It’s a particularly weak west for college basketball teams this season, as it looks like the Sweet 16 might be about the best a western representative can hope for in the NCAA basketball Tournament.
Still, there might be as many as 12, 14 western teams qualifying for the 65-team field. The critical questions are whether the Pac-12, the Mountain West and the West Coast Conference will each get three teams. That may be stretching it.
Here’s a GolfersWest look ahead this week at the conference tournaments that begin (and end), with an eye of which teams might advance to the Big Dance:
- Gonzaga (25-5): The Zags beat Brigham Young in the WCC semifinals, 74-63, and will play St. Mary’s (25-6) for the championship Mondan night in Vegas. Winner and likely loser will advance.
- Washington (21-9): Despite a last-game loss to UCLA, the Huskies earned UW’s second outright conference title in 58 years. They won 10 of last 12 and are the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament that begins Wednesday. Will advance no matter what.
- St. Mary’s (26-5): Won the outright WCC regular-season title for first time in 23 years but struggled at the end. Even if the Gaels lose to Gonzaga, have done enough to earn a spot in the field.
- San Diego St. (24-6): Won a share of the Mountain West title and No. 1 seed in the tournament that starts Thursday. Led by G Nate Wolters, eighth in the nation at 21.8 ppg, should reach the conference finals. That should be enough to get included.
- New Mexico (24-6): Beat the good teams; lost to a couple bad down the stretch ones to hurt chances. Not a good non-conference or road record. Need to do well in Mountain West tourney.
- California (23-8): Had a chance at Pac-12 title share but lost to rival Stanford Sunday, 75-70 (combined with a loss last Sunday to Colorado). Still a quality team. If Bears reach the final, that might do it.
- Long Beach St. (22-8): Went 15-1 in Big West to earn No. 1 seed. Lost to rival Cal- Fullerton last week, 77-74. Not a strong league. Must get at least to championship game.
- UNLV (25-7): Had control of the conference but loss three of last six. Probably needs to win Mountain West tournament to get in. And the tourney is in Vegas.
- Nevada (25-5): Quietly has had a great season, WAC champions at 13-1, won 22 of last 24 – with two four-point losses – and beat rival New Mexico State Thursday, 65-61. Tragic if the Wolf Pack does not advance if they lose conference tournament.
- Montana (23-6): Won the Big Sky at 15-1 and begins tournament Tuesday as the No. 1 seed. Only one Big Sky team likely will be picked and Montana – on a 12-game win streak – has been the most consistent.
- Weber State (23-5): Led by G Damian Lillard, the second leading scorer in the country at 24.5 ppg, the high-scoring Wildcats still likely need to win the Big Sky – and beat Montana – in order to continue.
- BYU (25-8): Lost to Gonzaga Thursday, 74-63, in WCC semifinals – second time in a week. Have beaten good teams and only loss by three to No. 7 Baylor. But three WCC teams is a stretch.
- Arizona (21-10): With a 87-80 loss to lowly ASU Sunday, also are on the edge as the third Pac-12 team. Without a tournament championship, it’s a tough sell for the Wildcats.
- Oregon (22-8): Ducks actually passed Arizona for third place in the conference. Have won four in a row and six of seven, including 82-57 over Washington. Tournament success will be the key.
- New Mexico State (23-9): The 14th highest scoring team in the nation at 78.4 ppg and 7th in rebounding at 40.1 rpg, it’s a quality team but Nevada has its number. Needs conference tournament title to get in.
- Cal-State Fullerton (21-8): This is the 12th highest scoring team in the country at 78.6 ppg – 4thin three-point percentage at 41.2 – have won eight of last nine. Motivated to win the Big West.