We have reached the 21st century for basketball in the Pacific-12 Conference today on another edition of Pac-12 Friday. The Conference of Champions certainly had some success in this decade, although not to the levels of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1990s. Which schools came out on top more often than not?
Never a dull moment here. Read on to find out!
Honorable Mention: 2006 UCLA Bruins (32-7)
This was the first of three straight Bruins squads to make it to the Final Four, as UCLA—ranked No. 7 at the end of the regular season by the Associated Press—made it all the way to the National Final. The team went 14-4 in conference play, and the Bruins had to beat both No. 5 Gonzaga and No. 4 Memphis in the West Regional to reach the Final Four. There, UCLA beat No. 19 LSU before losing to No. 11 Florida.
10. 2004 Stanford Cardinal (30-2)
This team started out 26-0 before losing its regular-season finale on the road to Washington. After recovering to win the resurrected conference tournament, Stanford was ranked No. 1 by the Associated Press going into the NCAA Tournament. However, the relatively weak Cardinal schedule (ranked a mere 88th in the country) caught up to the squad in the second round, where Stanford lost to unranked Alabama. There were a lot of Cardinal teams this decade that started off hot, only fade hard at the end.
9. 2009 UCLA Bruins (26-9)
The Bruins started the season ranked No. 4 in the AP poll, and in the end, UCLA finished No. 8 in the SRS. It was a great team, but it really never put it all together on the court. Despite remaining ranked all season long, the Bruins did not win the conference title or the conference tournament. Four losses came by a combined 11 points, and in the end, UCLA—ranked No. 18—lost to No. 11 Villanova in the second round of March Madness.
8. 2002 Oregon Ducks (26-9)
A surprise regular-season conference champion (14-4 record in league play), the Ducks started shooting up the national rankings in midseason. In the Top 10 before the conference tournament, Oregon finished at No. 11 in the AP poll before the NCAA Tournament began. Then, the Ducks made it to the Midwest Regional Final before losing to No. 2 Kansas. Oregon also ended up No. 7 in the SRS overall.
7. 2005 Washington Huskies (29-6)
After finishing No. 8 in the AP poll before March Madness, the Huskies surprisingly got a No. 1 seed in the national tournament on the back of a 14-4 conference record without a regular-season championship. But winning the conference tournament impressed the NCAA Selection Committee, even though Washington was just 11th in the SRS overall. Alas, the Huskies lost in the Sweet 16 to No. 4-seed (and nationally No. 4-ranked) Louisville. It was a messed up year for seeding, that’s for sure.
6. 2007 UCLA Bruins (30-6)
For the second season in a row, the Bruins season ended in the Final Four against Florida. This time, No. 7 UCLA lost to the No. 1 Gators in the national semifinals, however. A 14-0 start to the year had the Bruins at No. 1 into the start of January, and none of the six UCLA losses throughout the season came by more than 10 points. The Bruins posted 15-3 record to claim the conference regular-season title and then beat No. 12 Pittsburgh and No. 2 Kansas in the West Regionals to advance to the Final Four.
5. 2008 UCLA Bruins (35-4)
Ranked in the Top 10 all season, the Bruins posted a 16-2 record in conference play to finish first, while ending up ranked No. 3 in the AP poll on their way to a third-straight Final Four. UCLA also ended up No. 4 in the SRS overall. The Bruins won the league tournament before beating No. 12 Xavier in the West Regional Final to advance to the national semis, where they lost to No. 2-ranked Memphis.
4. 2003 Arizona Wildcats (28-4)
The preseason No. 1, the Wildcats didn’t disappoint. They finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in the AP poll and No. 2 in the SRS overall. A 17-1 record in conference play clinched a title there, and only an overtime loss to UCLA in the league tournament slowed Arizona down. After beating No. 22 Notre Dame in the regional semifinals, though, the Wildcats lost to No. 6 Kansas—the eventual national champion—by three points to fall short of the Final Four.
3. 2000 Stanford Cardinal (27-4)
This team finished No. 1 overall in the SRS, despite losing to an unranked North Carolina team in the March Madness Round of 32. The Cardinal started off 25-1 before stumbling down the stretch. Overall, Stanford’s four losses came by a combined 16 points. A 15-3 conference record handed the league title to the Cardinal, but overall, the early NCAA Tournament loss put a damper on this team’s historical legacy.
2. 2001 Stanford Cardinal (31-3)
The Cardinal returned the next year with a vengeance—finishing No. 3 in the SRS overall and ending up with a No. 2 AP ranking. A 16-2 record in conference play netted another league championship, too. Stanford was ranked in the Top 5 all year long … but once again, a 27-1 start was followed by a relative collapse in the last few weeks of the season. The Cardinal lost to No. 11 Maryland in the West Regional Final, missing out on the Final Four one more time.
1. 2001 Arizona Wildcats (28-8)
This team posted a 15-3 conference record, one game behind Stanford. But Arizona finished No. 2 in the SRS overall on its way to reaching the National Final against Duke. Ranked No. 5 in the AP poll to end the year, the Wildcats beat No. 14 Mississippi, No. 4 Illinois, and No. 3 Michigan State (the defending national champs) to reach the championship game against the No. 1 Blue Devils. Many critics felt Duke was getting let off easy by the refs throughout the Final Four, but Arizona just couldn’t make many buckets in the game, either.