California, Washington only Pac-10 teams in NCAAs
California and Washington were the only Pac-10 teams to get bids
in the NCAA tournament on Sunday, capping a decidedly down season
for a league that sent six teams to the postseason’s biggest bash
each of the last two years.
The league’s automatic berth went to Washington (24-9), which
beat California (23-10) in the conference tournament after
finishing second in the regular season. The Golden Bears got in on
the strength of winning their first regular-season title in 50
Teams like 11-time national champion UCLA and Arizona, which had
made 25 straight NCAA tourney appearances, are staying home.
Southern California never had a chance, having declared itself
ineligible for postseason play as part of self-imposed sanctions
for violating NCAA rules involving former star O.J. Mayo.
So Washington will travel to San Jose, Calif., on Thursday for a
first-round game against Marquette (22-11), while Cal got sent
across the country to Jacksonville, Fla., to play Louisville
(20-12) the same day.
The Pac-10 was among the nation’s elite leagues in recent years,
but that changed this season when a combination of early departures
to the NBA draft, new coaches and a lack of stars weakened its
The league had a team in the final AP Top 25 rankings every
season since 1986 until this year. It flopped during the
nonconference season, going 2-12 against ranked opponents with
several ugly losses.
“Some of the losses that we got early on in the league,
everybody just hurt the perception,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery
said. “So then when that became the perception, there was no way
we could beat anybody in the league and have it help anybody. And
if we lost a game in the league, it was only going to hurt the
During the second half of the season, the league fought the
suggestion that only one of its teams would get in the NCAAs. The
Pac-10 has never drawn fewer than two bids since the tourney
expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
“I don’t think it was very fair at all,” Washington coach
Lorenzo Romar said. “Once a statement is made publicly sometimes,
it gains a lot of momentum and begins to snowball.”
Of course, the Pac-10 plays its games when much of the rest of
the country is already asleep. None of the teams finished the
season ranked among the top 20 in the RPI, either.
Like some mid-majors, Pac-10 schools are given little credit for
beating each other and their middling performance outside the
league didn’t help.
“The Pac-10 is always blue-collar, good-play basketball and
everybody gets after it,” Washington’s Darnell Gant said. “And
the Pac-10 is a good conference whether there’s a lot of lottery
picks or not.”
Romar believed the Huskies had already done enough to ensure a
berth, but he knows winning the Pac-10 tourney title didn’t
“I’ve watched Selection Sunday many years and seen teams with
great resumes that are denied on that day,” he said. “So thank
goodness that these guys made it happen and left no doubt.