There is something odd going on in the preparation for the NCAA Tournament seeding announcements on Sunday, and it involves the Pacific-12 Conference (surprise). The Conference of (real NCAA) Champions has been taking it on the proverbial chin this year in men’s basketball, although the league is not nearly as bad as experts would have you think.
Yes, the conference’s best team—regular-season champion Washington—is ranked just 48th by KenPom.com, while sitting at 48th in the BPI rankings and 49th in the Sagarin ratings. Overall, the league is rated seventh among conference by KenPom.
The experts at ESPN.com, CBSSports.com, and even NCAA.com have both Washington and the Arizona State Sun Devils in the March Madness field. ASU finished three games behind the Huskies in the Pac-12 standings, alone in second place.
Yet, there is another team out there, better than the Sun Devils: the Oregon Ducks. None of these predictions above even give the Ducks a shot as a “Last Team Out” candidate. Why?
Oregon is rated higher than Arizona State by KenPom, the BPI, and Sagarin. Yes, the Sun Devils have reached the outdated, “magic” 20-win threshold, while the Ducks have just 19 wins right now. Yet by almost every metric, Oregon is a better team than Arizona State.
The Ducks probably will beat Washington State tonight to get their 20th victory. If Oregon wins, it would face Utah on Thursday. Win again, and the Ducks might get another shot at the Sun Devils, head to head.
The two teams split their conference matchups, each winning on its home court. But right now, it looks like the public-relations damage against the conference is keeping the Ducks from a well-deserved spot in the NCAA Tournament.
And that’s not right.