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.
The 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 the tournament.
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.
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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
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.
Stanford 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 72-56.
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.
The 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
Washington 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.
In 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.