Share This Article
It’s been two and a half decades since the Pac-12 conference has won a men’s basketball national championship. Let’s explore three teams who could snap the streak.
Social media does not exist.
Neither do iPhones, iPads or “Amazon Alexas.” Heck, the internet and email are just starting to gain popularity.
Puff Daddy and the Spice Girls top the billboard charts. Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys are plentiful.
George Clooney is Batman.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin is ushering in the WWF Attitude Era.
And dudes all over the world are trying to unstick the pages of their latest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue featuring cover model Tyra Banks.
March 31, 1997
On this night, the RCA Dome in Indianapolis is frantic. Nearly 50,000 fans are on hand to watch Arizona upset Kentucky in overtime to win the 1997 NCAA championship.
The victory clinched legendary coach Lute Olson’s first (and only) national title.
Led by future NBA players Michael Dickerson, Miles Simon, Mike Bibby and Jason Terry, the Wildcats secured the 15th national title for the Pac-12 men’s basketball conference.
The most won by any conference to that point.
Fast forward 25-years, and the Pac-12 still has 15 (now tied with the ACC).
In our latest podcast episode, I went on record and declared that this is the year the Pac-12 drought ends.
So let’s discuss this bold prediction…
First off, the Pac-12 has three legitimate contenders to make the Final Four. The triad of Arizona, UCLA and USC are all in line to get quality seeds on Selection Sunday.
Secondly, the ACC is having a down year. Virginia, North Carolina and Florida State are not having the caliber seasons they’ve had in recent history. Louisville is in the middle of a coaching search, and injury-stricken Syracuse just finished the regular season with a losing record.
This is significant because four of the last six NCAA Tournaments have had an ACC team in the championship game (winning three of those matchups).
Three national titles in the past six years, not too shabby.
Bottom line, if the Pac-12 is going to end their championship drought, it may as well be when the conference responsible for three of the past six championships is having a down year.
Okay, let’s dive into the three teams eager to end the drought.
Head Coach: Tommy Lloyd
Record: 28-3 (18-2) Regular Season Pac-12 Champions
National Ranking: #2
Projected Seed (as of 3/8): #1 (Lunardi)
When watching this Wildcat team play, the first thing that jumps off the screen is the team’s length and athleticism. They are long, fast and can wear teams out with their inside scoring.
Arizona is shooting nearly 50% from the field. Much of this can be attributed to 7-footers Christian Koloko and Azuolas Tubelis.
The rest of the starting five consists of point guard Kerr Kriisa (6’3), projected NBA lottery pick Bennedict Mathurin (6’6), and wingman Dalen Terry (6’7). Their combination of size and scoring ability create a matchup nightmare for anyone in the country.
Long-time Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd has been impeccable in his first season as the Wildcats head coach, but his success isn’t anything new for fans down in Tuscon.
Former Wildcat coach, Sean Miller, won 5 regular-season conference championships, 3 conference tournaments and eclipsed 30-wins four times.
Unfortunately for Coach Miller, Arizona never reached the Final Four during his tenure.
That’s why Tommy Lloyd was hired.
Coach Lloyd will head into the Big Dance with a loaded roster, plenty of momentum and a fanbase determined to snap the dreaded 25-year curse.
Head Coach: Mick Cronin
Record: 23-6 (15-5)
National Ranking: #13
Projected Seed (as of 3/8): #4 (Lunardi)
When Mick Cronin was hired a few years ago in Westwood, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe the rugged, hard-nosed Ohioan left his hometown program for the west coast.
To clarify, I didn’t blame him. I just didn’t think it would be a good fit for him or UCLA. Cronin deploys a tough, physical brand of basketball that made the Cincinnati Bearcats one of the most feared teams in the country.
I questioned how that style would fit into the Hollywood mold.
Cronin sure alleviated any concerns a season ago when he led the Bruins to the Final Four.
The core of that team is still on the roster.
Johnny Juzang, Tyger Campbell, Jaime Jaquez and Jules Bernard are all back and averaging double-figures in scoring.
They are gritty, unselfish, and a team that values every possession, as displayed in their regular-season finale finishing with just one turnover.
A play-in game against Michigan State ignited last year’s tourney run. This year, UCLA will likely be a 3 or 4 seed, depending on how they perform in the Pac-12 tournament.
The Bruins were an underdog in 2021. This year, they have unfinished business and are determined to win the program’s 12th national title.
Head Coach: Andy Enfield
Record: 24-6 (14-6)
National Ranking: #21
Projected Seed (as of 3/8): #7 (Lunardi)
I love this USC team. When Isaiah Mobley and Chevez Goodwin are clicking (and healthy), they’re as good as any frontcourt in the country.
The Trojans reached the Elite Eight last year before losing to Gonzaga. The loss exposed USC’s need for a true point guard.
So what did Coach Andy Enfield do?
He looked to the transfer portal and snagged Boogie Ellis.
A former highly-touted 4-star point guard who spent the first two years of his college career under Penny Hardaway at Memphis.
Games in March are won with elite guard play. Boogie Ellis has shown glimpses this season that he can be that guy.
The Trojans’ success in the Big Dance will rise and fall on Boogie Ellis and backcourt teammate Drew Peterson. Peterson has had a pleasant late-season surge in which he’s led the team in scoring in several games down the stretch.
Don’t get me wrong, Isaiah Mobley is the team’s best player, and USC will need him at his best.
But if the Trojans aspire to win the first national championship in program history, they will need excellent play from their backcourt.