The Pac-12 has been malignant as a basketball league in recent years, and the conference was deprived of the opportunity to show its improvement on a national stage in 2020, when the NCAA tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But Monday produced a rather astonishing reality: there will be four Pac-12 teams in Sweet 16 and only one team from the big ten.
It solidified during the conclusion of the second round of action when No. 7 seed Oregon knocked out No. 2 seed Iowa. Then, UCLA defeated No. 11 seed Abilene Christian to become Pac-12’s third team tied for this weekend’s regional semifinals. USC pushed the total to four by beating Kansas 85-51, the third worst in KU history, in the final game of the second round.
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The Big Ten landed nine teams in field 68 and the Pac-12 landed just five. Four of the Big Ten’s nine tournament teams were either No. 1 or No. 2 seeds, while the Pac-12’s highest seed was Colorado, which landed as No. 5 seed. Ironically, the Buffaloes were the lone Pac-12 team that lost in the second round when they dropped a 71-53 decision to Florida State on Monday.
Another surprising element of the Pac-12’s collective residency in Big Dance is that Arizona, one of the league’s most prominent basketball schools, underwent a self-imposed post-season ban this season that left it unfit for the NCAA Tournament. But even without the Wildcats, the Pac-12 has proven to be stronger than expected.
Pac-12 with its 9-1 NCAA Tournament Record is a big winner so far in this NCAA Tournament, and the Big Ten is an obvious loser. Here are some of the other winners and losers from Tuesday’s action.
Winner: Michigan saves something
Nr. 1 seed Michigan kept the day from being a total loss for the big ten by dealing business in an 86-78 victory over an unlucky LSU team. The win secured the league a team in Sweet 16. If there is one that really deserves it from the big ten, it is probably this Wolverines team. During his second season helping the program, coach Juwan Howard has assembled a deep, versatile team that has completely exceeded preseason expectations. The loss of senior manager Isaiah Livers could have deflated this team. Instead, it turns out to be a resilient bunch playing with confidence and discipline. A showdown with No. 4 seed Florida State is next for this bunch.
Winner: Leonard Hamilton’s legendary status
When we talk about these Seminoles, what about what Leonard Hamilton has done the last four seasons. This team is on its way to its third sweet 16 straight out, and last year’s team had more than enough talent to do the same before the NCAA tournament was canceled. It’s never glamorous, and there’s rarely one who can not miss a superstar on his list, but Hamilton has a way of extracting the most from his list. Monday’s defensive performance in a 71-53 victory over a Colorado team that crushed Georgetown on Saturday was masterful.
Loser: Alabama’s doubt
Are there still people out there who accuse Alabama’s 3-point heavy style as a flukish operation that does not hold in a single elimination tournament? By first and foremost surviving from their defense en route to an SEC tournament title and in a first-round victory over Iona on Saturday, No. 2 seed Crimson Tide showed there is more to their mojo than just outside shooting. And No. 10 frog Maryland learned the hard way how deadly Alabama can be when it actually hits shots outside. Crimson Tide hit 16-of-33 attempts from deep against Terrins in a dominant 96-77 victory. Next up for Crimson Tide is a game with UCLA No. 11 seeds. The Bruins have struggled to defend the 3-point line all season.
Winner: Isaiah Mobley steps up
Don’t forget that USC star novice Evan Mobley is the younger brother of another abundant cable-sized man who also plays for the Trojans. Big brother Isaac reminded Kansas of it on Monday when USC cped the second round action with an 85-51 over Kansas. The younger Mobley scored 14 of his 17 points in the first half as Trojan horses opened a 40-21 lead over the Jayhawks. Next up for USC is a Sweet 16 showdown with conference sweeper Oregon, which the Trojans defeated 72-58 on February 22nd. Winner: Oregon does it again
Winner: Oregon does it again
The Ducks have been to seven NCAA tournaments under coach Dana Altman and have now won at least one game each time. After Monday’s impressive 95-80 victory over Iowa, the Ducks are on their way to their fifth Sweet 16 under Altman’s leadership. This is a transfer-heavy group gelling offensively, and Monday’s offensive explosion was a real eye-opener for what the ceiling may be for this team. Some will have a star next to what Oregon performs in the NCAA Tournament as it advanced out of the first round due to VCU’s COVID-19 editions. But there was nothing illegal about the way it threw Iowa on Monday.
Winner: Historical view for underdogs
This year’s sweet 16 seeds is a total of 94, the highest in NCAA tournament history. The former record-breaking seed total was 89 set in 1986. Monday No. 11 seed UCLA joined No. 15 seed Oral Roberts, No. 12 seed Oregon State, No. 11 seed UCLA and No. 11 seed Syracuse in Sweet 16, which begins Saturday.
Loser: Iowa’s NCAA Tournament Fight Continues
This was supposed to be the year for Iowa, but instead it ended with another dose of NCAA tournament awards for a program that – at least – planned to make its first Sweet 16 since 1999. The Hawkeyes spent 10 weeks this season ranked in the top. five of the Top 25, and the pain of an early exit will only be magnified by the fact that it feels like an era is ending. The star center Luka Garza was just as phenomenal as expected this season, but the program’s leading scorer from all time leaves without a conference title or any significant after-season success on an otherwise legendary collegiate CV.
Winner: Gonzaga’s perfect season stays alive
Despite getting into an eight-point deficit in the first minutes against a burning Oklahoma team, No. 1 seed Gonzaga hit the turbo on Monday, which only Gonzaga can do, and advanced to Sweet 16 with an 87-71 victory. Behind a career-high 30 points from Drew Timme, the Bulldogs (28-0) managed to turn their eight-point gap into a dozen lead and they never gave it up from there. It’s a strong win for the program, giving Gonzaga his sixth consecutive Sweet 16 pearance. But also one for this historically large team, which has now won 27 out of its 28 games by a double-digit margin.
Winner: UCLA breaks down Abilene Christian
Umm, Texas? Do you want to explain yourself? Abilene Christian was one of the best stories in the first round with hisand Monday brought a reminder of how unlikely the outcome was. Nr. 11 seeds UCLA roared past the Wildcats 67-47 and into the Sweet 16 with no noticeable problems. The Bruins’ relatively easy victory made the dud performance from Texas even more confusing. How did the big 12 tournament champions led by a trio of veteran guards produce such a gloomy performance against Abilene Christian?
Winner: Creighton looks good
Few teams have the ability to switch between excellent and mediocre like Creighton. But a quality version of the Bluejays No. 5 seed appeared Monday in a 72-58 victory over No. 13 seed Ohio. For a team that has dealt with a massive distraction over the past month over controversy with coach Greg McDermott admitting the use of a racially insensitive analogy, Sweet 16 makes an impressive feat. This is actually the first time Creighton has made it this far under McDermott, who is in his 11th season with the program. Next up is the brutal challenge of playing No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga in Sweet 16. But depending on which version of this team shows up, it could possibly give Zags a try.
Ohio striker Ben Vander Plas has probably not been compared to former Duke star Zion Williamson very often in his career, but there was a striking resemblance between the two on Monday. Vander Plas played most of the second half of the Bobcats’ loss to Creighton with mismatched shoes after his right-hand shoes exploded on Williamson as fashion. There was nothing particularly unorthodox about the way Vander Plas landed on his right foot, but the sneaker gave in and redshirt junior was forced to leave the game and find some new footwear.