PAC-10 and the 2011 NCAA Tournament

Posted on February 20, 2011 by

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The most significant take-away from the Pac-10 this season is the marked improvement in quality of play. Most thought the conference would still remain in a stagnant rebuilding sort of state carrying over from last season. But, even with the given parity within the Pac-10 standings, there are some quality teams and the conference is quite possibly going to have three teams enter the NCAA Tournament this year. Not only will they most likely be entering, they will make some noise. The Pac has some scrappy hunger to its play this year, a chip on the their shoulder driving them to prove the nation wrong about them.

The Arizona Wildcats have locked their birth into the NCAA Tournament after missing last year for the first time in 25 years, the Wildcats are back. Though the ‘Cats have just earned their most impressive win last night against Washington, other than that, the record is a little weak in terms of wins over top 50 RPI teams. Regardless, Arizona is highly ranked, most likely moving into the top 10 in tomorrow’s rankings and has enough toughness and depth to do some real damage in the NCAA Tournament.

The UCLA Bruins, arguably the most storied program in all college sports, not just basketball, is almost solidified to be back in the big dance. The Bruins have the conference’s most impressive victories, one against St. Johns, which appears a top-10 ranking assassin team, and BYU, the Jimmer Show. Depending on their play down the stretch of the season and in the Pac-10 Tournament, the Bruins might very well be joining the ‘Cats out on the national stage once again.

 

The Washington Huskies began the season the conference favorites and somewhat stalled coming out of turn two and mid-season losing three in a row. However, after last night’s thriller in McKale, it can be well-known that the Huskies are back and have come to play. They have brilliant guard-play by Thomas, Overton, Suggs and Wilcox combined with decent presence inside. Matthew Bryan-Amaning could serve to be a little more consistent on the whole, but is a phenomenal post player nonetheless. After the Huskies’ loss to the Wildcats last night, they will need make a serious statement with the rest of their season and potentially win the Pac-10 Conference Tournament to earn a birth into the NCAA Tournament. They are a fierce team with a plethora of weapons and I hope to see them join the Wildcats and the Bruins in the big dance. They will prove important in making the Pac-10’s case for national relevance again.

The Washington State Cougars, unfortunately, have all but put themselves out of reach with their loss to the Sun Devils yesterday. It is a shame to, because they are a solid team as well with some serious star-power in sharp-shooter Klay Thompson. However, maybe his magic has run out? He has not been as dominating over the past month or so. He does still lead the conference in points-per-game, but his performances have been less flashy of late. The Cougars need to win the Pac-10 Tournament to have a hope of entering the NCAA Tournament.

Though the Pac-10 has such historic rivalries and sometimes heightened animosity throughout the season, come tournament-time, it all goes out the window. We must all cheer on and pull for our fellow conference comrades. The better the Pac-10 does on the national stage, the more respect comes to the conference as a whole. Especially in times of rebuild and perceived weakness, a long tournament run and solid showing will do more than anything else to return some respect to the conference. So, remember, come March Madness, send some love towards our brothers in arms against the nation’s best.

 

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