NCAA Tournament: Greatest Conference or Best Conference?

With three Pac-12 teams into the Sweet-16 and another taking Wisco to the brink, I think it’s clear that Pac-12 is indeed the #ConferenceOfChampions. Indubitably the best in the country, right? BACK THE PAC. BACK THE PAC. BACK THE PAC.

OK, let’s be serious, that’s a ridiculous assertion. The reality is that three Pac-12 teams have won two games and three Sweet-16 teams lost to Washington (Oklahoma, remember?). Doesn’t make this any less fun, however.

The important thing is that LG has moved on to more important advertising campaigns like no heartlessly showing Derron Williams FTW. The worst.

UCLA Bruins

“Got an email that said, “Who else sees UCLA going from an 11-seed to the Sweet 16?” It was a group email and I wrote back, “You’re not crazy. I can see it.”’

– Adam Butler, 2/17/15

Which was really close to becoming another meaningless prediction had it not been for Yanick Moreira – ya know – playing basketball:

I think they call it “surviving and advancing?” This is Steve Alford’s third sweet-sixteen and second at schools that will never be recognized in Cinderella’s slipper (Southwest Missouri State reference). Which is interesting considering his team is the lowest seed remaining. Do you think the Bruins are wearing a glass shoe? I don’t. And I also love that UCLA won and Bryce hit 9-11 threes in doing so. That Tony Parker went off and Kevon Looney went double-double for something like the 45th time this season. Norman Powell doing senior things: 34 points, 10 boards, 7 assists.

Oregon Ducks

hat tip

*Stands/Hat tips Joe Young/retakes seat*

The Pac-12 – if not the whole country – has stood and pulled the whole Jordan-Brand-Jeter-hat-tip-thing. #R3SP3CT. It was one helluva final two months for Young and what a joy to watch. The Ducks felt two plays behind against the Badgers all night. It was a critical turnover here, a missed layup there, and they seemingly could never get the one stop. That’s sometimes what happens when your run into Wisconsin who never turns the ball over and forces you to defend for just shy of a century. Which the Ducks did a great job of doing. Their press was disruptive enough as were the Frank doubles. But let’s keep this on Oregon who clearly outperformed expectations this season which I imagine was a blast for Oregon fans. And others:

Arizona Wildcats

“Nobody can guard me.”

– D’Angelo Russell

Whoa. Bold.

“3-19 FG”

– D’Angelo Russell

And the wheels on the Sean Miller redemption tour train keep rolling. UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament? Got ‘em. Pac-12 Tournament championship? Buckets. Ohio State in the NCAA tournament? Next. And what’s next is Miller’s first appearance against his previous school, Xavier.

Utah Utes

I’ve made something of the Utes in close games thing (4-11 last two seasons with a missing certain je ne sais quoi). And after winning two NCAA tournament games – which is a terrific accomplishment – that stat remains true. The Utes won by 7 and 9 points this weekend. But did you watch? Those were close games. The Utes were absolutely tested and passed both exams. Which doesn’t really matter. We didn’t need the Utes to prove anything at this point. They just needed to be able to win one of these tight ball games. If you need a quantification of tough, here’s the best I can do:

  • Jakob Poeltl 12-13 FG for the weekend
  • Brandon Taylor irrational threes

The former of this list is critical in March because you’ll notice that the vast majority of teams still playing have distinct height/size advantages. There’s no coincidence this is one of Gonzaga’s best teams ever as Prz[consonant consonant consonant] Karnowski and Arvidas Sabonis’ kid have manned the paint. The Utes have always had this ability but now’s the time to assert it. Guard play often dominates in March but having those bigs play was is critical. And I hear Utah’s next opponent has a good one?

2 thoughts on “NCAA Tournament: Greatest Conference or Best Conference?

  1. I commented last week that UCLA was extremely fortunate to be in the field, but they had games ahead of them they could win. It will take the Bruins’ best game of the season to beat Gonzaga – it’s just a team that has the personnel to exploit the areas UCLA is weakest. I’m sure you’ll write up the game match ups this week – if UCLA has a sniff at winning it will take Kevon Looney having “a game”. He really hasn’t looked himself since donning the mask. Good luck to the Cats and Utes. I won’t be surprised at all if Utah finds a way to muck it up against Duke and give Coach K headaches.

    1. And what a great comment it was. In a 5v5 game, UCLA and Gonzaga matchup pretty well. Looney and Wiltjer is as exciting a PF duel as you’ll find. There are ways for UCLA to exploit Gonzaga. But it won’t be easy and the Zags can – you know – play beyond just their five. Depth has forever been an issue. Doesn’t help that these two have already played and Gonzaga shot 60%. Alas, the Bruins have improved since then. Of course the way UCLA forces teams to shoot threes is a major factor. Consider Gonzaga’s 10-16 performance from distance against Iowa.

      The best news is you’re only as hot as today’s game and the Bruins don’t have to play Sunday’s Zags, they’ve got this Friday’s Zags.

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