How Pac-12 compares to other conferences ahead of March Madness
Selection Sunday is less than one month away as the college basketball season nears its climax.
The Pac-12 boasts two of the best teams in the entire sport in UCLA and Arizona, squads expected to be two seeds when the NCAA Tournament rolls around in mid-March.
However, the rest of the conference hasn’t stepped up in a significant way this year, and it looks like the Big Dance could feature just those two schools from the Pac-12, depending if USC can take care of business on the road against Colorado and Utah this week.
Oregon and Arizona State remain in the bubble conversation right now, according to Joe Lunardi’s latest bracketology report, but three teams from the Pac feels like a best case scenario at this point – and that is still well below every other Power-6 conference (P-5 plus the Big East) is expected to do.
A future without UCLA and USC is no doubt concerning for the conference of champions – for a lot of reasons – but the lack of top end talent in men’s basketball is a clear issue right now.
Here is a look at every conference currently projected with multiple teams in the NCAA Tournament and where the Pac-12 ranks:
Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
Teams in: 9/14
Bubble Teams: Two (Wisconsin – Last Four In, Penn State – Next Four Out)
Analysis: The Big Ten leads the Big-12 for number of teams projected in the Big Dance, although they are not impressive from a seeding perspective. Purdue and Indiana are the teams who could make a deep run, although it’s never easy to count Tom Izzo and Michigan State out especially after a big win over the Hoosiers earlier this week.
Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Teams in: 8/10
Bubble Teams: 3 (Oklahoma State/West Virginia – Last Four Byes, Texas Tech – Next Four Out)
Analysis: The Big-12 is without a doubt the strongest college basketball conference, with six ranked teams right now and eight teams likely in the Big Dance. Texas Tech has been on an absolute roll lately as well, and could push this conference to nine out of ten with a strong showing in the conference tournament.
Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel
Teams in: 8/14
Bubble Teams: 1 (Mississippi State – Last Four In)
Analysis: Alabama and Tennessee have been the big stories in the SEC this year, as both have been inside the AP Top 10 the majority of the season. Texas A&M and an inconsistent Kentucky team are both going to be dangerous in the NCAA Tournament.
Auburn and Arkansas don’t look as good as many had predicted, but this is still a conference poised to have another nice year in the Field of 68.
Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Teams in: 5/11
Bubble Teams: None
Analysis: It’s been a strange year in the Big East, where Villanova is out of the tournament picture despite being picked to win the league preseason. Meanwhile, Marquette was picked to finish ninth and they are now in the driver’s seat to win the regular season title and earn a top four seed in March.
Marquette, Xavier, UConn, and Creighton could all make serious noise in the big dance, and while Seton Hall or Nova likely won’t sneak in this is a nice showing from a conference still reeling from big realignment shifts about a decade ago.
Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Teams in: 5/15
Bubble Teams: 1 (North Carolina – First Four Out)
Analysis: The big story in the ACC has been the disappointing seasons for North Carolina (first four out) and Duke (six seed) although a solid year from Miami and Pitt shouldn’t go unnoticed either.
The ACC gets more attention for the blue bloods struggling, including Louisville’s disastrous season, but this is still a very good basketball conference and March should showcase that.
Syndication: Reno Gazette Journal
Teams in: 3/11
Bubble Teams: 4 (Boise State – Last Four Byes, Nevada – Last Four In, New Mexico/Utah St – First Four Out)
Analysis: The Mountain West could have as few as one and as many as six teams in the big dance according to Lunardi, although three seems like the most likely case at this point.
San Diego State is the only lock from the Mountain West right now, but Boise State and Nevada are likely going to find themselves in the tournament on Selection Sunday, and a strong finish from either New Mexico or Utah State could push them over the edge.
Pac-12 fans should pay close attention to the Mountain West for the next few weeks, as how these teams do will determine a lot about the future of Oregon, Arizona State, and USC this year.
Syndication: The Register Guard
Teams in: 3/12
Bubble Teams: 3 (USC – Last Four In, Oregon/Arizona St – Next Four Out)
Analysis: UCLA and Arizona are two of the best college basketball teams in the entire country, but the conference of champions doesn’t boast much after that in terms of making real noise in the NCAA Tournament.
USC remains on the right side of the bubble for now, but they have been inconsistent as of late and could fall off quickly. Oregon hurt their chances big time with a loss at Washington, and Arizona State’s season fell apart after a strong start as well.
Two teams from a Power-5 conference – which feels very possible – is a big concern when one of those teams is leaving for the Big Ten next year.
Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
Teams in: 2/10
Bubble Teams: None
Analysis: The Pac-12 may lose to the Mountain West in terms of number of teams in the big dance, but they’ll at least tie the WCC which is going to be represented by two teams around the four line in Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s.
These two teams play on Saturday, and while the winner could move up into three seed territory it’s clear both squads – and only these squads – will be dancing in March.
Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports
Teams in: 2/11
Bubble Teams: 1 (Memphis – Last Four Byes)
Analysis: The final multi-bid conference is the American, where Houston remains firmly in the mix for a number one seed and another deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Penny Hardaway and Memphis are barely hanging on to a tournament spot right now, and no one else is particularly close to sneaking into the dance unless they can upset the Coogs in the conference championship.