We’re through two rounds of the NCAA Tournament and the Sweet 16 is set. Some themes for the tournament have already been established, and they have to do with conferences.
The Pac-12 has absolutely thrived so far in March, while the Big Ten and Big 12 have completely bombed.
The Pac-12 entered the tournament with little respect.
USC, UCLA, Oregon, Oregon State and Colorado were the only teams from the conference to make the Big Dance. UCLA had to defeat Michigan State in a play-in game just to reach the field of 64. No team from the conference had higher than a 5 seed (Colorado). And here we are after the first weekend, and four of their five teams have reached the Sweet 16, which is twice as many as any other conference. The conference went much of the season without teams ranked in the top 25. They’re showing that the pollsters slept on them badly.
Meanwhile, the Big Ten entered the NCAA Tournament with all the hype. They had a pair of No. 1 seeds (Michigan and Illinois), two No. 2 seeds (Iowa and Ohio State) and a No. 4 seed (Purdue). Michigan State was in the play-in game, but other than that, the worst seeds they had were two No. 10 seeds (Maryland and Rutgers). And the conference completely fell flat on its face.
Ohio State, Purdue and Illinois were on the wrong ends of some of the tournament’s biggest upsets. Of their nine schools to make the field of 68, only Michigan remains. That is pathetic and shows the conference wasn’t as strong as believed.
The Big 12 was believed to be a tough conference as well, but they’ve had a poor showing too. Of their seven teams in the Big Dance, only No. 1 see Baylor remains. Texas was the big embarrassment for the conference, as they lost in the first round to Abilene Christian. But the really bad performances for the conference came in the second round. West Virginia, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma all lost in the second round. Oklahoma’s defeat to top seed Gonzaga was expected, but the others (except Tech) were favored to win their games. They all lost, with the Jayhawks dragging things down in an 85-51 shellacking from USC.
The Big Ten and Big 12 combined to put 16 of the 68 teams in the tournament. Only two of them made it to the Sweet 16. That’s bad. Four of the five Pac-12 teams made it to the second weekend. That’s good.
Maybe the Pac-12 doesn’t make it any deeper than this. Maybe Baylor and Michigan make it to the Final Four. But overall, we have seen what these conferences have done top-to-bottom this NCAA Tournament. The Big Ten and Big 12 flopped.