Shots have been fired.
The Oregon State Beavers run in the Big Dance has been an incredulous one for sure. By now, you know the Beavers were picked to finish last in the Pac-12 Conference Preseason Poll.
But Oregon State stunned the world by winning three games in three days to take the conference championship and automatic postseason bid to the NCAA Tournament. After upsetting No. 5 Tennessee, No. 4 Oklahoma State and No. 8 Loyola Chicago, Wayne Tinkle’s Beavers are in the Elite Eight and one win away from one of the most incredible Final Four trips in men’s NCAA history.
Call it a “Cinderella” run if you will, but Tinkle has never doubted his team’s chances and the Beavers historic run is what March Madness is all about.
Enter the University of Arizona.
The men’s basketball program announced last December it would not compete in the NCAA Tournament in 2021 after the FBI opened an investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting. The University of Arizona self-imposed the postseason ban due to the investigation regarding former assistant coach Book Richardson, who was arrested in Sept. 2017 for involvement in bribery and pay-for-play schemes in college basketball.
While U of A is taking some accountability for its unethical behavior by self-imposing a postseason ban, Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star believes the Beavers owe a “debt of gratitude” to Arizona.
Pascoe says that if the Wildcats had not sanctioned themselves out of the postseason, Oregon State would have had to face Washington in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament as a 6-seed. The Beavers tied for sixth with Stanford (10-10) but owned the tiebreaker after beating first-place Oregon.
Oregon State ultimately moved up from No. 6 to No. 5 because UA finished fifth. The Wildcats absence in the Pac-12. Tournament resulted in five teams getting a first-round bye, rather than 4.
If the Beavers would have been a 6-seed, their four-game path to the Pac-12 Championship game would have looked like this:
March 10- First round against No. 11 Washington
March 11- Quarterfinal game vs. Colorado
March 12- Semifinal game vs. USC, Stanford or Washington
March 13- Championship game vs. Oregon, UCLA, Arizona or California
But instead, Oregon State played No. 4 UCLA on March 11, No. 1 Oregon on March 12 and came away with the Pac-12 Championship on March 13 vs. No. 3 Colorado.
So, what gives? The Beavers would have had to play one additional game as a six-seed if Arizona hadn’t self-imposed a ban.
But since we're keeping it real, what school suddenly imposes a ban unless they know they are on the hook for potentially major violations?
According to ESPN, the NCAA charged Arizona with five Level I rules violations in early March, two alleged instances of academic misconduct came from the men’s basketball program. Head coach Sean Miller was presumed responsible for the chargers and “did not demonstrate that he promoted an atmosphere of compliance and monitored his staff within the basketball program.”
Arizona could face major NCAA penalties and sanctions beyond the 2021-21 self-imposed postseason ban. Aside from that, Arizona hasn’t been dancing since the 2017-18 season.
Pascoe’s article should have started and finished at “the Beavers deserve loads of credit and respect for playing much better in the postseason.” Oregon State has earned its victories every step of the way and fairly, something U of A should take good notes on.
Leave it up to Arizona to try to take credit for the Beavers success. As a Sun Devil, I’m not surprised.