arizona State). Likely it will be only three teams this year. With Arizona and Utah being definite locks, Oregon being a 99% lock, and UCLA hanging on for dear life, all other teams are without a chance.
Right now, I see Arizona making a very deep run in the tournament. The Wildcats have depth and experience, the two most important characteristics of any team looking to make a deep run in the tournament. Utah has the ability to do well, but has shown signs of inconsistency. If the Utes play well on both sides of the ball, they very well could make it to the Sweet 16. And for our Ducks, it is hard to say what they will do. They lack size, and when going up against the better teams in college basketball, that lack of size will kill them. Young and his Ducks are looking to prove all the haters wrong — being considered for a tournament spot this late in the season has already shown a lot. Look for the Ducks to advance to the round of 32, with the rest of the games being in question after that.
There are some very pivotal games in the Pac-12 this week. For a full list of those games, click here.
The Pac-12 tournament will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada at the MGM Grand Garden Arena from March 11-14. Stay tuned to FishDuck.com, as we will have the latest in Oregon Men’s Basketball news.
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck