The Pac-12 tournament came and went, and with only just one upset: UCLA's victory over Arizona in the championship game. No, Colorado and Stanford beating Cal and ASU certainly don't count as 'upsets.' Congrats to UCLA, their conference tournament win couldn't have gone to a more deserving fan base. Anyway.
The NCAA tournament will be without our Bears, but it's still a fun time of year. With six teams from the conference of champions in the field there will be ample opportunity to follow their triumphs and/or relish in their defeats. And don't forget about the NIT and the CBI! Oh the excitement!
Fate: 1 seed in the west, will face Weber St. in San Diego
Best case scenario: Champions of the entire damned thing
Worst case scenario: Lose to Gonzaga
Wild-ass guess: Final Four
If you've been reading this column all year, you know that I have a ton of respect for Arizona. So I'm surprised to say that Arizona could lose in the 2nd round, mostly because Gonzaga is under seeded as an 8. That could be a very tough 2nd round game for the Wildcats.
But it's still a game they should win, and I expect Arizona to have some significant fan support in San Diego. And on the bright side, the West region isn't hugely stacked. Gonzaga might actually be tougher than the 4/5 seeds of San Diego St. and Oklahoma, and Wisconsin isn't one of the stronger 2 seeds. Creighton is probably the toughest challenge, and I would absolutely love to see Doug McDermott go up against Arizona's defense. I'm thinking that Arizona takes the west region before falling to whichever team survives the brutal Midwest bracket
Fate: 4 seed in the Southeast, will face Tulsa in San Diego
Best case scenario: Sweet 16, lose to Florida
Worst case scenario: Losing to VCU in the round of 32
Wild-ass guess: Losing to Florida
Bummer. I'm not going to say it's impossible for the Bruins to beat the Gators, but it's pretty damned unlikely. If the bracket were to go to seed, it would be one of the more intriguing Sweet 16 games, if only for the contrast of Billy Donovan's deliberate style with UCLA's up-tempo attack.
The more I think about this, the more I start to think that the Bruins could pull the upset. Florida is turnover prone . . . but no, I don't think I have the guts to pick that upset, and even then getting past a really tough VCU squad is problem enough for Steve Alford to focus on. I'm just hoping that Anderson and Adams both take their talents elsewhere next year.
Fate: 7 seed in the west, will face BYU in Milwaukee
Best case scenario: Sweet 16
Worst case scenario: One and done
Wild-ass guess: Lose to Wisconsin in Round 2
On one hand, a rematch in the first round is pretty lame. Couldn't the committee have just switched St. Joe's and BYU? On the other hand, BYU/Oregon was one of the more entertaining games of the year, so I won't be complaining about a rematch. Defense? Who needs it?
I'm backing the Ducks to beat BYU again, even if it took them overtime to win in Eugene. Altman generally has his team playing better ball towards the end of the season, and that seems to be the case this year. And I might even buy Oregon beating Wisconsin. But if we assume Creighton gets that far . . . well, I think McDermott eats them alive.
Fate: 8 seed in the South, will face Pittsburgh in Orlando
Best case scenario: Crushed by Florida
Worst case scenario: Crushed by Pitt
Wild-ass guess: Lose to Pitt by non-embarrassing amount
In a sense Colorado was lucky to get an 8 seed. Since losing Spencer Dinwiddie they have gone exactly 9-9, and looked exactly like a team that would go 9-9 in the Pac-12. Basically, they have been about as good as Cal. So the committee gave them the benefit of the doubt and put them in the field despite having an excuse to leave them out or at least give them a lower seed.
On the downside, they have to face a really, really good 9 seed in Pitt, and they play Florida in Orlando if they even survive that far. I suspect they won't.
Fate: 10 seed in the South, will play New Mexico in St. Louis
Best case scenario: Lose to Syracuse in the Sweet 16
Worst case scenario: Lose to New Mexico
Wild-ass guess: Lose to New Mexico
I really, really wanted to make a 'Johnny Dawkins is given 5 year extension' joke as a best/worst case scenario, but as mediocre as he's been losses to Stanford have been direct or indirect causes of misery for us for three years running. Sigh.
For the record, I really don't think Stanford would beat Kansas. But Joel Embiid is hurt and probably won't play, and thus I can imagine a scenario in which Stanford pulls the huge upset. Not over Boeheim and the 'Cuse in March, though.
Fate: 10 seed in the Midwest, will play Texas in Milwaukee
Best case scenario: Lose to Michigan
Worst case scenario: Lose to Texas
Wild-ass guess: Lose to Michigan
I feel like ASU is the most match-up dependent team in the conference. Some teams can't guard Jahii, and some teams can't finish a shot over Bachynski. Some teams can guard Jahii, and some teams can make Bachynski a relative non-factor. I don't know exactly how I would classify the other teams in ASU's pod, but I strongly suspect that Michigan can figure it out if they have to.
Fate: 2 seed in the NIT, will play Utah Valley
Best case scenario: Cal's freshmen look really good
Worst case scenario: Utah Valley fans get in a fight
Wild-ass guess: Small crowds at Haas Pavilion
OK, now that the jokes are out of the way: Is there a reason why Cal shouldn't make a deep run in this tournament? Utah Valley is roughly as good as Washington State, Cal has already beaten Arkansas, and this is the NIT: nobody is that good anyway.
Yeah, the NIT sucks. Nobody is happy about it, least of all the players and coaches. But let's make some freaking lemonade and get a free trip to New York out of it. Why not?
Fate: 5 seed in the NIT, will play at St. Mary's
Best case scenario: Trip to New York
Worst case scenario: End of the season comes in Moraga
Wild-ass guess: Lose to Minnesota in the 2nd round
If you believe Kenpom, Utah is actually the 3rd best team in the entire NIT field and the best in their quad of the bracket. But the Utes have continuously been punished for their awful, awful, AWFUL non-conference schedule and will have to play on the road, so they'll probably lose before getting to Madison Square Garden.
They might beat St. Mary's, who were quietly pretty bad this year (six WCC losses by double digits) by recent standards. And hey, if they're in the Bay the Utes and Bears can get together and hug it out as fellow NIT buddies.
Fate: CBI! A GAME AGAINST RADFORD! CATCH THE EXCITEMENT
Best case scenario: Two time CBI champs has a certain ring to it, doesn't it?
Worst case scenario: Craig Robinson extension
Wild-ass guess: Whatever
This will be Oregon State's FORTH appearance in the CBI. For the record, Stanford, Washington, Oregon and Washington St. have all represented the conference in this tournament, once each.
The Beavers find themselves in the 3rd tier of post-season basketball for the forth time under Craig Robinson for many reasons. One of them is Robinson's maddeningly awful scheduling practices. Fixing that probably wouldn't change everything, but this can't be enough for OSU, right?
Washington State, Washington, USC
Fate: The sweet mercy of the off-season. Washington probably could have gone up against Oregon State in the CBI, but evidently they have higher standards or something. At least one of these teams will likely be in the market for a new head coach for 2014-15.
Enjoy the madness everybody!