Well, well, well … what a surprise to those nationally that were not paying attention to the Pacific-12 Conference during this basketball season. Even though the league placed three teams in the NCAA Tournament, not many gave the Conference of (real NCAA) Champions a chance at anything.
In addition, horrible seeding shafted the league’s best team with a No. 12 seed. It is almost as if the Selection Committee never watched a single game of Pac-12 play this year. Hmmm …
Lo and behold, each of the league’s three teams won a game in this tournament, posting a record of 4-2, which included two “upsets” via seeding, and now, the Oregon Ducks are the only double-digit seed to crash the Sweet 16 this March.
Welcome to Pac-12 basketball, America.
Maybe next year, the NCAA committee will do the Sun Devils the honor of not shafting them with an early-round game. Last year, ASU drew the silly Wednesday, play-in matchup game against Syracuse, a team that ended up in the Sweet 16. We still do not understand why the tournament makes No. 11-seeded teams “play in” rather than have all the 16-seed teams do it.
Regardless, the Sun Devils beat St. John’s on Wednesday before losing to Buffalo on Friday. ASU finishes with a nice 23-11 mark, the second season in a row that the Sun Devils have won at least 20 games. With Head Coach Bobby Hurley entering his fifth season in 2019-2020, look for ASU to keep improving.
The league’s regular-season champs defied a lot of naysayers (including us) by winning their opening game against Utah State. The Huskies did not play a tough non-conference schedule, and they lost all the “big games” on it: on the road at Auburn, a neutral site loss to Minnesota, a road defeat at Gonzaga, and a neutral site loss to Virginia Tech.
Well, three of those teams made the Sweet 16, and Minnesota reached the Round of 32, so the Washington squad was battle tested—losing to the Golden Gophers and the Zags by a combined four points. So maybe that No. 9 seed was a little harsh for the Pac-12 champs.
Blowing out Utah State in the first round of March Madness was the Huskies’ best NC win of the year, and even though Washington came up way short against cheatin’ North Carolina in the second round, there is a lot to like about where Head Coach Mike Hopkins has this program headed after just his second season in Seattle.
Well, we knew they were good. We told you so a few weeks ago before the Pac-12 Tournament even began. After holding both Wisconsin and UC Irvine to 54 points each, respectively, the Ducks are in the Sweet 16 again—for the third time in the last four years, and the fourth time in the last seven seasons.
Head Coach Dana Altman knows what he is doing: He also took Oregon to the Sweet 16 as a 12 seed in 2013. He has won at least 21 games in every one of his nine seasons in Eugene, and the Ducks have an excellent chance of upsetting top-seeded Virginia in the regional semifinals on Thursday night. With ten straight victories, Oregon’s confidence is soaring.
What to Watch For Next
It’s all about the Ducks now. The statistical models do not give Oregon a good chance at beating Virginia, but let’s remember two things: First, the stat models are not good at weighing momentum, and the Ducks have that right now, and second, this is Virginia we’re talking about here. The Cavaliers are known for choking. The game will be a lot closer than predicted, and Oregon has a very good chance of winning.
Side note: The Colorado Buffaloes have an excellent chance on Monday night to advance to the Elite 8 of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). Playing at home against Norfolk State, KenPom gives the Buffs a 93-percent chance at victory.
Fearless Prediction(s) of the Week
Our pre-tourney predictions had Oregon losing to Virginia in the Sweet 16, because even our confidence in the Ducks has its limits. The Cavaliers have not gone 31-3 because they stink. Yet as noted above, everyone sort of expects Virginia to choke … eventually. Is this the round it happens? The No. 1 team in KenPom loses to a 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament? Would not be the first time that’s happened, of course. Let’s ride Oregon until it is no more.
However, if the Ducks do beat the Cavs, we still expect Purdue to beat Oregon in the Elite 8. The Boilermakers were co-champs of the best conference in the country this year, and the Ducks will run out of magic on Saturday.
Check back here frequently for new Pac-12 content … Baseball season is next!