2016 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament: Bubble teams seize the day in first round
LAS VEGAS – The Pac-12 Conference entered Championship Week rich with bracketology intrigue.
The consensus among the experts heading into the start of this Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament was that the Pac-12 could send a record eight teams to the NCAA tournament if a few bubble teams broke the right way here in Las Vegas. That storyline still holds true following Wednesday's first round.
With the top four Pac-12 seeds on byes Wednesday, the next four seized their opportunity to add another win to their resumes.
Oregon State's 75-66 victory against Arizona State capped the night as a clean sweep of statements for the Pac-12 teams closest to the NCAA Tournament bubble. Asked if the 19-11 Beavs (29th RPI and 61st in KenPom ratings) had done enough to make the tournament with the single victory, guard Gary Payton II made sure not to put a ceiling on his Oregon State team, which faces No. 3 seed California at 8:30 p.m. PT on Thursday.
“I don't see any reason why we can't keep winning,” Payton said. “It doesn't hurt us if we keep winning so we're just going to leave no doubt and go out there and play, and of course try to win.”
ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi now says the Beavers are in:
Oregon St moves into "Last 4 Byes" category after beating Arizona St.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 10, 2016
Three other teams Wednesday added to their tournament resumes.
Washington (18-13) opened the day with a 91-68 win against Stanford. The Huskies now rank 81st in RPI and 62nd in KenPom.
Like Payton II, Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar also made wise-cracks when asked if UW could make a deep Pac-12 tourney run from the No. 8 seed and without a first-round bye.
“You think we're going to say no?” Romar joked. “We're grateful, grateful for the opportunity to go and give it a try. That's for sure.”
Later in the day, No. 5 seed Colorado (22-10), safely in the tournament with a 30th RPI and 57th KenPom rating, set itself up for a big opportunity to face Arizona on Thursday. The Buffs beat Washington State 80-56.
And then there was USC which completed its first season sweep of UCLA since 1942. The 95-71 victory gave the Trojans, who are 42nd in the RPI and 47th in KenPom, a 21-11 record.
“We haven't been a great team the entire season,” USC coach Andy Enfield said, “but when we play like this, we can beat anybody on our schedule.”
Enfield spoke for others on Wednesday.