Four teams from PAC-10 men’s basketball will play in the NCAA tournament this year, up from the two squads (California and Washington) that went dancing in 2010. Arizona, Washington, UCLA, and USC will represent the conference in the nation’s premiere postseason tournament, while Cal and Washington State will likely participate in the NIT. Here is the run-down of the four March Madness teams from the PAC-10.
- The regular season champion of the conference and the runner-up of the conference tournament has emerged as one of the top 20 teams in the nation with one of the best post players, sophomore forward Derrick Williams, you’ll find anywhere. Arizona swept the season series with Stanford, winning the two games by a total of 19 points. The Wildcats will face (12) Memphis in the West region on Friday for the right to play the winner of Texas versus Oakland.
- The Bruins also swept their two games with the Card, but played poorly down the stretch before losing a stunner to Oregon on Thursday. Ben Howland’s team will play in the Southeast region, in which they will have to beat (10) Michigan State in the first round. Although the Spartans are suffering a down year, veteran MSU coach Tom Izzo is one of the best in the country at preparing his team for playing well in big games. Michigan State made the Final Four last year and came within two points of beating Butler to face Duke in the title game.
- The only team on this list that Stanford beat this year, Washington certainly had rough patches in 2010-11. During a three-game losing streak that went from the end of January to the second week of February, the Huskies fell to Washington State before being swept by the Oregon schools–the worst regional subgroup (i.e. Cal/Stanford, Arizona/ASU, etc.) in the conference. But UW played inspired basketball in the PAC-10 tournament, and edged Arizona in overtime to win the conference championship game. Point guard Isaiah Thomas, who sank the game-winning buzzer beater on Saturday afternoon to down the Wildcats, is key to the success of the Huskies. His 16.8 points and 6 assists per game are both team highs.
The Huskies will take on (10) Georgia in the East on Friday, in what might be the surest win for the conference.
- The Trojans have won 6 of their last 8 games and gave Arizona a hard time in the conference tournament semi-final on Friday. USC didn’t even have their head coach, Kevin O’Neill, for that game following his suspension for a verbal altercation with an Arizona supporter in the team’s Los Angeles hotel the night before. USC does not feature any stand-out star player, but relies on giant Nikola Vucevic for the majority of its scoring (17.3 ppg) and rebounding (10.2 rpg). USC will play in the newly expanded play-in game format. In order to make it to the round of 64, USC will have to beat Virginia Commonwealth on Wednesday in Dayton. The winner of that game will play Georgetown on Friday.
And, as Rule of Tree observed earlier in the weekend, one other 2010-11 Stanford opponent is going dancing. Here’s the skinny on Butler:
- The Bulldogs absolutely annihilated the Card when the two teams met in December, but Butler has not lived up to its preseason expectations. Despite a rough start to the conference season, the team has not lost since February 3 and has been gathering steam as a possible sleeper to win some games in the tournament. Such a run will have to begin on Thursday in the nation’s capital, where the Bulldogs will face (9) Old Dominion for the right to play (1) Pitt on Saturday.