Six Pac-12 teams make 2014 NCAA tournament
Widely considered one of the best leagues in college basketball this season, the Pac-12 was rewarded with six bids to the 68-team NCAA tournament on Sunday. The six bids equal the second-most selections of any conference this season along with the ACC, Atlantic 10 and Big Ten (the Big 12 leads the way with seven teams). Here’s a look at what each Pac-12 school in the tourney – Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Oregon, Stanford and UCLA – has coming up.
Arizona Wildcats (30-4, 15-3 Pac-12): No. 1 seed, West
No surprise here. Despite a couple of losses in their last handful of games, the Wildcats positioned themselves well all season to be on the top line come Selection Sunday thanks to their lockdown defense and off-the-charts athleticism. Sean Miller’s guys will first play Friday in San Diego against 16th-seeded Weber State, winners of the Big Sky tourney. Should the 'Cats get past Weber State as expected, they could have another tourney showdown with Gonzaga, or perhaps a round-of-32 date with the Marcus Smart-led Oklahoma State Cowboys. Looking further down the line, Arizona could have an Elite 8 matchup with Doug McDermott’s Creighton Bluejays or the second-seeded Wisconsin Badgers.
Arizona State Sun Devils (21-11, 10-8 Pac-12): No. 10 seed, Midwest
With a profile buoyed by a huge overtime win at home against top-seeded Arizona, the Forks find themselves dancing for the first time in five years. The Sendeks haven’t exactly been surging in the right direction, heading into the tournament on a three-game losing streak, but they still did enough to earn a date with seventh-seeded Texas to kick things off (Thursday in Milwaukee). If Jahii Carson and Jordan Bachynski can lead their team past the Longhorns, a likely date with a very dangerous Michigan team awaits them in the round of 32.
Colorado Buffaloes (23-11, 10-8 Pac-12): No. 8 seed, South
Many people wondered how the Buffs would respond to losing stud Spencer Dinwiddie after he went down in January. While the team certainly isn’t as explosive offensively, Boyle’s bunch proved to be a resilient group, turning up the notch on the defensive end down the home stretch to the tune of a 9-8 record against stiff competition with Dinwiddie out of the lineup. (It also doesn’t hurt to have Josh Scott and Askia Booker as two of your top-three guys.) Up first for the Buffs is ninth-seeded Pittsburgh, a team that easily handled Stanford back in November on a neutral court. Should #RollTad get past the Panthers Thursday in Orlando, the Buffs will almost certainly face the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament – the Florida Gators. Not an easy path for the Buffs, but nothing is this time of year.
Oregon Ducks (23-9, 10-8 Pac-12): No. 7 Seed, West
Oh, just another 10-8 Pac-12 team making the NCAA tournament. Nothing to see here, except perhaps the best in-season turnaround in the country. A 2-8 stretch after a 13-0 start left many people thinking Oregon was going to play its way out of March Madness, but Dana Altman got his kids to back that up with seven straight victories to end the regular season, therefore taking themselves out of the bubble conversation. The Quacks find themselves convincingly in the tourney as a higher seed in their first game, taking on 10th-seeded BYU Thursday in Milwaukee. If the Ducks can beat the Cougars again (Oregon outlasted the WCC school in overtime in December), it’s most likely a date with a well-coached Wisconsin bunch in the round of 32.
Stanford Cardinal (21-12, 10-8 Pac-12): No. 10 seed, South
Entering the year and last few games of the season sitting on one of the hottest coaching seats in the conference, Johnny Dawkins is leading the Farm Boys to the Big Dance for the first time since the Lopez twins were in college. One of the most bubbleicious teams all year, Stanford removed any doubt from the equation with a 79-58 thumping of Arizona State in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament. On Friday in St. Louis, this senior-laden group with a short bench will square off against seventh-seeded New Mexico, a team that knocked off San Diego State to win the Mountain West tourney crown and a squad that many think is under-seeded. If the Card can pull off the minor upset, it will probably get an up-close-and-personal look at two potential top-five picks in the 2014 NBA draft in Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins of the Kansas Jayhawks (though Embiid’s back is still a concern).
UCLA Bruins (26-8, 12-6 Pac-12): No. 4 seed, South
Your conference tournament champions put themselves in a favorable position to make the Sweet 16 after knocking off the Wildcats in Vegas on Saturday. Winners of five of their last six, the Bruins find themselves in a tourney lidlifter with upset-minded Tulsa, the Conference USA tourney kings. Should Alford hold serve against Danny Manning’s team, a potential juicy matchup with fifth-seeded VCU is next, provided the Shaka Smarts can get by a 31-2 Stephen F. Austin squad. If Colorado/Pittsburgh is unable to unseat the Gators, Florida would be UCLA’s Sweet 16 opponent (UCLA lost to Florida in the round of 32 back in 2011). The Pac-12 sure made a home for itself in the South region with three teams there.