Good morning from 10,000 feet. I'm on way to Los Angeles for the Pac-12 tournament which starts today at noon.
Obviously, the Pac-12 has taken its fair share of criticism. Much of it deserved. The league's RPI ranks 10th behind the Atlantic 10, the Missouri Valley Conference and Mountain West Conference. The lack of top wins are missing. And yet, I feel like we were at the point of overkill. The punchline is overused. Realistically, I think the top four or five teams in the league are better than people are willing to give them credit for. But the sins of the past just can't be overcome.
Call it parity, call it league-wide mediocrity, but the tournament will be competitive with some good basketball being played ...
From my story in today's paper ...
“I don’t pay attention to what they say,” said Washington guard Terrence Ross. “We can really show that it’s a competitive, good conference to be in. I feel like people haven’t seen us play much, especially on the East Coast. We have a chance to get ourselves some of the credit that people say we don’t have.”
If anything, the league’s poor perception will make the tournament that much more hard-fought.
The tournament’s top two teams – Washington and California – aren’t even guaranteed an at-large bid in the NCAAs. Meaning, the only sure way to get an invite to the Big Dance is to win the Pac-12 tournament. At least that is the mentality players are bringing.
“I think we have to win a couple games, but you never know,” said Washington guard C.J. Wilcox. “We’re going to play it safe and try and win all the games.”
That isn’t going to be easy. If the conference has shown one thing in a season of supposed mediocrity, it’s that there is parity among the top eight teams.
“Good luck in picking the winner of this one,” Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said.
Washington and Cal were far from dominating during Pac-12 regular season.
Colorado and Oregon both beat the league-champion Huskies by more than 20 points, while lowly Utah played Washington down the very end in Salt Lake City.
Cal gave up 92 points in a loss to Oregon State, and the Bears held the Beavers to 63 points and won by 14 in the rematch.
Arizona had its NCAA tourney dreams dealt a serious blow in the season finale by losing to an Arizona State team that had just five league wins.
I participated in awriters' roundtable for the LA Daily News
with other writers from around the conference
Patrick Finley has a tournament preview in which he talks to Ken Pomeroy about the odds of teams winning the tournament for the Arizona Daily Star.
The Bay Area News Group led by Jeff Faurado looks at the downward slide of the conference
Another piece of news yesterday was the likely move of the conference tournament to Las Vegas. Several columnists took the time to write about the change.
- TNT columnist John McGrath manages to write about the change along with Mike Tyson's new Vegas show. I don't know how he does it, but he does.
- Arizona Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen gives five reasons why the move is good.
- You need to be an insider but ESPN's John Gasaway says that the Pac-12 is stronger than people think.
A few other links ...
South Dakota State is going to the NCAA tournament witha 52-50 overtime win
yesterday over Western Illinois in the Summit League tourney finals. Nate Wolters winning the tourney MVP. It's likely that Nevada and St. Louis - two teams that also beat UW will make the tourney along with Marquette and Duke.
Tacoma Community College won the NWAAC tourney in Kennewick last night. Why is this important? Well, UW and Gonzaga assistants were there to watch 6-5 shooting guard Mark McLaughlin, who scored 24 points and leads all of junior colleges in scoring.
The Montana Grizzlies defeated Eastern Washington in the semifinals last night in Missoula. Why is this important? Because it's my alma mater and I said so!
Here's Andy Glockner's preview of all the major conference tournaments
Pat Forde has his Forde Minutes column .. and it also has a brief preview of the Pac-12 tourney.
Not much change to them ... but I will post them again.
- ESPN's Joe Lunardi has two Pac-12 teams in the tournament in his latest bracket -- Washington is a No.11 seed playing Vanderbilt in Nashville
- SI's Andy Glockner has two Pac-12 teams in his latest bracket -- Washington is a 12 seed playing UNLV in Nashville.
- CBS Sports' Jerry Palm has two Pac-12 teams in his latest bracket -- Washington is a 14 seed playing Murray State in Portland
- Here's the bracket matrix ...
Let's get today's first-round games ...
- The Cougs are 2-0 against OSU this season and the key to it has been beating the 1-3-1 zone. Christian Caple has a big blog post this morning.
- John Hunt's preview talks about OSU trying to stop Brock Motum. Here's Kevin Hampton's preview story
- Both teams are desperately in need of an offseason. ... The Bruins are entering the tournament with some mometum ... Lazeric Jones's leadership has been important to UCLA's success.
- USC can't win the tournament and head coach Kevin O'Neill knows it.
Stanford is going in with a sense of optimism following the win over Cal