Battle for 67th Best Team in the country
While the PAC-12 was up and down this year, way down in my opinion, we do see them representing the conference well in this year’s National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
While Washington could make a strong case for why it should be in the big dance, four teams from the PAC-12 received bids to play postseason basketball in the NIT.
While neither one of these teams participated in this tournament last year, each should know the significance of playing on the big stage of the NIT.
Even if it does play second fiddle to the NCAA tournament, it still has its own flavor of March Madness and winning the tournament could be beneficial for next year’s squad.
Last year’s NIT winner, Wichita State, finds themselves with a 27-5 season record, and a #5 seed in the big dance.
As I sorted through the match-ups for this year’s NIT, and filled out my own bracket of predictions, the PAC-12 teams could lead some very interesting paths in the coming weeks. Aside from a potential Miami/Minnesota, or Miami/Tennessee match-up, the PAC-12 head to heads could provide some quality competition.
While Stanford has arguably the toughest first round match-up, Cleveland State, I wouldn’t count out Bucknell to surprise #1 seeded Arizona and get the upset. With Jesse Perry and Solomon Hill logging most of Arizona’s front-court minutes, we could see them get beat up by 6-11 Junior Center Mike Muscala of Bucknell.
Muscala averaged just shy of 17 points and 9 rebounds on the year and could prove to be a tough match-up for either Perry, or Hill, to defend.
Where they lack in size, they will need to make up for with the hot shooting of Kyle Fogg. The Senior guard had patches of cold shooting in the PAC-12 tourney, but will be relied upon heavily if Arizona wants to make a deep run in the tournament.
If both Arizona, and Stanford, take care of business in the first two rounds we could see them square off against each other in the round of 8. An intriguing match-up, as it would be the 2nd time these two would’ve met this year, with Arizona taking the first meeting 56-43.
The Way I see it
According to my bracket, Arizona prevails against Stanford and moves on to the round of 4, facing the other notable NCAA tournament snub, Drexel.
I’ll get to that in a bit.
On the other side of the bracket #1 overall seed Washington took care of business tonight, with a victory over Texas-Arlington 82-72. Washington will need to put aside all the qualms they have with the selection committee and focus on the tournament at hand if they want to continue to win.
The regular season PAC-12 champs will feasibly only see stiff competition in the round of 8 where they are on a collision course to avenge a February 9th, 82-57 drubbing at the hands of the Oregon Ducks.
The Ducks enter the tournament with a bit of a sour taste in their mouth, as there was speculation they were just a couple of PAC-12 tournament wins away from sealing their own trip to the big dance.
With Colorado, PAC-12 tournament champions, ousting Oregon in the second round, Oregon was left wondering “what if?”
However, in just his second season as the U of O head coach, Dana Altman has already found success in Eugene.
With a CBI championship to show for last year’s squad, an NIT championship would be another impressive achievement for a team that looked out of sorts at more than a few times this year.
I do have them beating Washington in the round of 8, however, they ultimately will taste defeat when they go up against Miami in the round of 4.
Going back to my other NIT Final Four teams, I see Arizona eking out a close game against Drexel, pitting the SEC (Miami) and PAC-12 (Arizona) against each other in the NIT final.
The March 29th Championship game will see Arizona cutting down the nets of the NIT tournament, fueling more of the debate that they, too, should have been in the larger field of 64 vying for the peerless NCAA National Championship trophy.
That’s just my prediction, and based off of what I see each year regarding these tournaments, these selections will likely crash and burn after the 2nd round; this is what makes the college basketball postseason so fascinating.
Check my column out tomorrow as I break down the College Basketball Invitational, as well as what Oregon State will need to do to take home their second CBI trophy.