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The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Pac-12 Conference fails to prove itself after receiving seven NCAA bids

University+of+Oregon+forward+Dillon+Brooks+%2824%29+shoots+a+3+over+Arizona+guard+Kadeem+Allen+%285%29+during+the+Pac-12+Tournament+on+Friday%2C+March+11+in+Las+Vegas.+Oregon+is+the+only+remaining+Pac-12+Conference+team+in+the+NCAA+Tournament.
Tyler Baker
University of Oregon forward Dillon Brooks (24) shoots a 3 over Arizona guard Kadeem Allen (5) during the Pac-12 Tournament on Friday, March 11 in Las Vegas. Oregon is the only remaining Pac-12 Conference team in the NCAA Tournament.

After the first weekend of March Madness, a surplus of surprises, upsets and disappointments emerged from the ashes of the first and second rounds.

Another No. 2-seed in Michigan State was dropped by No. 15-seed Middle Tennessee State, Stephen F. Austin took down No. 3-seed West Virginia and No. 5-seed Purdue saw an early exit thanks to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

This is March Madness. It’s what we love.

Arguably the biggest disappointment from this tournament so far has been the performance by the Pac-12 Conference. The so-called “conference of champions” received seven bids in the tournament, tied for most teams from one conference with the Big 10 Conference, Atlanta Coast Conference, and Big 12 Conference.

Head coaches like Arizona’s Sean Miller and Oregon State’s Wayne Tinkle implied that the Pac-12 deserved to have a deep representation in this year’s March festivities.

“I’d like to congratulate the number of teams that are in the NCAA Tournament from the Pac-12,” Miller said. “We talked a lot about our depth, the quality from top to bottom and it certainly has played itself out with Oregon getting a well-deserved No. 1 seed.”

While Miller and Tinkle got their wishes, the Pac-12 failed to hold up its end of showing up to play in the tournament.

No. 1-seeded Oregon is the only remaining Pac-12 school. Five teams were cut in the first round and Utah was clubbed at the hands of Gonzaga on Saturday night in the second round. No team in the Pac-12 ranked lower than a No. 8 seed, including three teams that seeded No. 4 or higher.

Hawaii upset No. 4-seeded University of California, Berkeley. Hawaii had never previously won an NCAA Tournament game.

Arizona was taken down for a rugged Wichita State University team.

Read: Arizona seniors leave a legacy with Arizona basketball following first-round loss and final goodbye.

Oregon State, which hadn’t been to the tournament in 26 years, saw defeat at the hands of the always tournament-ready VCU Rams.

Colorado went down to the wire with a red-hot University of Connecticut team and USC was beaten on a buzzer beater against Providence.

Just like that, the Ducks were all that remained.

“I think we’re well beyond worrying ‘Do people give us credibility?’ and I know that the selection committee, because we’ve been in the tournament so many times, they do their homework,”Miller said after Arizona’s loss to Oregon. “They’re not going to fall prey to going to bed early. I think they’re going to look at the numbers and you cannot deny the numbers of our conference and quality from top to bottom.”

The Pac-12 failed to show up and it’s unfortunate they picked the March Madness tournament to do so. With so much East Coast Conference bias, the Pac-12 had a chance to show fans on that side of the country what they were missing.

Two years ago the Wildcats, UCLA Bruins and the Stanford Cardinal made the Sweet 16. Last year, the conference regressed, getting only four teams into the big dance.

This year was a chance to make something happen.

We saw what the Pac-12 did this season. The conference was deep and came up with some big wins in nonconference play. UCLA, a team that didn’t make the tournament, upset then–No. 1 Kentucky early in the year. Arizona took down Gonzaga, Utah beat Duke, USC beat Wichita State and ASU even took down Texas A&M.

Within the conference, the talent and level of play was exceptional. Big games and big performances defined the Pac-12. The seven teams that made the tournament deserved to be there. Arizona was dethroned as the outright and tournament champion, but was still competitive. It’s a sign that the conference is growing and improving.

Wins during tournament time, however, are all people talk about in the end. The Pac-12 failed to bring those to the table.

The hope now is that Oregon will make a deep run to keep the conference relevant. The Ducks could bring some much needed attention and positive impressions for a conference that underachieved in the postseason.

Should the Ducks make this run, maybe we won’t see this strong season from the Pac-12 completely ignored.

If the conference wants to get recognition going forward, it’s up to the teams within the tournament to show up and get postseason wins. Only this way will the Pac-12 earn the credit it deserves.


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