All season we heard how strong the Big Ten was from top to bottom. If the Big Ten wasn’t the best conference in the country, it was certainly among the top two along with the Big 12. The question entering the NCAA tournament was: How dominant would the Big Ten be in March? Could the league crash the Final Four and put two or three teams into college basketball’s final weekend? With the Big Ten having two No. 1 seeds and two No. 2 seeds, the conference was primed and ready to bring home a basketball championship for the first time since Michigan State raised the banner in 2000.
When it came to Pac-12 basketball, only Bill Walton was a believer. The experts picked on and disregarded any member of the Pac-12 as a real contender. The conference’s best-seeded team was No. 5 Colorado. The Pac-12 would have received only four bids had Oregon State not run the table in the conference tournament and secured the conference’s automatic bid. One of the conference’s at-large bids went to UCLA, and the Bruins had to win a First Four game just to get into the 64-team bracket.
Then the usual madness broke out. The heralded Big Ten entered the tournament with nine teams, but only Michigan remains as we head for the Sweet 16. The Pac-12 had only five teams in the bracket, but four are still dancing. The Pac-12 was also a perfect 5-0 in the first round. The Conference of Champions did not back into the tournament’s second weekend — it destroyed everything in its path. In the second round, USC won by 34 over Big 12 power Kansas, Oregon by 15 over Iowa of the Big Ten, Oregon State by 10 over Big 12 member Oklahoma State and UCLA by 20 over mid-major Abilene Christian. The Pac-12 won four second-round games by a mere 79 points!