Payton Pritchard posted 20 points, seven assists, six rebounds and four steals as sixth-seeded Oregon beat top-seeded Washington 68-48 in the Pac-12 men's basketball championship game on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
No. 6 Oregon handles No. 1 Washington, 68-48 to win the Pac-12 title.— Bleacher Report CBB (@br_CBB) March 17, 2019
The Ducks join Colorado as the only team to win four games in four days to win the Pac-12 tournament. pic.twitter.com/n9MwafMV1b
Louis King added 15 points for the 23-12 Ducks, who won their fifth Pac-12 tournament championship game in school history. Paul White added 14 points.
Jaylen Nowell scored a team-leading eight points for the 26-8 Huskies, who shot 33.3 percent from the field and 5-of-23 from three-point range. Washington only scored two points over the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Oregon's Win Highlights Pac-12's Overall Weakness
Let's first give credit where it's due: The fact that Oregon was able to win the Pac-12 title game despite missing star player and likely future NBA lottery pick Bol Bol for the entirety of conference play is remarkable. The Ducks could have folded when they were 6-8 after 14 conference games, but eight straight wins have vaulted them into the NCAA tournament.
Their performance sans Bol makes one wonder the greater heights the Ducks could find with him on the court, but the fact that a team sans its star player ran through the tournament draw as a No. 6 seed is symbolic of the state of Pac-12 men's hoops as a whole. And that notion is backed up by further figures and sentiments.
No Pac-12 team was ranked in the top 46 in the Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings entering Saturday. Similarly, no team was in the top 36 of the Sagarin Ratings prior to the Pac-12 title game. The Pac-12 also ranks a distant sixth between the other power conference in D-I hoops.
The struggles haven't been contained to this year either. UCLA made three straight Final Fours from 2006 to 2008. Since then, only the 2016-17 Ducks have represented the conference that far. No Pac-12 team has won a Final Four game in 13 years.
The league isn't exactly bereft of top talent, which makes the struggles even more bizarre. NBADraft.net lists eight Pac-12 players in its latest two-round NBA mock draft, and Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report lists four going in the first round.
The sentiment goes for a wider selection of talent as well. Eight Pac-12 teams resided in the top 31 of the class of 2017 recruiting list, and six more were in the top 22 of the class of 2018 list, per 247Sports.
But that talent hasn't led to improved team play. One issue is that the usual Pac-12 powers are going through rough times. UCLA changed coaches midseason. Arizona is the subject of a federal investigation and NCAA inquiry. Stanford, which dominated at times during the 2000s, has been mediocre this decade.
And now the league may only have two NCAA tournament bids this season. Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports suggested that should be the case:
Oregon completing the bid thievery. Given the state of the Pac-12, a just solution would be making it a zero-sum bid steal -- either Washington or Arizona State departs.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) March 17, 2019
If Joe Sheehan of Sports Illustrated had his way, the Pac-12 may only be a one-bid league:
I think UW gets in, but I would love it if they didn’t, mostly as a wake-up call for a Pac-12 that is just barely holding on as a major football and basketball conference.— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) March 17, 2019
Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports thinks the Pac-12 will have three teams (the two finalists plus Arizona State) but summed up the state of the conference well with a remark about the regular-season champion:
The good for the Pac-12?— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 17, 2019
It should have three teams in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
The bad for the Pac-12?
Its regular season winner --- Washington --- will enter the field of 68 without a win over an at-large team in the bracket.
Oregon steals a bid in Las Vegas.
As Rothstein reminds us, though, this is March. Anything can happen, like a No. 11 seed making the Final Four and a No. 16 seed upsetting a No. 1 seed in the same tournament, which occurred last year.
But on the surface, an ugly, low-scoring Pac-12 title game was the symbol of a rough season for the league, one which is a giant step behind its fellow power conferences.
Both teams will wait to hear their names on Sunday during the NCAA tournament selection show, which begins at 6 p.m. ET on CBS.