Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

We welcome back Bill Walton’s ‘Conference… of Champions,’ the Pac-12, as a hoops behemoth (4 out of the Sweet 16!)

Chevez Goodwin reps Pac-12 basketball with a throwdown against Kansas.
Chevez Goodwin reps Pac-12 basketball with a throwdown against Kansas.
Photo: Getty Images

The Pac-12 is playing like the best conference in basketball so far in this year’s tourney, and I for one could not be happier about it. Maybe it’s just the native Oregonian in me that hates the lack of respect that this conference gets in the sports world due to the problem that the Pac-12 “After Dark” moniker presents, considering they play after the east coast has gone to sleep, but it’s thrilling to see the conference kicking ass now on the big stage of the Big Dance.

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Heading into the Sweet 16, the Pac-12 has four representatives left — No. 6 USC, No. 7 University of Oregon, No. 11 UCLA, and No. 12 Oregon State. All four teams won by double digits in the Round of 32.

Oregon looked like a powerhouse on the defensive side of the ball, and were throwing down monster dunks on seemingly every other possession, kicking the bricks off of No. 2 Iowa 95-80 (and they took their foot off the gas late). USC buried Kansas, handing them their largest loss in the men’s tourney in school history, 85-51. Oregon State, who was picked to finish last in the Pac-12 and went on to win the Pac-12 championship, upset No.4 Oklahoma State, 80-70. UCLA did what they should have done and sent No. 14 Abilene Christian home, 67-47.

Gonzaga is getting all the love for their dominant, undefeated run, and they absolutely deserve it. It’s going to take a monumental effort for any team to best them this year with their absurd efficiency. They averaged 92.1 points per game and shot 55 percent from the floor during the regular season, both leading the nation. Watching them, it feels like they can do whatever they want. They can play from the post, the ball is constantly moving, they find the right shot, and you assume it’s going in whenever they let it go. They’re a terrifying team, led by annoyingly talented forward Drew Timme, who is currently rocking a disgusting moustache/headband combo.

I guess when you go for 30 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, and a block, you can look however you want to look.

One of these Pac-12 teams might have the best odds left to take down Gonzaga after a slightly uninspiring showing by Michigan last night. Maybe it’s all the moss. Or the pine trees. Or the mushrooms — after all, as Pac-12 legend Bill Walton once said (when he wasn’t grunting like a beaver), “I have found that mushrooms only help you.” How can you argue such logic?

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The Pac-12 has shown up and stolen the show in this tournament, hopefully earning the respect that they deserve. Speaking of respect, there were these two birds that perched themselves on the rail outside my apartment for like two hours the other day. I just sat and watched them and marveled at their peace, sipping my coffee while listening to the Grateful Dead, channeling my inner Walton. I looked at them and deeply contemplated whether or not these two birds had ever been to a volcano. Anyway...

The Pac-12 will continue its run to glory in the Sweet 16 this weekend, and unfortunately one squad will have to go home — Oregon and USC will face off in what feels more like a football matchup than a basketball one, which will make for great theater. Oregon State will get Loyola Chicago, and UCLA will dance with Alabama. The Pac-12 has solidified themselves once again as a basketball conference. Hopefully this year’s showing will only help their recruiting process going forward.