Boy, have I missed writing these past few days. I have all these thoughts floating around in my head that I've just wanted to get out, but man, being a dad is tough when your kid is in the hospital!
(Incidentally, Joshua is doing great -- his feedings are still being increased, and we hope to have him home in a few days. Thanks for asking!)
Let me start by saying that I'm one of those people that simply doesn't place a lot of stock in what happens in a conference tournament. I love watching them as much as the next guy, especially the one-bid conferences where so much is at stake.
But that's precisely why I just don't worry too much about how a team performs in a conference tournament, especially as an indicator of success in the NCAA Tournament. Unless a team has something substantial to play for, these things often end up being anticlimactic.
I mean, when you think back on this season, who's the Pac-10 champ? UCLA or Oregon? One won 15 games in the conference schedule; the other won three games in three days on a neutral court, having to beat only one team (USC) with a higher seeding.
There always are some intriguing matchups -- I was as excited as any Coug that our team beat the Huskies for the third time -- and sometimes a team tries to make a run to steal a bid, which makes for some fun drama for bubble teams (think N.C. State). But with so little at stake in the Pac-10, where five teams are locked into the field and a sixth is all but in, I just took it for what it was worth: Good, entertaining fun that, in the end, didn't mean a whole lot.
Other thoughts heading into Selection Sunday:
- Oregon is on one serious roll, as the conference championship was the Ducks' sixth consecutive win. And while Oregon only beat one ranked opponent in that span (then-No. 11 WSU), the Ducks' three wins in the Pac-10 Tournament came by an average of 20.3 points. Whatever it is that caused their inconsistency in the middle of the season, the Ducks are far beyond that now.
- The committee seems to be placing a lot of stock in these tournaments lately, much more than just a few years ago. (For reference, see Syracuse, 2006, and its ridiculous No. 5 seed after winning the Big East tournament on multiple last-second shots.) That said, it seems Oregon obviously helped itself the most. Don't be surprised if the Ducks end up as a No. 4 seed tomorrow -- they've got some seriously quality wins (one each over UCLA, Georgetown and two over WSU).
- USC helped itself, too, although I think it would have helped itself more if it hadn't gotten blown out. Look for the Trojans to end up as a No. 6 seed.
- I think WSU might have been hurt a little bit by its loss, if only because the Cougs haven't exactly finished the year on fire, going 7-3 in the last 10 with losses to UCLA, Oregon and USC. While none of those can be considered bad losses, the Cougs don't have a lot of signature wins (the ones they did get -- Arizona twice, Gonzaga -- just don't look as good in retrospect), and their non-conference schedule was pretty weak. Look for the Cougs to get some props for being the second-place team in the Pac-10, but to show up as a No. 4 seed.
- As for UCLA and Arizona? Count me among those who still believe UCLA is one of the premier teams in the country; the Bruins still should be a No. 1 seed tomorrow, although probably not the No. 1 overall seed. Arizona might have done itself some damage, if only because the Wildcats got blown out. Many think they might be facing their first double-digit seed in a while, but remember, the committee looks at a body of work (No. 1 seeded Washington in 2005, anyone?), and Arizona did some serious damage in the nonconference season.
- What happens with Stanford is anyone's best guess. The Cardinal didn't do itself any favors with their loss to USC, so they'll sweat it out tomorrow. After losing four out of five to end the year, ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi thinks they're out; so does Jerry Palm at CollegeRPI.com. But the committee oftentimes gives a significant amount of weight to extenuating circumstances -- things like injuries. Second-leading scorer Anthony Goods missed three weeks, during which time the Cardinal lost a number of games. They own some great wins (UCLA, WSU, Texas Tech, at Virginia) but also have some bad ones (Santa Clara, Cal, UW). My guess? They get in on the strength of their 10-8 conference record.