Brandon Ashley vs UCLA

Now would be a great time for the Wildcats to put their size to good use.
Photo by Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It’s 1986 all over again.

That was Lute Olson’s third season at Arizona and he won his first Pac-10 title only to receive just a 9-seed in the NCAA tournament. Second-place Washington was the only other team from the conference to get in and the Huskies were a 12.

We can’t even blame East Coast bias for the Pac-12’s low seeds this year. There are well-regarded teams out west but they happen to be in the West Coast Conference (#1 Gonzaga) and Mountain West (#3 New Mexico and #5 UNLV).

This Week in the Pac-12 (TWit-Pac) Marches on with the TV schedule (all times Arizona/Pacific) plus baseball down below.

Date     Time TV
Thu Mar 21 #5 Okla. St. #12 Oregon 1:40 PM TNT
  #6 ARIZONA #11 Belmont 4:20 PM TNT
  #5 UNLV #12 Cal 4:27 PM TRU
Fri Mar 22 #7 Illinois #10 Colorado 1:40 PM TNT
  #6 UCLA #11 Minnesota 6:57 PM TRU

WEST
#6 ARIZONA (25-7) vs. #11 Belmont (26-6)
Belmont is a University, not a College, thank you very much. It is located in Nashville and the school colors are also red and navy blue.

If they win they play…
#3 New Mexico / #14 Harvard winner. Harvard University is 276 years older than the state of New Mexico.

EAST
#11 Cal (20-11) vs. #5 UNLV (25-9)
The Rebels beat Cal in December, back when the Bears were bad. But after losing the last game of the regular season and first game of the Pac-12 tournament, the Bears might be back to bad again.

If they win they play…
#4 Syracuse / #13 Montana winner. I’m liking these matchups between venerated eastern private colleges and state schools from the wild west. The Syracuse metropolitan area only has 342,000 fewer people than the entire state of Montana.

#10 Colorado (21-11) vs. #7 Illinois (22-12)
You’re not going to find any Arizona fans having difficulty rooting against the Illini.

If they win they play…
#2 Miami / #15 Pacific winner. A school named after one ocean against a school on the coast of another ocean…playing deep in the heart of Texas.

SOUTH
#6 UCLA (25-9) vs. #11 Minnesota (20-12)
It was the best of games; it was the worst of games for the Bruins. UCLA beat Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals but lost guard Jordan Adams for the season with a broken foot. To make matters worse, it was after one of his best games of the year to inflate his value in the eyes of the selection committee. That’s why the Pacific-12 champion has a worse seed than the Atlantic 10 champion.

If they win they play…
#3 Florida / #14 Northwestern State winner. How are Northwestern and Northwestern State supposed to be rivals if they’re 950 miles apart?

MIDWEST
#12 Oregon (26-8) vs. Oklahoma State (24-8)
Oregon was the first Pac-12 team announced on Selection Sunday and it was the first Uh-oh moment for the other teams. If the 2nd place/conference tournament champ is a 12-seed, what are we?? The rest of the league soon found out the “we” was “not good.”

If they win they play…
#4 St. Louis / #13 New Mexico State winner. The Billikens started the season 3-3 but honored their former coach Rick Majerus by going 24-3 after his passing.

* * *

Even though you’re supposed to root for the other teams in your conference come tournament time you might have difficulty pulling for a bitter rival. Wildcat Universe doesn’t have that conflict with ASU thanks to the Devils earning the third NIT bid of the Herb Sendek era (and ninth of Sendek’s career).

Wildcat fans may also be tempted to hope UCLA fails. If your distaste for all things baby blue had been in remission I’m guessing watching the Cats lose three times to the Bruins (and get blasted during the football season) got the rivalry juices flowing.

This is a year, however, to put that all aside. It’s clear the Pac’s national reputation is still very broken and the only way to repair it is to beat teams from other leagues. Root for all five Pac-12 teams to win every possible game so that next year and beyond – when Sean Miller looks to have some extremely talented teams – the conference gets a lot more seeding credit.

In the Wildcats’ opening game you won’t find a simpler set of keys. Belmont makes a ton of 3s so the UA has to defend the perimeter. Belmont is 2012-Arizona tiny so this year’s Cats need to go get rebounds. All of them.

The Other Bruins’ biggest advantage is 3 > 2 so Arizona needs to earn extra possessions by grabbing offensive rebounds and taking care of the ball.

That’s it. The small team is going to try and force turnovers and make 3-pointers and the big team is going to try and dominate the glass and own the paint.

The Cats can go back to being David if they win one game as Goliath.

* * *

The Pac-12 lied! A while back they announced which baseball games were going to be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks but then they changed their mind.

It appears Friday’s Arizona game will be on TV but you have to earn back our trust, Mr. P12N.

Here is who the polls like after one week of conference play:

BA CB NC PG USA Avg
OSU 3 2 4 5 4 3.6
UCLA 11 9 7 4 7 7.6
Oregon 13 15 12 16 12 13.6
Stanford 17 17 18 19 19.4
ASU 20 22 21 19 21 20.6
ARIZONA 25 25.8

BA = Baseball America
CB = Collegiate Baseball
NC = National Collegiate Baseball Writers
PG = Perfect Game
USA = USA Today/ESPN coaches’ poll

Here are the conference series that make up week two:

ARIZONA (15-8 / 0-3) at Oregon (15-6 / 2-1)

ASU (12-4 / 1-2) at OSU (19-1 / 3-0)

Cal (13-7 / 3-0) at UCLA (15-3 / 3-0)

Utah (8-9 / 0-3) at Stanford (10-5 / 0-0)

USC (8-11 / 1-2) at Washington (4-14 / 0-3)

Brown (1-6) at WSU (11-7 / 2-1)

Needless to say it wasn’t a good start to Pac-12 play for the defending champs, who are now hanging onto just one of the top-25 polls by a thread. This week won’t be any easier as the BatCats take on another top-15 team, this time on the road. The best plan when you’re struggling is just focus on getting one win and going from there.

Just like the basketball team.

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Scott Terrell does not want to be done with one. Survive and advance on Twitter and Facebook.