March 16, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Oregon Ducks celebrates while hoisting the championship trophy after the championship game of the Pac 12 tournament against the UCLA Bruins at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Oregon defeated UCLA 78-69. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
After an embarrassing showing last year in the NCAA tournament with the Pac-12 only receiving two bids to the dance (California, Colorado), the conference took a big step this year. A total of five teams from the Pac-12 conference (Colorado, Arizona, California, Oregon, and UCLA) were selected to this year’s NCAA tournament.
For the past couple years, this conference had been considered a “joke” to the rest of the country. Especially if the regular season conference champion doesn’t even make the tournament, which happened to Washington last year. That all changed this year as we saw how well this conference played against opponents outside the conference with UCLA beating Missouri, Oregon defeating UNLV, and plenty more victories.
Even conference play shocked us all, as we saw a top-10 team in Arizona finish 4th in conference, a team like Oregon rising all the way to the top-10 and UCLA finishing with the regular season conference championship. What made this conference so special this year was the amount of upsets that occurred with teams at the bottom of the conference that included WSU beating UCLA, and Utah winning at Oregon. With all this talent and competition that the Pac-12 showed this year, it gave the selection committee something to look at, and it persuaded them to give the Pac-12 these bids.
The conference that once was considered to be the best conference in college basketball, isn’t quite back there yet, but is again heading in that direction. With the amount of talent this conference has infused this year, it’ll only get better. Seeing the good amount of teams getting bids to the tournament from the Pac-12 opens the doors to recruiting as well. Top recruits want to play for the best programs that play against the best competition. The Pac-12 is showing it has real competition and will persuade some these recruits to play for a Pac-12 school.
This is a big step for the conference getting the amount of bids for the tournament, but if the Pac-12 wants to make an even bigger statement, the five teams in this year’s tournament will need to win. The more wins and upsets the conference produces in this tournament, the more national attention, recruits and respect the Pac-12 will receive.
–Evan Baron (Follow Me On Twitter: @BaselineBaron09)