Pac 12 Tournament 2012: Lowly Conference Has Most to Prove in Tourney

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistMarch 9, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 08:  Eric Moreland #15 of the Oregon State Beavers goes up for a shot against Terrence Ross #31 of the Washington Huskies in the first half during the quarterfinals of the 2012 Pacific Life Pac-12 basketball tournament at Staples Center on March 8, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Pac-12 doesn't have a ranked team.

Now that is a shocking lede.

It gets worse. According to Joe Lunardi, ESPN's bracketologist extraordinaire, the league only has two schools in the tournament as of today, and he has California as a No. 10 seed and Washington as a No. 11 seed.

In other words, there isn't another league in the country that has at much at stake in its conference tournament as the Pac-12 does. There are a whole slew of schools that would love to earn the conference's automatic qualifier.

As of now, Oregon is one of Lunardi's "First Four Out" and Arizona is one of his "Next Four Out." Coming into the tournament, each likely needed deep tournament runs, or potentially even the automatic qualifier that comes with a tournament win, to get into the NCAA tournament.

And schools like Colorado (20-11), UCLA (19-13) and Stanford (21-10) all came in needing to win to earn an NCAA berth.

The dream is already dead for some.

Crazy as this sounds, it is very possible that the Atlantic 10, Mountain West and West Coast conferences will all have more tourney bids than the Pac-12.

That isn't supposed to happen.

In another sense, it has made the tournament a more intense experience than it otherwise would have been. There isn't a team in this conference that should be taking it easy or assuming their spot in the tournament is safe—very little is certain in the Pac-12.

There isn't another conference that can say that.

At least for one year, the Pac-12 can stay quiet as pundits and fans decry the automatic bid that comes with winning a conference tournament. At least this year, most of the Pac-12 is thankful for that opportunity.


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