From Bad to Really Bad: Assessing the Pac-12’s NCAA Tournament

Posted by Mike Lemaire on March 22nd, 2016

The dust has settled on a wild first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, and guess what Pac-12 fans? All that talk about the conference being overrated and its teams not showing up on the big stage in March?

It is all pretty much true!

Oregon is the lone remaining representative of Bill Walton’s Conference of Champions and the onus is on the Ducks to carry the rest of the conference from here on out. This is because the league didn’t just have another tough tournament; it has had a brutally bad tournament. Only Utah and Oregon made it out of the First Round and the Utes didn’t exactly do the conference proud by getting run out of the gym against Gonzaga.

In honor of all the awfulness, we ranked the performances from really bad to downright awful and went back to wishing Oregon well against Duke.


Andy Enfield's Team Choked Away A Late Lead But They Are Still Young

Andy Enfield’s Team Choked Away A Late Lead But Otherwise Actually Played Providence Team

Congratulations to the Trojans, a team that lost to Providence at the buzzer and therefore cemented its status as the Least Bad Pac-12 Tournament Team of 2016. In the interest of full disclosure, USC basically had Providence on the ropes with three minutes to play and frittered the lead away in a flurry of turnovers and missed free throws. You could therefore make an argument that thee Trjoans’ performance in this Tournament was especially bad. The team’s youth and inexperience showed through in a big way down the stretch, as it did pretty much all season long. They shot the ball well, played solid defense for the most part, and literally return everybody, so there’s no obvious reason to hang their heads. They probably would have just been blown out by North Carolina in the Second Round anyway.

Oregon State. Aside from some awful shooting from Stephen Thompson and general uselessness from Malcolm Duvivier, the Beavers actually played VCU tough. The team’s offensive struggles were expected against the Rams’ athletic defense, but Oregon State mitigated some of its shortcomings by taking care of the basketball and locking down their perimeter shooters. The moral victory, however, is limited in that the Rams shot better than 60 percent on their two-pointers and completely had their way on the offensive glass. The Beavers will miss Gary Payton II next season, but they have a solid young nucleus and should be excited about the future in Corvallis.

Colorado. For most of the first half and in the early parts of the second, it looked like Colorado might actually scratch out an undeserving win over UConn. Eventually, however, the Buffaloes’ offense sputtered, and Colorado was reduced to hoping Josh Scott would get fouled. In Colorado’s defense, no one expected anything out of them this season so its semi-competitive tournament loss was par for the course. Tad Boyle has been way better than Jeff Bzdelik ever was so let’s not get crazy and pretend Colorado should have a sense of entitlement. But at what point does a fan base lose patience with being an NCAA Tournament participant as well as a Pac-12 afterthought every single year?


Jakob Poeltl and Utah Didn't Acquit Themselves Well Against Gonzaga

Jakob Poeltl and Utah Didn’t Acquit Themselves Well Against Gonzaga And That’s Saying It Nicely

The Utes were the only team of this bunch to actually win a game, so they get credit for that even if it came against a mediocre Fresno State team. The reason we can’t in any good conscience rank them higher is because of the egg they laid in the next game against Gonzaga. The Utes’ size and athleticism on paper made them a good matchup for Gonzaga’s corps of star forward, but the mismatch was apparent once the game started. Domantas Sabonis ate Jakob Poeltl alive all game and Kyle Wiltjer had no trouble finding a surplus of open shots. It was an especially tough end for Brandon Taylor, who reverted back to his early season form and was noncompetitive with the Bulldogs’ guards. Utah suffered its worst offensive performance in months and its defense certainly wasn’t any better. Poeltl is probably headed for the NBA Draft and with him goes Utah’s best shot at future NCAA Tournament success for now.

Arizona. Wichita State isn’t your father’s #11 seed and these weren’t your older brother’s Wildcats either, but for a team with so much talent, Arizona barely put up a fight against the Shockers. Turnovers were the easy culprit. The Wildcats committed 19 for the game and point guard Kadeem Allen was responsible for nearly half all by himself. The team’s best offensive players, Gabe York and Ryan Anderson, were its worst offensive players on this night, and even though the team had no offensive rhythm and couldn’t make two free throws in a row, Sean Miller tellingly never strayed deep into his bench. The Wildcats trailed by 24 points at one point midway through the second half, and if it wasn’t for a late flurry to make it respectable, the look of it would have been much worse.

California. The Bears earn this distinction as much for what happened off the court last week as what happened on it. Less than 24 hours after earning the highest NCAA Tournament seed in program history, an assistant coach was fired amid ugly sexual harassment claims. Two days later, the team’s leading scorer broke his hand in practice, effectively ending his college career. Furthermore, the Bears’ hottest scorer was unable to play because of last-minute back spasms. All of that resulted in a team that bricked its way to an ignominious first-round exit against Hawaii. To top it off, the team’s top recruit backed out of his pledge on Monday because of the uncertainty surrounding the program. Just when it seemed like this team might be poised to challenge Arizona and Oregon for conference supremacy, everything came crashing down in Berkeley.

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