The Arizona men’s basketball team might not be playing in this year’s NCAA tournament, but that does not mean Wildcat fans can’t support the other Pac-12 teams playing in March Madness. Here is a look at what Pac-12 teams made the tournament and what path they are looking at to make a potential run.
The Buffaloes find themselves as the No. 5 seed in the East region after falling in the Pac-12 championship against Oregon State. They find themselves against a team in Georgetown, the No. 12 seed who has all the momentum in the world after winning the Big East tournament as the No. 8 seed. The Hoyas won four games in four days, including wins over Villanova and Creighton who were both top-25 teams in the country.
After starting the season off very slow before running into COVID-19 troubles in the middle of the season, Georgetown, under head coach Patrick Ewing, found their groove over the second half of the season followed by clinching a tournament bid with a conference championship win over Creighton. The Hoyas are led by senior guard Jahvon Blair who averaged just under 16 points per game during the season. They are a very big team with the next three leading scorers on the team standing in at 6-foot-7 or taller in forwards Jamorko Pickett, Chudier Bile and center Qudus Wahab.
My selection: I have Georgetown riding their momentum to an upset win over Colorado. If the Buffaloes did advance to the next round, they would take on the winner of the round one Florida State/UNC Greensboro matchup.
The Trojans find themselves as the No. 6 seed in the West region where they will take on the winner of the First Four games between Wichita State and Drake. I am expecting that to be a very competitive game between the Shockers and Bulldogs. The Shockers play very efficient basketball, limiting turnovers and playing well-rounded defense. They are led by sophomore guard Tyson Etienne, who averaged 17 points per game this season while shooting 40% from deep. They wound up losing to Cincinnati in the AAC championship. The Bulldogs got off to a blazing 18-0 start but have since cooled down, losing four of their last 11 games.
They were without two of their top-three leading scorers in that stretch in senior forward ShanQuan Hemphill and junior guard Roman Penn, so that played a role in their struggles and really limited the depth of the team. Hemphill is expected to make his return barring any late setbacks, but this team is trending in the wrong direction heading into the NCAA tournament and will need to make some changes if they want to advance to play USC.
My selection: I have USC defeating either Wichita State or Drake, and it does not stop there. I have the Trojans defeating the Kansas Jayhawks in the next round to advance to the Sweet 16. This is a Kansas team that is dealing hard with COVID-19 issues entering the tournament. I believe they will still do enough to defeat Eastern Washington in round one, but the Trojans' size, length and experience will be enough to defeat Kansas led by star NBA prospect Evan Mobley who averaged close to 17 points per game this season with close to eight rebounds and three blocks. It was announced by Kansas head coach Bill Self that junior forward David McCormack, redshirt freshman forward Jalen Wilson and sophomore wing Tristan Enaruna all tested positive and are on different schedules. McCormack, who is the Jayhawks' second-leading scorer this season, has a good chance of playing against Eastern Washington in the team’s first game. However, Wilson, who was third on the team in scoring this year, will miss that opening game and his status for the next game is in question. The reports suggest he is on track to be able to play in that second game, but it will be tight. Enaruna has already been ruled out for the team’s first two games. He did not have a huge role this season, but depth is always huge come this time of year. I have the Trojans then getting knocked out by Iowa in the Sweet 16.
The Ducks find themselves as the No. 7 seed in the West region where they will take on the No. 10 seed in Virginia Commonwealth in round one. The Rams are led by the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year in Nah’Shon Hyland, who averaged close to 20 points per game this season to go along with almost five rebounds and two steals. They are a deep team, playing a lot of different guys each game, but only one other player averaged more than eight points per game this season outside of Hyland. They are a very solid defensive team, ranking in the top 15 in the nation in defensive efficiency. They don’t have a ton of momentum after losing to St. Bonaventure in the Atlantic 10 championship, but they have the defense and star power in Hyland to stay competitive in any game.
My selection: I have Oregon defeating VCU in what I believe will be a fun game to watch before the Ducks fall to Iowa in the next round. The Hawkeyes, led by Big Ten Player of the Year in Luka Garza, will be too much for Oregon to handle with their shooting ability on the outside. The Hawkeyes are quite reliant on shooting though, so the Ducks can keep this game interesting if Iowa goes cold early.
The Bruins find themselves as the No. 11 seed in the East region, playing against fellow No. 11 seed Michigan State in the First Four. It seemed like it could be a lost season for the Bruins when senior guard Chris Smith went down with a torn ACL early in the year. However, UCLA showed their resilience staying competitive and winning a lot of games. The season did not end well for them, however, as they lost their final four games of the year including a quarterfinal loss against the eventual champion in Oregon State in the Pac-12 tournament. They are going to have to turn it around quickly if they want to defeat the Spartans and move on.
My selection: While UCLA has no momentum heading into this game, Michigan State has all the confidence in the world with wins over Michigan, Ohio State and Illinois over the final month of the regular season. They are led by junior forward Aaron Henry, who averaged over 15 points per game this season. This is a Spartans team with a lot of experience, led by senior guard Joshua Langford in the backcourt. I have the Spartans not only beating UCLA in this First Four game but also upsetting No. 6 seed BYU in the next round before they eventually fall to Texas in the Sweet 16.
The Pac-12 champion Beavers find themselves as the No. 12 seed in the Midwest region with a matchup against No. 5 seed Tennessee. The Volunteers started the season on fire, winning 10 of their first 11 games before going 8-7 the rest of the way.
This is a very inconsistent Tennessee team that can stay competitive with any team it wants if they are on that night. They have a trio of guards who average 11 points per game or more in freshman Jaden Springer, freshman Keon Johnson and junior Victor Bailey Jr. This is not the most experienced Tennessee team, but they bring a lot of great energy to the court. The status of senior forward John Fulkerson remains uncertain for this game after he took an elbow in a game against Florida recently.
My selection: I expect this to be a tight game, but I have Tennessee taking this game and advancing to the next round before falling against Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State.
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