There was an interesting article recently on sportsillustrated.com regarding San Diego State and the Mountain West Conference. As the article points out, the MWC looks like it may very well only get two teams into the NCAA Tournament this season, after getting five teams in last season and finishing as the No. 1 ranked RPI conference in the country.
Pete Thamel, the author of the article, points out that while San Diego State keeps winning, there are still “plenty of reasons to be skeptical.” Thamel said that the conference in general has “tanked” this season, largely because UNLV has been “one of the country’s biggest busts.” Thamel’s points are well stated about the MWC and the Aztecs.
Many of his points could equally be applied to the Pac-12 and West Coast conferences as well.
Right now, Gonzaga is the only WCC team that’s a safe bet to make the NCAA Tournament. BYU suffered a huge blow in losing to Portland and as of Jan. 30 is listed among the “First Four Out” by Joe Lunardi of ESPN. Lundardi currently has Saint Mary’s among the “Last Four In” as a No. 12 seed taking on Oregon in the play-in round.
No other team in the conference has a remote chance at an at-large bid and thus would have to pull off a shocker in the conference tourney to crack the field. If the Bulldogs of Gonzaga aren’t careful, they could find themselves on the outside looking in if such an upset did take place in the conference tournament.
Meanwhile in the Pac-12, Lunardi currently has seven teams in the NCAA Tournament, but only one higher than a No. 7 seed. There is only one team, Arizona, that is essentially assured of a spot in the tournament at this point.
Of the other six teams, Oregon and Stanford are both among the “Last Four In” playing in the opening play-in round, and Arizona State and California are both “On the Bubble.” That leaves Colorado, a No. 10 seed with its best player out for the season, and UCLA, a No. 7 seed. UCLA should be fairly safe, but the Bruins really don’t have any quality wins other than knocking off other non-Arizona Pac-12 teams.
From the state of Utah, there is but one team currently projected to make the NCAA Tournament, and it’s not the Cougars, Utes, Aggies, Wildcats or T-Birds. Try the Wolverines of Utah Valley, on top of the revamped WAC with a 6-0 conference record. Go figure.
Nate Gagon is a published sports, music, and creative writer. He is also a wholehearted father, grateful husband and ardent student of life. He shoots roughly 94% from the free-throw line and can be reached at: email@example.com or @nategagon.