Pac-12 Puts 8 Teams In Postseason

It's March Madness time, and the Pac-12 has 8 teams in the midst of it, including 5 in the NCAA Tournament.

As you may or may not have noticed, the Pac-12 put 8 teams into the post-season, including 5 in the NCAA Tournament (Full bracket here), and 3 in the NIT.

As you surely noticed, that doesn't include the Beavers, even in the CBI, Coach Craig Robinson's connections not withstanding. And, Oregon St. is a baseball school. Indeed, no Pac-12 team was invited to either the CBI or CII Tournaments.

That doesn't mean Beaver fans, and Oregon St.-focused media, including BTD, won't or shouldn't follow the basketball post season, though, and for a couple of reasons. For one, playoff basketball is fun and exciting, even when its other teams that are involved (2013 Yahoo! Sports Tourney Pick'em game is here).

And for another, like it or not, Oregon St.'s future fortunes (and every other member of the Pac-12) are tied to how the conference does, both for revenue sharing reasons, and perception reasons, which will affect everything from recruiting to ad sales down the road.

And also seeding, which, as we will see, is based on perception, not reality. Should Oregon St. manage a turnaround in the next year or so, that will suddenly become a very real and present concern for Beaver Nation.

The Pac-12, as noted, got 5 teams into the NCAA Tournament, including UCLA and Arizona as 6 seeds, Colorado as a 10, and both California and Oregon, the conference tournament champions, as 12 seeds.

Oregon (26-8, 12-6) got a tough draw in Oklahoma St. (24-8, 13-5 in the Big XII), but a good location in being sent to San Jose, making it an accessible and affordable trip for Duck fans. Oregon tips off against the Cowboys at 1:40 PM Thursday, on TNT.

Considering they were ousted from the conference tournament by UCLA, and beat in the regular season by Oregon, Arizona (25-7, 12-6) got a great deal. The 'Cats only have to travel to Salt Lake City, again, a very reasonable trip, and will meet Belmont (26-6, 14-2 in the Ohio Valley Conference) at 5:20 PM MDT (4:20 PM PDT), also on TNT. The Bruins might be a tougher out than their #11 seeding suggests, having won the East Division of the OVC, and also their conference tournament. But national perception is this is the Pac-12's best chance to advance.

California (20-11, 12-6) got a challenging draw in UNLV (25-9, 10-6 in the Mt. West), but the Bears came within a point of the Rebels when they met in December. And they got a virtual home game, being sent just a few miles down the road to San Jose. The Bears even got a decent, 4:27 PM tipoff time for the game on TRU TV, and may have as many fans in the stands as they would at home in Haas Pavilion.

Friday, both Colorado and UCLA play in Austin, TX, and both draw Big-10 also rans. The Pac-12 Tournament Championship game loss probably cost the Bruins a chance to try to reach the second weekend in nearby Anaheim, but Austin isn't as tough as being sent twice as far away to play a team much closer to home. As an ex-member of the Big XII, Colorado is quite familiar with Austin.

The Buffs (21-11, 10-8) draw Illinois (22-12, 8-10 in the Big 10) at 3:40 PM CDT (1:40 PM PDT) on TNT, and the Bruins (25-9, 13-5) follow at 8:57 PM CDT (6:57 PDT) against Minnesota (20-12, 8-10 in the Big 10), on TRU TV.

UCLA would have been the best bet to move on had Jordan Adams not broke a bone in his foot on the final play of the Bruins' semi-final win over Arizona. But he did, and as a result, they aren't.

California may be the only team close to correctly seeded in the whole bunch, and that's probably because the selection committee felt they couldn't banish the Bears to one of the 4 playin games for the second year in a row.

UCLA, the regular season Pac-12 Champions, would have been with a healthy Adams, but given the precedent of leaving defending National Champion Kentucky to the NIT because of the impact of the loss of their best player, the wounded Bruins, who weren't that deep anyway, should probably be no more than an 8, and could reasonably be in Colorado's 10 spot.

Arizona got a name-brand boost, especially given they were beat not only by UCLA 3 times, but also Oregon, and should have been bumped down to where Colorado wound up.

Meanwhile, the Buffs, who were easily playing at a level worthy of their 10 seed earlier in the season, got no penalty for some late season struggles, especially offensively, even though they had a late season win over Oregon. One of the 12 seeds would be more in line with where the Buffs are at now.

And Oregon being a 12 after beating Arizona and sweeping UCLA instead of one of the 6s those teams got clearly indicates that the selection committee didn't actually watch Pac-12 basketball this season.

So why the run of head-scratching seeds for the Pac? Well, as noted, its because the selection committee, and pretty much most of the country, didn't actually watch Pac-12 basketball this season, and most perceptions were based on historic lore, not current capability. And that lays squarely at the feet of Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott.

While traveling about after Oregon St.'s season ended on the first day of the Pac-12 Tournament, I took advantage of the opportunity to purposely listen in on a variety of tv and radio analyses, on a variety of networks. A common question that arose time and again had to do with how the Pac-12 would be treated by the selection committee, and a diverse group of analysts with no connection to the conference or any of its members touched on a common theme as to why the Pac would have teams strangely seeded: The conference is invisible to the rest of the country.

The cause for that? The distribution failure that is the Pac-12 channel not being on DirecTV.

As has been discussed before, Scott and the Pac-12 have refused to accept DirecTV's plan to carry the Pac-12 Channel (forget the "Network" part; only one of the mostly duplicitous channels is going to be carried under any circumstance by almost all carriers) on their sports tier. Scott didn't want to accept less market penetration (with the loss being to viewers who aren't going to watch anyway; sports fans get a sports package in any event) and less money than he wanted, and, like a second grader stamping his feet, opted instead for no market penetration and no money.

The NFL is the single largest and most successful sports programming product in the world, and it isn't even close, and therefore NFL Sunday Ticket, a DirecTV product, trumps all other sports programming. As a result, there's no leverage in negotiations; no meaningful number of customers are going to leave Directv. Period.

Scott has ignored that to the detriment of the conference, and now its manifested itself in seedings that set the conference up for a disappointing post-season performance, which will reinforce the notion that the conference is a distant trailer to even many of the mid-majors.

Compounding the problem were the simply bizarre scheduling decisions that put game on late at night on the West coast, and on odd nights, ensuring the few in markets east of the Rockies that did have access to the Pac-12 channel were sleeping through most of the games they needed to see.

The move of the conference tournament to Las Vegas was a resounding success; the exposure of the conference anything but.

NIT Entrants

Washington, Stanford, and Arizona St. all are in action in the NIT, and the fact that the Sun Devils were never considered for the NCAA Tournament can be attributed to their invisibility. It will be interesting to see if the conference is better served by the exposure and performance in the NIT than the NCAA tournament. It certainly won't be easy, given their draws.

Washington (18-5, 9-9) visits BYU (21-11, 10-6 in the WCC) Tuesday night at 7:30 PM MDT (6:30 PDT), on ESPN. The Huskies got the toughest draw of the 3 Pac-12 teams, as the Cougars are a tough team that always much tougher at home, and at altitude. This is a game the mercurial Dawgs could win, but also one that they could lose, and lose badly, to a Cougar team that was a bit of a surprising snub by the NCAA.

Stanford (18-14, 9-9), the defending NIT Champions, were invited back, and will host Stephen F. Austin (27-4, 16-2 in the Southland Conference) at 8 PM on ESPN2, also on Tuesday night. The Lumberjacks got a guaranteed bid to the NIT out of their Southland Conference regular season championship after they lost their conference championship game to Northwestern St., which save them the fate of facing Florida in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Be Gator bait, or take on the Cardinal in an empty Maples Pavilion? Interesting choice there.

Arizona St. (21-12, 9-9) hosts Detroit (20-12, 12-4 in the Horizon Conference) at 7 PM AST (7 PM PDT) Wednesday on ESPNU. The Sun Devils better be ready, as the Titans came up 1 game short of winning the Horizon regular season race, and then 1 basket short of an NCAA bid, when they lost the Horizon Conference Tournament Championship 56-54 to Wright St.

The Pac could sweep their first round playoff games, but they could just as easily be lucky to be alive come the weekend.

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com

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