When it came time to pick the schools for the 2013 NCAA Tournament, the selection committee treated the Pacific 12 Conference like that high school friend who you really didn’t want to invite to your wedding but was forced to bring along and ended up stashing them all the way back in the room. Members of the selection committee must really hate the Pac-12 based on the seedings they handed out.
Arizona, ranked all year in the top 25, got no higher than a sixth seeding. Colorado got a 10th seeding, while California was seeded 12th. But the two biggest disses were felt in Eugene, Ore., and Westwood.
UCLA is the outright Pac-12 champion with arguably the best freshman in the nation in Shabazz Muhammad and the most efficient point guard in senior Larry Drew II. As a reward, the Bruins are given a sixth-seeding and shipped to the South Region where they travel to Austin, Texas, to face 11th-seeded Minnesota. Sure the Bruins are hobbling into the NCAA tourney without freshman starter and third-leading scorer Jordan Adams, who is out with a broken foot, and sure they have a big “L” on their resume at the hands of lowly Cal Poly, but giving them a No. 6 seeding is a huge slap in the face.
“The way the bracket is set up is very interesting. I’m just looking forward to going out there and playing. Anything can happen in this tournament,” Drew II told uclabruins.com.
Oregon was a top-15 team until freshman point guard Dominic Artis went down with an injury. Artis has since returned and the Ducks finished second in the Pac-12 regular season and captured the tournament title in Las Vegas, beating UCLA 78-69. The Ducks also have wins over UNLV (a fifth seed in the tourney) and Arizona, and swept UCLA. So how do you explain the Ducks’ No. 12-seeding in the Midwest Region? Baffling.
The Bruins came into this season with a boatload of expectations, bolstered by a top-10 freshman class. After a slow start and a few defections, the young Bruins bought into Ben Howland’s system and won nine of their last 12 games. The loss of Adams hurts, but don’t count out these battle-tested Bruins. Muhammad loves the big stage and what better way to audition for the NBA than having a sensational NCAA tourney run. Drew II is one of the best point guards in the country, but you’ll never hear about him because he’s not as flashy as Trey Burke or as hard-nosed as Aaron Craft. All Drew II does is manage the offense and plays with great poise.
Howland’s teams may not be entertaining, but they play the perfect style to win tournament games. They grind it out. L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke says there is a dark cloud hanging over Howland’s head and only a Sweet 16 appearance may save his job.
Expect Howland and the Bruins to at least advance past Minnesota, which has lost seven of its last 10, making the potential matchup with Florida’s Billy Donovan — Howland’s nemesis — looms large in the second round.