Welcome to the best day of the year. With all due respect to my Irish brothers and sisters, today belongs to March Madness. I’m more excited than a kid on Christmas. I want to sit at the top of my steps and wait until 12 PM to come down and see what Santa left for us basketball fans in the opening slate of games. As the great Jon Rothstein likes to say, “This is March.”
Last year, the tournament returned to our lives after COVID robbed us in 2020. Without huge crowds, however, the tournament felt different. Plus, it started on a Friday, which was the worst move in sports since the ghost runner on second base in the MLB. Thankfully, the tournament is back to its normal start day on Thursday* and the crowds will be rocking.
*I still don’t count the First Four as part of the tournament. I might get their one day, but it won’t be today.
Take a step back and appreciate what we’re about to experience over the next 96 hours. It all starts with wall-to-wall coverage from 12 PM – 12 AM. Arguments about which 12-seed will beat a 5-seed will dominate your group chats. Buzzer beaters will go viral and light up social media. TUMS will be out of stock at your local CVS due to indigestion caused by wings and beer.
Is this heaven? No, it’s ̶I̶o̶w̶a̶ March Madness.
Now I know what you’re all thinking. Where are my picks? Everyone might fill out a bracket, but have they ever won a competition where they got to spend time on a national radio show?
In my best Norman Osborn voice, “You know, I’m something of a scientist myself.”
There is some science to the bracket. Some numbers to keep in mind:
All four 1-seeds haven’t made the Elite Eight since 2016.
Look at offensive and defensive field goal percentages – champions typically fall inside the top 30 for both offensive and defensive field goal percentage.
A 13-seed has beaten a 4-seed in 8 of the last 11 tournaments.
Multiple 12-seeds have beaten 5-seeds in five of the last nine tournmanets. In 2019, three 12-seeds defeated 5-seeds.
Numbers are important, but it truly all comes down to luck. The phrase “better lucky than good” could not be more true during this tournament. I rely on a few “feelings” when completing my bracket. Here are some things I look for in a championship team.
Veteran guard play
At least one future lottery pick
If they lost in their conference tournament, was it a fluke, or a sign of what’s to come?
When in doubt, chalk.
Worry about the Sweet 16, not the first round upsets. If you have 11-12 of 16 teams left after the weekend with one being your champion, you’re in great shape.
Fill out two brackets. Screw the “integrity” crowd. Those people probably have multiple fantasy football teams. I always make two brackets so plan accordingly.
After a two-year wait, the NCAA Tournament is finally upon us. As Upper East Side resident and CBS analyst, Jon Rothstein, likes to say…
The NCAA Tournament is one of my favorite events of the year. For three weeks, college basketball will dominate the sports world. In particular, the first day of the tournament is one of my best days of the year. 12 hours of basketball, food, gambling, and anarchy. Sign me up.
With the tournament comes the bracket. According to American Gaming Association, 36.7 million Americans say they will fill out a bracket. I’d venture to say that more than half of those people don’t watch college basketball, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just means that a lot of people are going to fill out brackets and enter gambling pools.
Let’s just call a spade a spade. It takes a lot of luck to win your pool. However, there are some tips and trends to follow that could set you up for success. As someone who won a national tournament challenge and spoke on CBS Sports Radio about my victory, I may know a thing or two about the bracket…
This is my bracket manifesto.
I’m not going to tell you which teams to pick. However, I’m going to give you the keys on how to fill out your bracket. This manifesto is your tour guide. You still have to arrive at the destination, but I’m giving you the map to follow.
*Disclaimers are hot in the streets right now thanks to the “I am not a financial advisor, but I’m going to buy this stock” tweets. I want to state that I am not an expert. I’m just a guy who has found some success filling out brackets. This is MY strategy.
When In Doubt, Pick The Favorite
This is my number one rule. When in doubt, pick the favorite. It sounds simple, but so many of us fall into the trap of picking the perfect upset instead of focusing on who wins titles, which are the top seeds. There have been four champions since 1983 that have been seeded worse than five. The last team to do it was UCONN in 2014. If you picked UCONN in 2014 to win it all, you probably won your pool. Congrats, but that was an anomaly. Stick to a team in the top 5 as your champion.
Focus On Keeping Your Sweet Sixteen Intact
In most pools, brackets will be rewarded for advancement. If your pool rewards an upset win with more points, then pick more upsets. However, there are more points up for grabs in the later rounds. Don’t freak out if you don’t pick the correct #12 over #5 or #11 or #6 in the first round. If you had that team losing the next round, then it’s not a huge loss. Focus on having as many Sweet 16 teams as possible. If your bracket has 12 of 16 teams heading into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, then you’re in great shape.
First Time Final Four Participants Rarely Win It All
There’s a first for everything. Teams like Alabama and Tennessee may be trending in the right direction. Both squads are looking to reach their first Final Four in school history. However, only one team in the last 35 years has won a title during their first trip to the Final Four and that was UCONN in 1999. As someone who loves this Alabama team and will pick them to go far, it would be unwise to pick them as my champion.
The #11 over #6 Is The New #12 Over #5
One of the most popular pieces of advice shared during tournament week is the #12 over #5 upset. “You need to pick at least one 12-seed to win,” said one of your coworkers who thinks he’s an expert. Although your coworker is probably a snob, they’re right. In the past 40 years, at least one 12-seed beat a 5-seed in all but five tournaments. You should pick at least one 12-seed to win in the first round, but the 11-seeds are becoming the new must-have upset. 11-seeds are 21-19 against 6-seeds in the last 40 tournament games. So which Syracuse 11-seed wins a game in the first round?
Blue – The Color Of Champions
With apologies to red, orange, yellow, green, purple, white, and black, blue is the official color of champions. Since Syracuse won in 2003, only one other champion did not have a shade of blue on their uniform and that was Louisville in 2013. Technically, that championship never took place! This year, Gonzaga, Michigan, and Illinois are all 1-seeds not because of their resume, but because of the blue on their jerseys. Sorry, Baylor.
Cherish this NCAA Tournament. We were all robbed of March Madness last year. COVID-19 can’t ruin this one, right?
Please don’t ruin it, COVID.
What are your tips for filling out brackets? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.
The NCAA Basketball season came to an unexpected end on the morning of Thursday, March 12. Pac-12 officials decided to cancel the conference tournament. The conference was gearing up for an NCAA Tournament that could have seen seven of its teams in it. However, safety is paramount for everyone in society in response to COVID-19.
The Pac-12 made the right call in calling off the conference tournament. There was a domino effect from Wednesday night on in the sports world, as Utah Jazz forward Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The Pac-12 concluded their Wednesday night games, but canceled the tournament early Thursday morning.
This moment in history has stripped athletes of the glory that they could have felt in the NCAA Tournament. Stories could have been written and legacies could have been made. Payton Pritchard could have led Oregon on a deep tournament run in his senior year. One of the Pac-12’s bubble teams could have made the Sweet 16 and validated the conference possibly getting more than half its teams in the tournament. We will never know.
Memories Were Still Made In First Round of Pac-12 Tournament
However, there were great moments from the 2019-20 Pac-12 basketball season. There were even some in the one day of Pac-12 Tournament play. Oregon State and Utah fought hard in the 8-versus-9 game. Utah junior Alfonso Plummer broke the record for most 3-pointers in a Pac-12 Tournament game with 11 made. He broke Klay Thompson’s record. However, Oregon State freshman Jarod Lucas stole the spotlight from Plummer. He hit a 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds remaining in the game as the Beavers stole a 71-69 victory.
Listen to the best Pac-12 Basketball and Football Podcast
validated their improvement throughout the season as they easily dispatched
tournament hopeful Stanford 63-51. First-year Mark Fox and his team were
thought of as an afterthought in the conference, but they were able to win
three out of their last five games.
State got their first Pac-12 Tournament win since 2009 as they beat Colorado
82-68. The Cougars finished 16-16, clinching their first non-losing season
since 2012. Washington State also had a first-year coach in Kyle Smith, and
they also showed steady improvement throughout the season.
Teams like Oregon State, California, and Washington State were able to make memories this season. Just because March Madness is not happening does not mean this season was a lost season. Oregon was the best team in the Pac-12, but there was parity across the entire league every weekend. Even though there will not be March Madness, there was plenty of madness in the Pac-12.
Payton Pritchard Had Senior Moments for Oregon Ducks
Oregon was able to win games on the biggest stages in both non-conference and conference games. Payton Pritchard racked up many awards, as he was named Pac-12 Player of the Year. He was able to have some senior moments in his last year of college basketball. In a hostile environment in Ann Arbor, Pritchard was the main catalyst in Oregon pulling off a 71-70 overtime victory against Michigan. He scored 19 out of his 23 points after halftime.
Pritchard’s game winning three against Washington was one of the top moments in Pac-12 conference play this season. After hitting the shot, Pritchard yelled “This is my city”. He was able to leave his mark in the Oregon-Washington rivalry.
Colorado, UCLA Among Teams In Pac-12 With Noteworthy Seasons
Colorado had arguably their best season under Tad Boyle minus the last five games the Buffaloes played. There was enthusiasm and excitement in Boulder for this team. They delivered some great moments, as they beat Oregon in Boulder when the Ducks were ranked fourth in the country. The Buffaloes were also the last team to beat Dayton, with D’Shawn Schwartz hitting the game-winning three in overtime. Colorado was becoming a basketball school, and the team could continue riding this momentum into next season.
UCLA had the most remarkable turnaround in the conference this season. The Bruins were a team that lost to Cal State Fullerton in December. In March, they had wins against Arizona (twice), Arizona State, and Colorado on their resume. UCLA was playing arguably the best basketball out of anyone in the Pac-12, and showed great growth throughout the entire season.
Pac-12 Has Bright Future, Even With Imperfect End to Season
The 2019-20 NCAA basketball season will always have an asterisk next to it. However, the teams in the Pac-12 and all across the United States were able to create lifelong memories. The Pac-12 brought us entertaining basketball, and the conference’s future is bright in the sport. First-year coaches were able to put their mark on a program, and other coaches were able to show what their program can be. Hopefully, fans of all teams in the Pac-12 can appreciate the entertainment that the 2019-20 season brought, even though the ending will always be imperfect.
The 2020 Pac-12 Tournament bracket has taken shape after another crazy week of Pac-12 Basketball. Oregon showed why they are the favorites to win this week’s tournament in Las Vegas, while last-place Washington shocked both Arizona and Arizona State. Officiating took some of the spotlight as teams jockeyed for position in the conference tournament.
Oregon Cements Front-Runner Status Ahead of Pac-12 Tournament
Oregon defended their home
court against California and Stanford, and they are looking like the
frontrunners in Las Vegas this week. Payton Pritchard has had a great senior
season, and is the favorite to win Pac-12 Conference Men’s Basketball Player of
the Year. Pritchard should also be included in conversations for the Naismith Men’s
College Player of the Year award. He has averaged 20.5 points per game this
season and shot 46.8 percent from the field. Pritchard has been one of the most
efficient players and will have a chance to lead his team to a second straight
Pac-12 Tournament Championship this week.
USC Beats UCLA, Teams Could
Meet Again In Pac-12 Tournament Semis
USC and UCLA played in a classic defensive duel on Saturday. With one second remaining Jonah Mathews made a 3-point shot in his last game at the Galen Center. USC got a much-needed win that helps their cause on Selection Sunday. UCLA is squarely on the bubble, but this loss does not diminish the turnaround they have had this season. The Bruins will be the two seed in Las Vegas, and USC will be the three seed. These teams could meet again in the Pac-12 semis. Both USC and UCLA can cement their tournament bids by winning games in the Pac-12 Tournament. However, both the Bruins and Trojans will face nerve wracking Selection Sundays if they are unable to get at least one win in Las Vegas.
Washington Shocks Both Arizona State and Arizona On Road
Washington poses a threat in the Pac-12 Tournament next week. They played excellent against both Arizona State and Arizona. They won both these games by playing the types of games their opponents are used to playing. The Huskies may also be getting back point guard Quade Green, who was declared academically ineligible in January. It is unclear if Green will play in the Pac-12 Tournament. If he does, he will add another dimension to a suddenly dangerous Husky team. Washington is considered a dark horse to win the Pac-12 Tournament but will have to do so as the last place team in the conference. Also, they have to play Arizona again on Wednesday in Las Vegas.
Arizona State Backs Their Way into Pac-12 Tournament First Round Bye
Arizona State took a huge
step back against Washington, but they were able to beat Washington State on Saturday.
A point of concern in ASU’s victory against the Cougars is that they
relinquished a 17-point lead in the second half. They were able to make enough
plays to get a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament, but the Sun Devils are
also not a lock to make the Tournament field.
Arizona Tournament Bound,
But Struggles Showing
Arizona has done enough to make the tournament, but they have struggled during the back end of the season. The Wildcats are 1-4 in their last five games, with their only win coming last Thursday against Washington State at home. Their offensive woes have shown, as they only had five made field goals in the first half of their 69-63 loss against Washington. Arizona is like a lot of teams in the conference, as they do not have one player that can elevate them to victory on a consistent basis. Nico Mannion and Zeke Nnaji, who are both freshmen, have shown why they were top recruits at Arizona. However, they have not been able to lift the Wildcats to victory lately.
Colorado Is Simply Searching For Answers
The Buffaloes lost a controversial overtime game at Utah 74-72. Up 72-71, McKinley Wright was called for a foul on Utah guard Both Gach’s three-point shot. It was unclear if Wright even made contact with Gach on the play. However, Wright missed a pivotal free throw on the previous sequence. If Wright makes the first free throw, the Buffaloes get a chance to possibly go up by three points.
The Buffaloes were having a dream season, but a four-game losing streak has left them searching for answers. In reality, they ended the 2020 Pac-12 conference season with the same record (10-8) they had last year. This team is tournament-bound due to their performance in non-conference play, namely their win against a possible 1-seed in Dayton. However, they need to recapture the swagger they played with in January and the early part of February to have any shot at making noise in the postseason.
However, it is frustrating that the result of this game was basically determined on an official’s call at the end of overtime. Teams such as Colorado had everything to play for this past weekend, and the officials took center stage. Critical junctures in seasons call for players to perform at their best, and the Pac-12 needs to make sure their officials are performing at their best this week in the Pac-12 Tournament. Let the conference champion be determined by good basketball, not bad officiating.
Non-Conference Wins Difference for Presumptive Tournament Locks In Pac-12
Teams such as Stanford and
UCLA are in precarious positions because they do not have a non-conference win that
stands out. UCLA’s best win arguably was their road win against Colorado in
Boulder, and Stanford’s best win is against Oregon at home. However, multiple
teams, including Washington State and Oregon State, beat Oregon at home this
season. There has been so much parity in Pac-12 conference play, that the teams
that are considered safe bets to make the tournament are in that position
because of how they performed in non-conference play. Oregon has huge wins
against Seton Hall and Michigan. Colorado has a huge win against Dayton.
Arizona has a quality non-conference win against Illinois.
The Pac-12 will get at
least five teams into the tournament, but there are four teams (Arizona State,
USC, UCLA, and Stanford) that face an uncertain Selection Sunday at this point.
All four of these teams have arguments to get in the field, but some of their
bubbles may burst on Selection Sunday. However, every team in the conference
has a chance to make the tournament by winning the Pac-12 Tournament this week.
With all the parity that has presided over the conference this season, it
should be a fun tournament this week.
week in 2020 Pac-12 Basketball belonged to the home team. Across the league,
the home team went 9-1 in the 10 games played between Wednesday (2/25) and
Sunday (3/1). Teams such as UCLA, USC, and Stanford were given huge boosts to
their tournament hopes. However, teams that established themselves as
tournament contenders, such as Colorado, Arizona, and Arizona State, had
weekends to forget.
UCLA’s 7-Game Winning Streak Propels Them to First Place in 2020 Pac-12 Basketball
weekend got off to a great start against Arizona State on Thursday. Freshman
guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. hit a game-winning three with 0.6 seconds left to lift
the Bruins to a 75-72 victory. Then on Saturday, they pulled away late against
Arizona and won 69-64. The same UCLA team that has the worst loss in
non-conference play, to Cal State Fullerton, is now in first place in the
Pac-12. Mick Cronin has arguably become a shoe-in for Pac-12 Coach of the Year.
The Bruin’s turnaround is great for the conference, as they are one of the most
nationally-recognized names in the Pac-12.
It is interesting to think about how the conference is viewed as a whole, because they are the first place team that lost to Cal State Fullerton. Still, the Pac-12 has some good non-conference wins as a conference. Washington, who has the worst record in the conference, has arguably the best non-conference win against Baylor.
Listen to the Best Pac-12 Football and Basketball Podcast
Tournament Chances: Trending Up – UCLA has made their case for March, but they have a massive game on Saturday against USC at the Galen Center. Winning this game will give UCLA a share of the 2020 Pac-12 Basketball Regular Season title. If they are able to show up in the conference tournament, they may need to get to the conference championship to cement their spot in the tournament.
Oregon Beats In-State Rival, Frontrunners for 2020 Pac-12 Basketball Regular Season Title
will get overshadowed by the weeks UCLA and USC had, but the Ducks took care of
business against Oregon State 69-54. The Ducks broke their three-game losing
streak against the Beavers, as they will attempt to get at least a share of the
conference title. Oregon has home games against California and Stanford this week.
They are undefeated at home, boasting a 15-0 record at Matthew Knight Arena
Tournament Chances: In the field – Oregon has quality wins in non-conference play. They are near the top of the standings in the Pac-12. The main question for the Ducks is where they will be positioned in the bracket.
Arizona State Takes a Step Back In LA Road Trip
The Sun Devils went toe-to-toe with UCLA Thursday night but were beat at the buzzer. They trailed for most of the game Saturday against USC. Arizona State is an exciting team to watch, and Bobby Hurley has done a great job to get this team on the right side of the bubble. However, losing two straight is a bit of a letdown after their seven-game winning streak.
Tournament Chances: Decent – The Sun Devils will need to take care of business this week against Washington and Washington State, but they should be in the tournament. They are 6-1 at home in-conference, including a resume-boosting win against Oregon. Expect to see the Sun Devils in an 8-vs-9 or 7-vs-10 game.
Colorado Buffaloes Have Worst Week of 2020 Pac-12 Basketball Season in Bay Area
The Buffaloes had a stinker Thursday night in Berkeley, as they lost 76-62 to a California team that they simply should have beat. Colorado had more life Sunday against Stanford, but they were still looking for answers after a 72-64 defeat. This season for the Buffaloes is at a crossroads, as they are no longer in contention for the Pac-12 regular season title. They have accomplished so much this season, and this iteration of the Colorado Buffaloes is probably the best team Tad Boyle has had in his tenure as head coach. However, reputations are made in March, and the Buffaloes will have to start their turnaround from their current three-game losing streak Saturday at Utah.
Tournament Chances: In the field – The Buffaloes have a huge non-conference win against Dayton, who has not lost since Colorado defeated them. They beat Oregon when they were ranked fourth in the country. However, the loss to Cal was probably their worst loss of the season. The Buffaloes need to win at Utah and show up in the conference tournament to ensure that they will still get a top-6 seed on Selection Sunday.
USC Trojans on Right Side of Bubble
USC also beat both Arizona and Arizona State this weekend. They led for the majority of both games. The Trojans got contributions from Jonah Mathews and Daniel Utomi in both games. Their defense also showed up in both games, as they held Arizona and Arizona State to 48 and 61 points, respectively. Both of their games were complete games. If their defense can travel, they will be a tough out in both the conference tournament and the NCAA tournament.
Tournament Chances: Decent – The Trojans have a better NET rating and a head-to-head victory over UCLA, giving them the upper hand over their Los Angeles rivals. However, Saturday’s game at the Galen Center is huge, as it could help USC get a higher seed in the conference tournament. USC has had a more consistent season than UCLA, but the winner of Saturday’s game will regard their season as the better one.
Arizona Struggles, Sean Miller Get Ejected Saturday
had a tough go on Thursday against USC, as they had one more field goal (16) than
turnovers (15) in the 57-48 loss. On Saturday against UCLA, they played better
and were leading for most of the first half. However, Sean Miller got ejected
with 12:28 remaining in the second half as the Wildcats were leading, 47-44. Arizona
was able to hold their own, but UCLA ended the game on an 11-2 run to win
Tournament Chances: In – Arizona still has the best NET rating in the Pac-12 conference at number 11. They were able to dominate their non-conference schedule (minus the loss to St. John’s) despite their inconsistencies in-conference. However, every team has had their struggles in-conference, especially on the road. The Wildcats will have a chance to right the ship this week, with home games against Washington State on Thursday and Washington on Saturday.
Stanford Gets Resume-Boosting Win Against Colorado
was able to beat Utah 70-62 on Wednesday, but they were able to beat a ranked
Colorado team 72-64 on Sunday. The Cardinal led the Buffaloes for the majority
of the game, and had four starters score in double figures. Stanford was
thought of as one of the teams on the outside looking in, but they may be on
their way to playing in the First Four in Dayton.
Tournament Chances: 50/50 – Stanford is squarely on the bubble, but they have a huge opportunity at Oregon on Saturday. No team has gone into Eugene and won this season, and beating Oregon along with a win against Oregon State may be enough to get Stanford into the tournament. They may have another opportunity for a resume-boosting win in the Pac-12 tournament. However, Saturday feels like a must-have for the Cardinal, or else they may be NIT-bound.
Can Pac-12 Basketball Get Seven Teams Into the Tournament in 2020?
Pac-12 getting six teams into the tournament looked like a pipeline dream a
month ago. Now, they could get seven teams into the tournament. Teams that were
afterthoughts not too long ago, like Arizona State and UCLA, have turned a
corner and have become different teams in the second half of the conference
season. It will be interesting how the selection committee ultimately views the
parity in the conference, but this season it looks like it has helped the
conference. A season after having only three teams in the tournament, the Pac-12
could have more than half their teams dancing in the NCAA Tournament.
The 2020 Pac-12 Basketball season turned on its head this past weekend as parity was on full display. Arizona State has surprised many, as they took over sole possession of first place in the conference, going 2-0 against Oregon and Oregon State. Oregon, Colorado, and Arizona were only able to split their games.
First off, here is how the top seven teams in the Pac-12 Standings looked before last Thursday night’s games:
Here is how the top seven looked by the end of the weekend:
Pac-12 Basketball has been as unpredictable as ever in 2020. Who would have thought a few weeks ago that Oregon would lose a road to Arizona State then beat Arizona in Tuscon? Who would have thought that Colorado would sweep the season series with USC, but lose to a UCLA team that looked lost in Mick Cronin’s first year in charge?
Arizona State Takes First Place in Pac-12 Basketball 2020
The Sun Devils had just lost to Washington State in Pullman on January 29, 2020, to drop to 3-4 in league play. Since then, they have racked up seven straight wins. The Sun Devils squeaked by Oregon State, 74-73, on Saturday night. However, they got their signature win of the season last Thursday against Oregon, 77-72. The Sun Devils never trailed in the game, and the team is coming together at the right time. They had to take advantage of their opportunity against the Ducks. Now, the Sun Devils are looked at as a team that could cut down the nets in Vegas at the Pac-12 Tournament.
Listen to the Best Pac-12 Football-Basketball Podcast
Colorado Lets Golden Opportunity Slip on Senior Day
The Buffaloes went 1-1 in their last two home games of the 2019-20 season, as they beat USC and then lost to UCLA. However, against USC they saw a 12-point second-half lead dwindle to one before pulling out a 70-66 win. Against UCLA, the Buffaloes led by 10 points in the second half before UCLA used a 20-3 run to help them secure a 70-63 win. CU has now seen two double-digit second-half leads turn into losses in two of their last four games. The Buffaloes need to show much more consistency if they want to make a deep run in March. That consistency will need to start Thursday at California.
Oregon Rebounds with Huge Win At McKale Center Saturday
Oregon gave their fans some heart-pounding basketball this weekend. First off, the Ducks lost to Arizona State on Thursday, making Saturday’s game against Arizona at the McKale Center even more meaningful. It ended similarly to the first encounter between these two teams, as Oregon squeaked out a 1-point win in overtime, 73-72. Payton Pritchard led the way with 38 points in the victory. Oregon could be looking at a 13-5 finish in-conference, as they close the regular season with home games against Oregon State, California, and Stanford. However, with the parity in the conference, nothing is guaranteed.
Free Throws Achilles Heel for Arizona Against Oregon
Arizona beat Oregon State on Thursday but suffered another tough loss against Oregon. The Wildcats have now lost five straight games against the team that they have competed against as the face of Pac-12 Basketball the past few seasons. Arizona went 10-for-21 from the free-throw line against Oregon. In yet another overtime loss to the Ducks, the Wildcats left too many points on the floor. Arizona has a chance to strengthen their resume as they play USC and UCLA in their next two games.
UCLA Surging, Making Their Case for March
The Bruins had the signature win of their season against Colorado in Boulder on Saturday. On what was supposed to be a senior day celebration for the Buffaloes, the Bruins, led by Cody Riley and Tyger Campbell, were able to pull off the upset. This Bruins team that beat the Buffaloes lost to Cal State Fullerton in December. The Bruins improved to 10-5 in-conference. Mick Cronin has done a masterful job in conference play, and the Bruins could get a first-round bye in the conference tournament. The Bruins still have work to do to make the tournament, but they have two great opportunities against Arizona and Arizona State in the coming days.
USC Has Tough Weekend but has Opportunities Against Arizona Schools
USC lost to both Colorado and Utah this weekend, weakening their tournament hopes. The Trojans have been able to be competitive in Pac-12 play, but they do not have a truly signature win on their resume. Winning against conference-leading Arizona State on Thursday would be a start, but a win against Arizona on Saturday may get more national attention. Not being able to win on the road has hurt the Trojans. Defending home court is a must this week to keep their tournament hopes alive.
Stanford Needs to Finish 2020 Pac-12 Basketball Season Strong
Stanford got Oscar Da Silva back last Saturday in a loss against Arizona. With the help of Da Silva, the Cardinal took care of business against Washington and Washington State this week to get themselves back to .500 (7-7) in the conference. Stanford will have an opportunity this week to improve their resume if they are able to beat Colorado in a home game on Sunday. It will be interesting how the committee views the loss to Colorado where Da Silva got injured, and the subsequent game against Arizona State where he did not play. Stanford could have possibly won both games if Da Silva was in the lineup.
2020 Pac-12 Basketball Regular Season Will Be a Race to the Finish Line
Big games for the upcoming week include the Arizona schools going to Los Angeles to play USC and UCLA. All teams involved could bolster and hurt their resumes in these games. Colorado goes on the road against Stanford on March 1. Both teams could use another resume-building win.
With the surges of UCLA and Arizona State the past few weeks, there are now seven teams in the Pac-12 that could make the case for March. However, the committee will probably only choose five or six teams. There is a case for more, however. The parity in the Pac-12 has produced in a way this season that may get more teams into the tournament. Oregon, Colorado, and Arizona are regarded as the best teams, but the other teams’ abilities to beat these teams have helped their cause for March. It is sure to be a crazy last two weeks of the Pac-12 Basketball regular season before the conference tournament in Las Vegas.
College basketball is in full swing! The NCAA and college basketball fans are gearing up for the March Madness tournament. In the weeks to come, fans will fill out brackets predicting which teams they believe will make it to the Final Four. The NCAA again stands to generate a billion dollars from the tournament, which is the organization’s biggest moneymaker of the year. Fans will relish in the excitement of Cinderella teams and major upsets. The NCAA will undoubtedly be raking in the money. However, the NCAA will also be spending money as it continues its work behind the scenes to preserve the amateur collegiate model. The farce of amateurism is being challenged at every turn. The challenge currently gaining the most traction is those from several state legislatures with name, image, and likeness (NIL) compensation bills.
States with Proposed NIL Compensation Bills
Several state legislatures have proposed legislation seeking to give college athletes the ability to profit from their name, image, and likeness (NIL) and to sign with agents. Last year, the state of California signed the Fair Pay to Play Act into law. Since then, several other states followed suit proposing similar legislation. While the Fair Pay to Play Act will not take effect until 2023, two similar bills in Florida may become effective much sooner. Florida currently has two college athlete name, image, and likeness bills before its state legislature. One is before the house and the other one is before its senate. State lawmakers are not the only ones seeking to expand college athlete rights. The federal lawmakers are too.
Specifically, Congressman Mark Walker introduced the Student-Athlete Equity Act seeking to give college athletes NIL rights. Senator Chris Murphy released a series of reports detailing the myriad of reasons reform is necessary for college sports. All of these critiques of the current collegiate sports model have put the NCAA in the hot seat. The organization has been backed into a corner where it has no choice but the address the elephant in the room. In fact, the NCAA was forced to address that elephant at a Senate hearing last week.
Name, Image, and Likeness Informational Podcast
The NCAA is in NIL Compensation Crisis Mode
The college athlete NIL compensation issue has taken the NCAA by storm. The NCAA is in full crisis mode. They have realized that there is a strong possibility that several states could enact different laws to address NIL compensation. The NCAA does not want that to happen. As such, the NCAA has turned to the federal government for help. In fact, the organization has spent big money in an attempt to persuade federal lawmakers in their favor. The NCAA and two conferences spent at least $750,000 last year lobbying federal lawmakers to make reforms that favor the current collegiate model. The NCAA is sparing no expense to preserve amateurism.
Amateurism is the notion that college players simply play for the love game and are not paid. The NCAA purports that amateurism keeps collegiate sports distinct from professional sports. They further purport that if college athletes were paid, fans would lose interest. The NCAA maintains that its rules prohibiting payment help ensure that college athletes are not taken advantage of. As such, college athletes are not allowed to receive any type of payment outside of their cost-of-attendance scholarship or other NCAA approved benefits. However, many feel that the NCAA and the collegiate sports system as a whole are in fact taking advantage of the very athletes they claim to protect.
Why is College Athlete NIL Compensation on the Radar of so many Lawmakers?
College sports are a billion-dollar industry. Coaches, athletic directors, and conferences commissioners receive million-dollar salaries. Conferences receive billions of dollars from television broadcasting contracts. Top ranking NCAA officials receive million-dollar and upper six-figure salaries as well. Meanwhile, the athletes are limited to their scholarship. College athletes keep very strenuous and demanding schedules to perform their sport. Most spend at least 40 hours per week on athletically related activities. Despite their major time investment, they are not allowed to receive a bigger piece of the pie. A scholarship is valuable, however, the athletes deserve a bigger piece of the pie they generate for everyone else. It is for these reasons that lawmakers are working so hard to expand the rights of college athletes.
Last week, the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade and Consumer Protection held a hearing on the name, image, and likeness matter in Washington, D.C. NCAA president Mark Emmert attended the hearing where he was questioned on the NCAA’s handling of a number of issues. Most notably he was questioned and criticized the NCAA’s handling of James Wiseman’s case.
Wiseman was suspended for 11 games for money that his mother received from Penny Hardaway. Wiseman’s mother took the money for moving expenses while Wiseman was in high school. At the time, Wiseman knew nothing of the transaction between his mother and Hardaway. The NCAA also ordered Wiseman to pay the money back. Due to the NCAA’s decision, Wiseman decided to leave college and prepare for the 2020 NBA Draft on his own. The NCAA’s unfairly punished Wiseman for something he had nothing to do with.
The Senate Subcommittee Urged to NCAA to Swiftly Find a Solution
In light of the NCAA’s poor handling of Wiseman’s case and several others in the past, several Senators did not appear to be overly confident that the NCAA would not drag their feet on the NIL compensation issue. Emmert stated that he would work with the schools and relevant decision-makers to make a decision as soon as possible. However, Emmert also stated that the NCAA may need Congress’ assistance in developing a uniform manner to address the NIL compensation issue.
The NCAA desperately wants to avoid having several states with different NIL compensation laws. The Senators at the hearing urged the NCAA to quickly offer a solution to this issue. In April, the NCAA is expected to make another announcement about their plans for NIL compensation. Hopefully, it will be something meaningful for the athletes. Given the NCAA’s general reluctance to give athletes a bigger price of the pie, it seems doubtful.
Pac-12 basketball has put itself in position to get five teams into the 2020 NCAA Tournament. Each team can improve their potential seed in the NCAA Tournament if they perform well. However, with the volatility of play in the 2020 Pac-12 Basketball season, multiple scenarios are in play as teams approach the home stretch of the regular season.
Colorado Buffaloes Leading the 2020 Pac-12 Basketball Standings
Record: 19-5 (8-3 Pac-12)
Key wins: VS Dayton (in Chicago), VS Oregon
Bad losses: VS Oregon State, at UCLA
The Buffaloes are in line for a six seed in the 2020 NCAA Tournament as of right now. They have been able to pull off huge resume-building wins against Oregon and Dayton, who both got places in the Selection Committee’s Top 16 seeds as of right now. Even though they are first in the Pac-12 standings, the Buffaloes have not been respected nationally as much as a conference leader should be.
Colorado has a huge opportunity to make an impression on the committee when they head to Eugene to play Oregon on Thursday. The Buffaloes also have the opportunity to avenge both of their bad losses at Oregon State (Feb. 15) and at home against UCLA (Feb. 22). If the Buffaloes can win out after the Oregon game and beat opponents not named Arizona and Oregon in the Pac-12 tournament, they will probably stay on the six-line as far as the NCAA Tournament is concerned. However, if the Buffaloes can pull off the upset in Eugene, win out, and be impressive in the Pac-12 Tournament, a top-four seed could be in the cards for them.
Listen to the Best Pac-12 Football and Basketball Podcast
Oregon Ducks Still Regarded as Best Team in 2020 Pac-12 Basketball, but Bad Losses Mounting
Record: 18-6 (7-4 Pac-12)
Key wins: VS Arizona, VS Seton Hall (Battle 4
Bad losses: VS North Carolina (Battle 4 Atlantis), at Washington State, at Oregon State
The Ducks were the preseason pick to win the Pac-12. They were also the only team in the Pac-12 who was in the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee’s Top 16 seeds as of right now. Oregon was listed as a 4-seed.
However, the Ducks received that seeding before
losing to Oregon State in Corvallis on Saturday night. This loss is the second
bad conference road loss the Ducks have had. They have to show consistency on
the road and defend home court to stay in position to obtain a top-four seed.
Their first test defending home court will be Thursday against the
conference-leading Colorado Buffaloes.
Arizona Wildcats: Inconsistency Caught Up to Them on Home Floor
Record: 16-7 (6-4 Pac-12)
Key wins: VS Colorado, VS Illinois
Bad losses: VS St. John’s (Al Attles Classic), at
Oregon State, VS UCLA
Arizona had only lost to Gonzaga on their home
court before UCLA beat them by 13 points Saturday night. This loss is brutal
for Arizona’s prospects of landing a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament. Arizona
needs to prove they can beat teams that they should beat, and their first test
will be this Thursday when they are on the road to face California.
The Wildcats will have another opportunity to
beat Oregon at home on February 22 after losing to them by one point in an
overtime thriller in Eugene. If Arizona can win this game and perform well in
the conference tournament, there could be an argument for them to be a top-four
seed. Right now it looks like they are in line for a spot on the five or six
Stanford Cardinal Have to Possibly Navigate Next Few Games Without Oscar da Silva
Record: 16-7 (5-5 Pac-12)
Key wins: VS Oregon
Bad losses: at California, VS Oregon State, at
The Cardinal are 1-4 in their last five games.
They have losses to California, Oregon State, Utah, and Colorado. However, they
have a huge win against Oregon sandwiched in between two two-game losing
Stanford may be without big man Oscar da Silva
for the foreseeable future after he suffered a head laceration. Oscar da Silva collided
with Colorado forward Evan Battey in Saturday’s game, and had to get stitches
because he was bleeding. The injury could have been worse, but luckily da Silva
is “going to be okay,” according to Stanford spokesperson Zack Reynolds.
Stanford plays Arizona, Oregon, and Colorado
each one more time before the conference tournament. They will probably have to
win at least one of these three games to be ensured of a tournament selection,
and they cannot have any more bad losses.
USC Trojans Need to Right Ship After Three-Game Losing Streak
Record: 17-7 (6-5 Pac-12)
Key Wins: VS LSU (Basketball Hall of Fame
Classic), VS Stanford
Bad Losses: at Washington
USC is currently on a three-game losing streak.
However, they are still being projected as a nine or ten seed in most brackets.
The Trojans could add to their resume, as they still have a trip to Boulder to
play Colorado and a home date with Arizona on their schedule. They are in the
same boat as Stanford. If the Trojans can win one of these two games and have
an admirable showing in the Pac-12 Tournament, they will probably make the tournament.
USC beat an LSU team that was undefeated in SEC
play before losing two straight this past week. However, they have a stinker on
their resume, as they lost by 32 points to the last-place team in the
conference in Washington. It will be interesting to see how the committee
judges this loss by the Trojans, because Washington was still with point guard
Quade Green in this game. Green was ruled academically ineligible for the rest
of the regular season after this game.
Team That Still Has Opportunities in 2020: Arizona State
15-8 (6-4 Pac-12)
Key Wins: VS Arizona, VS USC
Bad Losses: @ Washington State
Arizona State will probably be living life on
the bubble until Selection Sunday on March 15. They are 5-1 in their last six
games, with wins against Arizona and USC. If the Sun Devils can beat Stanford
and USC and have a decent showing in the conference tournament, they can make
an argument for being included in the field in March.
However, Arizona is the best win of the season
for the Sun Devils. Washington State is their only truly bad loss, but beating
Oregon will be more important for Arizona State than it will be for any other
team playing them the rest of the way. Coupling an Oregon win with a run in the
Pac-12 Tournament will make a decision on whether the Sun Devils should be in
the tournament a tough one for the committee.
Rest of Teams in Pac-12 Need to Win 2020 Conference Tournament to Make the Field
Washington, Washington State, Oregon State,
California, UCLA, and Utah all have to hope they can have a magical weekend in
Las Vegas from March 11-14. All of these teams have beat at least one of the
teams that are projected to be in the tournament. However, winning the
conference tournament ensures an automatic berth into the tournament. With how
the Pac-12 has been playing out, anything is possible in the tournament.
As of right now Colorado, Oregon, Arizona, Stanford, and USC look like the five teams that will be representing Pac-12 Basketball in the 2020 NCAA Tournament. With how college basketball has been this season, there will probably be madness that occurs before March. It will be interesting to see if there is a team that can achieve consistency in a Pac-12 conference where consistency seems impossible. If the beginning of February college basketball has been any indication, the rest of the month will be crazy.
Postseason play is what makes sports great, especially in the NCAA. However, in college sports playing in the postseason is not a given. The assumed reasons for teams not being eligible for the postseason are not winning or that program broke an NCAA bylaw. NCAA sanctions have cost teams from being eligible for the postseason. However, a program could be ineligible for the postseason if they are not performing up to academic standards. Because of this, the Academic Progress Rate initiative was started by the NCAA.
APR Holds Universities Accountable for Academic Success
The Academic Progress Rate was an initiative that was adopted by the NCAA in 2004. The initiative holds universities to a standard of ensuring academic success for their students. The NCAA’s official site says the initiative “holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term”.
The APR measures student-athletes’ academic progress by three factors:
The student-athlete is receiving financial aid that is athletically related.
By how long the student-athlete stays in school.
What type of grades student-athletes receive.
The APR score is related to specific programs (football, basketball, etc.) within a university’s athletic department. The minimum multi-year score needed for a team to be postseason-eligible is 930. There have been programs who have struggled to obtain this score. A good APR score is 980, with the highest obtainable score being 1,000.
APR’s Requirement for Athlete Retention is an Issue In College Football and Basketball
One of the factors that contributes to a program’s APR score being lower is that there are players that leave school early to go pro, especially in football and basketball. In basketball, a school truly cannot form a “one-and-done” team, in the case of college basketball, because of this rule. The rule impacts how coaches, such as John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski, recruit. Both Calipari and Krzyzewski are known for recruiting the top high school players, who go pro after one year.
To a lesser degree, the APR initiative also impacts the scores for football teams. Players can leave after they have been in school for three years to play in the NFL. The NCAA may need to amend the initiative, as the cases of players leaving school early in college basketball and football is becoming more common.
UCLA Men’s Basketball Team Able to Become Eligible for 2021 Postseason
On January 22, 2020, it was reported that the UCLA Bruins men’s college basketball team would be eligible for the 2021 postseason. They barely squeaked by the minimum APR score required to be eligible. Being eligible for the postseason is a big deal for first-year coach Mick Cronin. UCLA has been on the downswing as of late, so getting to the postseason is important in the early stages of Cronin’s tenure.
The Bruins currently have a 12-10 (5-4 Pac-12) record this season. They most likely have to win the Pac-12 conference tournament to be considered a threat for the NCAA Tournament. They also are dealing with the transfer of star recruit Shareef O’Neal. The Bruins signed Daishen Nix, a five-star Point Guard and number 20 in the ESPN 300, for next season.
Florida State Football Had Similar Issue in 2019
The Florida State Seminoles football program had a multi-year APR score of 936 in 2019. It was the worst score out of all of the football Power 5 schools. Jimbo Fisher left the program as Willie Taggart took over. This coaching change led to a lot of player turnover within the program. Player turnover hurts a program’s overall APR score.
Willie Taggart was fired by Florida State this past November, and the program hired Mike Norvell. There may be more player turnover because of the new hire, which stresses the importance of Norvell building a culture of accountability at Florida State. The Seminoles cannot afford to have low APR scores. Consequently, the prospect of not being eligible for the postseason may be a real possibility for the program.
The Future of APR
There are multiple factors that go into how the APR is calculated. That has made programs take the threat of not being eligible for the postseason seriously. It will be interesting to see if there are adjustments made to the APR model based on the number of players that choose to leave for professional leagues, most notably the NFL and NBA. There are numerous ways a player views their education, and if athletes start receiving more financial benefits from the NCAA, could there be changes to the APR model? For now, the model has proven effective, as programs have taken it seriously enough to be above the benchmark of 930.
The 2020 College Basketball season has already brought the madness that is usually seen in March. There is no clear-cut favorite, and the AP Top 25 constantly changes from week-to-week. Pac-12 Basketball has brought the craziness in the 2019-20 season, as unpredictability has been the theme of the conference so far.
Pac-12 only had three teams in the NCAA Tournament in 2019 (Washington, Arizona
State, and Oregon) and one team in the National Invitation Tournament
(Colorado). This season, the conference is looking to have far more teams in
Joe Lunardi, the most prominent “Bracketologist”, had five teams in his NCAA Tournament field for 2020 as of January 21. These five teams include Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, Stanford, and USC.
The Pac-12 Basketball Favorites: Oregon, Colorado, Arizona
The Pac-12 conference could end up making an argument to have six or seven teams make the tournament come Selection Sunday, which is March 15.
Oregon is widely regarded to as the best team in Pac-12 basketball. Currently, the Ducks are 15-4, with a 4-2 mark in Pac-12 play. Led by senior Payton Pritchard, the Ducks have impressive non-conference wins against Memphis and Seton Hall at neutral sites. They also won an overtime thriller against Michigan. However, Oregon lost to Washington State this past Thursday. The Ducks have not always been consistent but should be at least a top-4 seed come tournament time.
Colorado is one of the most experienced teams in the Pac-12, led by junior McKinley Wright IV. The Buffaloes have an effective supporting cast with Tyler Bey, D’Shawn Schwartz, and Evan Battey to name a few, but sometimes the offense looks stagnant, especially in losses against Kansas and this past Saturday against Arizona. The Buffaloes have wins against Oregon and Dayton which should help their cause. If they can build upon their 14-4 (3-2 Pac-12) record, they should be strongly considered to be a top-4 seed come March.
Listen to the Best Pac-12 Football and Basketball Podcast
The Arizona Wildcats are having a bounce-back season in wake of the bribery scandal involving DeAndre Ayton a few years ago. The Wildcats are 13-5 (3-2 Pac-12) this season, but also have been inconsistent thus far in conference play. They have defended home court in conference play, defeating opponents by an average of 21.7 points per game. However, they lost to both Oregon and Oregon State.
Pac-12 Basketball NCAA Tournament Hopefuls: Stanford and USC
and Stanford are currently the top two teams in the conference standings, with
each having a 4-1 conference record, respectively. USC won against Stanford in
Los Angeles this past Saturday 82-78. The Trojans and Cardinal have both not
been shown any respect nationally. Neither team is ranked, but they are both
15-3 this season.
is USC’s most notable win, however. The Trojans lost by 32 to Washington in
conference play, and Oregon will be the first ranked team they play this
season. The only ranked team Stanford has played was Kansas, and they lost
Non-Conference Schedule Hurting Pac-12 Basketball
The Pac-12 as a conference needs to work on their non-conference schedule in basketball, especially given how the conference was perceived at tournament time last year. Larry Scott’s goal should be to have at least half the league in the NCAA Tournament each season.
conference needs to have a partnership with one of the other major conferences.
The Big Ten/ACC Challenge and Big 12/SEC Challenge are both great for college
basketball and bolster both conference’s resumes. The Pac-12 should look to
possibly partner with the Big East or even one of the other conferences to help
with the non-conference schedule.
Best Non-Conference Win For Pac-12 Basketball: Washington Over Baylor
beat Baylor 67-64 in the Armed Forces Classic on November 8 in Anchorage,
Alaska. Baylor was just awarded the number-one spot in the AP Poll on Monday.
Washington has struggled in conference play with a 2-4 record. The Huskies will
be the most prominent Pac-12 teams that will be living life on the bubble until
March because they beat Baylor.
the end, there should be at least four teams in the NCAA Tournament for the
Pac-12. USC should end up getting in if they end with a winning record in
conference play. Beyond that, Washington is the conference’s best hope to get
half the teams from the “conference of champions” into the tournament. The
Pac-12 needs to live up to its slogan and accomplish this feat. The season has
been crazy, but hopefully the committee will take notice of the product the
Pac-12 is putting out there this season.