Revised All-Conference selections:
Best call(s): Let’s see here, did anyone else have Oregon winning the Pac 12? CBS? 0/6 for those guys. Athlon? No sir. Sports Illustrated? Nah. How about the media voting on preseason awards? Of course not. Only here at 3MW will you find the foresight to pick the Nike Ducks to the Pac 12 (Please don’t read any of my other previews, deal?). I was high on Dillon Brooks, I really didn’t like the Alford Family Band’s chances (and to my pleasure, they were even worse than I had hoped), and the incredibly young Washington Huskies played even better than I expected (Romar listened to me and played fast again!). Finally, the Oregon State Offspring (Payton, Tinkle, Thompson Jr.) should earn the first NCAA bid since Payton’s dad was in Corvallis, but that wasn’t a terribly bold call.
Worst call(s): Ok, so disclaimer to the above – the biggest reason I was so high on the Ducks was Dylan Ennis, who played in all of 2 games due to injury. I think it’s safe to say I wasn’t right for all the right reasons, but that’s okay. I was way too low on the Buffs of Colorado, despite saying in my preview, “…Askia Booker’s offense-wrecking ballhogging campaign… should be a case of addition by subtraction – without Booker, it will allow the rest of the team to grow into their own roles.” So I was correct on that notion, but I just didn’t bump the Buffaloes far enough up the standings in response. I also thought USC was talented, but a year away from contending; their late slide notwithstanding, they out-performed my expectations a year early. Props to Andy Enfield.
Unfortunately, this entire tournament is televised on either Pac 12 Network (the first 7 games plus a semifinal) or FS1 (one quarterfinal, one semifinal, the championship). This is frustrating because 1) Pac 12 Network is an island in the sky channel that is completely inaccessible to anyone stuck in flyover states, and 2) I don’t get to try my drinking game of taking a shot every time Bill Walton says “Conference of Champions.” Or maybe that’s a good thing because now I won’t die of alcohol poisoning before March really hits its stride.
Who I want to win: The teams I want to see from the Pac 12 should all be safely in the field, save for bubbly Oregon State and dynamic young Washington. I’d love to see Oregon St. lock up their spot with wins over Arizona St. and Cal (I personally don’t think they need the Cal win, but let’s not mess around), and a Washington tournament run would be fun too (everyone should get to watch lone senior Andrew Andrews fill it up, and Marquese Chriss dunks are frighteningly powerful). I would also be very okay with a Ducks tourney title (and possible 1 seed??).
Who I think will win: I think Arizona or Cal takes it, honestly. Sean Miller is a great coach, and I think he will have them firing on all cylinders in Vegas. Also, I can’t remember where, but I’m pretty sure I’ve made jokes about a Cuonzo Martin-led group of freshmen misbehaving in Las Vegas – that factor alone decides my pick. The Wildcats have the talent to get the job done, and I’m still waiting for Allonzo Trier to truly emerge as a bona fide stud – consider this a prediction of his coming out party. There’s also a 100% chance I will scream “GUARD GABE YORK!!” numerous times at my TV while watching them play, because for some reason, no one has ever read a scouting report about Gabe York (he likes to shoot threes!).
Chance to make a run in the NCAA Tournament: Good, but not as great as you’d think. Oregon will have the best seeding position, and I trust Altman in March, but their goofy mix of talent and lack of a break-you-down ballhandler (Ennis L ) could be a downfall. I don’t think this is the year Miller gets the ‘Cats to the Final Four, but they will give some high seed hell before bowing out. Oregon State, Colorado, and USC all have the talent to knock off a 1- or 2-seed in the Round of 32 – let’s wait and see the matchups there. Finally, California – they’re such a freaking wild card to me. Cuonzo has gotten this team right about where I expected they would be, and the embarrassment of talent is pretty obvious to anyone who watches them. He’s gotten them to buy into defense, and they’re tough as hell to score on in the halfcourt. If Bird and Matthews hit shots from the wing and Tyrone Wallace lets Jaylen Brown be alpha dog (definitely NOT a given), Cal could actually make a nice run. Or they could lose to Northern Iowa in the first round!
How I Think It Will Play Out:
(8) Washington defeats (9) Stanford
(5) Colorado defeats (12) Wazzu
(10) UCLA defeats (7) USC – beating the LA rival 3 times in a year is a tall order
(6) Oregon St defeats (11) Arizona St
(1) Oregon defeats (8) Washington
(4) Arizona defeats (5) Colorado
(10) UCLA defeats (2) Utah – talented Bruins are desperate, thankfully they aren’t close enough to the bubble for the committee to give them a totally undeserved berth like last year
(3) Cal defeats (6) Oregon St.
(4) Arizona defeats (1) Oregon
(3) Cal defeats (10) UCLA
(4) Arizona defeats (3) Cal
Oregon gets a 3-seed (probably 9th overall), Arizona gets up to a 4, just behind Utah (one of the top 4-seeds), Cal settles at a 5, Colorado and Oregon St. are in the 8/9 game mishmash, and USC gets one of the last 4 byes as a 10-seed. Oregon goes to the Sweet 16 a hard-fought battle, Arizona does the same, Cal flames out in round 1 to a plucky underdog, Colorado wins a game and challenges a 1-seed in round 2, Oregon St. and USC lose in round 1. Phew…we’ll see.