The Pac-12 has sent more than one team to the NCAA men's basketball tournament every year for over three decades. This year will likely not be any different, as more than one Pac-12 team will be on your 68-team NCAA bracket.
To find an NCAA tournament in which the Pac only had one representative, you would have to go back to 1978, when only 32 teams were in the tournament. More than one representative per conference was allowed to participate in the tournament beginning in 1975, after No. 4 Maryland was excluded in 1974. UCLA was the only Pac-10 team in the 1978 tournament (Utah, now a Pac-12 Conference member, was also in the 1978 tournament).
The Pac-12 Conference’s 12 teams have a total of 219 NCAA tournament appearances, 40 Final Four appearances, 16 championships and a total March Madness win-loss record of 301-222.
Oregon claimed the first NCAA tournament championship in 1939, with a 46-33 win over Ohio State. With 44 appearances and 11 championships, the Pac-12’s UCLA holds the title of most NCAA tournament championships, followed by the SEC’s Kentucky (7), the ACC’s North Carolina (5), the Big Ten’s Indiana (5) and the ACC’s Duke (4).
Despite the fact that the Pac-12 has one the most decorated histories of the NCAA tournament, it has been repeatedly suggested that this year only one Pac-12 team may be participating in March Madness (see here, here, here, here or here…).
Last year the Pac-10 sent four teams to the tournament (No. 5 seed Arizona, No. 7 seed Washington, No. 7 seed UCLA and No. 11 seed USC).
The 2011 Pac-10 Conference tournament champion, Washington (20-10, 11-7 Pac-10), with no regular season wins over AP Top 25 ranked teams, went on to beat No. 10 seed Georgia (68-65) before barely losing to No. 2 seed North Carolina (83-86).
Arizona, the 2010-2011 Pac-10 regular-season champion (25-6, 14-4 Pac-10), with no regular season wins over AP Top 25-ranked teams, went on to beat No. 12 seed Memphis (77-75), No. 4 seed Texas (70-69) and No. 1 seed Duke (93-77), before a close loss to No. 3 seed Connecticut (63-65) in the Elite Eight.
UCLA (22-9, 13-5 Pac-10), with regular season wins over then-No. 16 BYU (86-79) and then-No. 9 Arizona (71-49), beat No. 10 seed MSU (78-76), before a 65-73 loss to No. 2 seed Florida.
USC (18-13, 10-8 Pac-10), who had regular season wins over then-No. 19 Texas (73-56), then-No. 19 Tennessee (65-64), and then-No. 10 Arizona (65-57), lost (46-59) in the first round of the tournament to No. 11 seed VCU.
In the 2011 NCAA tournament, the Pac-10 had a win-loss record of 5-4, not stellar, but with Arizona’s outstanding performance it was not an embarrassing year either.
A major argument against the Pac-12 this season is that with the exception of Cal (RPI rank: 31), the conference has been largely absent from the top-50 RPI rankings (Washington currently ranks at 59).
How has the Pac-12 performed against AP Top 25 ranked opponents during the 2011-2012 season?
During the 2011-2012 season, Pac-12 teams have played a total of 12 games with then-ranked AP Top 25 opponents. In those games they have a win-loss record of 0-12. Not great.
However, about half of those losses have been by two possessions or fewer: Arizona against then-No. 12 Florida (72-78), Oregon State against then-No. 18 Vanderbilt (62-64), Stanford against then-No. 5 Syracuse (63-69), Washington against then-No. 11 Marquette (77-79) and Washington against then-No. 7 Duke (80-86).
Following Duke’s win over Washington, Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski had this to say: “I’m proud of our team. We beat a really talented Washington team, a team that was two possessions away from being 6-1. They played really good basketball…”
Any of the Pac-12 teams can get into the NCAA tournament by winning the Pac-12 Conference tournament (March 7-10, 2012, Staples Center).
As it currently stands, conference leaders Cal (21-6, 11-3 Pac-12) and Washington (18-8, 11-3 Pac-12) have the best chance of receiving an at-large NCAA tournament bid. These two teams need to continue winning in their remaining games if they do not want to worry about having to go very far in the Pac-12 Conference tournament to get a bid.
Arizona (19-8, 10-4 Pac-12), Colorado (17-8, 9-4 Pac-12) and Oregon (18-8, 9-5 Pac-12) are not far behind in the conference race with four or five games still remaining.
With no Pac-12 standout leader, any of these teams could be seen as potentially winning the Pac-12 Conference tournament this year.
While not the Pac-12's best season, looking at its NCAA tournament history and the current team records, there is little reason to believe that come the first tipoff of 2012 March Madness, only one Pac-12 team will be in the Big Dance.