If Tad Boyle had his way, conference tournaments would be a thing of the past.
That will never happen, of course. The entertainment and financial factors alone have made conference tournaments one of the biggest backbones of college basketball. Yet the leader of the Colorado Buffaloes believes the first-place team after an 18-game regular season, which concludes this week, should be rewarded with its league's automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
"To me, the true champion over an 18-game schedule should get the bid," Boyle said. "I'm not a big proponent of conference tournaments, quite frankly. The season is long enough. I know I'm barking up the wrong tree and it's not going to change anything, I get that. But I'll just go on record saying I don't think it's good. Especially for these lower conferences, where you win the league over a 16 or 18-game schedule and then you have one bad game in the tournament and you're out and you don't get an NCAA Tournament bid. That is so unfair.
"Now, everyone else likes it because everybody else still has that carrot dangling out there. And for Colorado right now, that carrot is a big carrot because we've done it before."
Boyle is referencing his team's run to the 2012 Pac-12 tournament title after entering the fray as the league's No. 6 seed, a run CU's leader is trying to use as a source of inspiration for his 16-13 club that will need a similarly improbable run to reach this year's Big Dance.
However, a dark horse will have a much more difficult time stealing the Pac-12's automatic bid than in 2012, when the league was so lightly regarded the regular season champion, Washington, didn't even receive an at-large bid. Only the Buffs and Cal, which didn't survive the first-round prelude "First Four" games, reached the tourney from the Pac-12.
This year, the Pac-12 features three top 10 teams in No. 3 UCLA, No. 6 Oregon, and No. 7 Arizona, all of which boast legitimate Final Four aspirations. USC also currently projects as an NCAA Tournament team, with Cal residing on the tournament bubble.
"Is the league better than it was (in 2012)? Not even close," Boyle said. "It's much more difficult this year. Doesn't mean it can't be done. We feel like on any given night we can beat anyone. We know that. But we have to do it."
Down to the wire
UCLA's win at Arizona on Saturday left the Wildcats in a virtual tie with Oregon atop the league standings at 15-2, with UCLA lurking at 13-3. If the teams finish in a tie Oregon will get the top seed for the Pac-12 tournament by virtue of the Ducks' win against Arizona on Feb. 4. Both squads complete the regular season with rivalry games on the road, with Arizona visiting Arizona State and the Ducks traveling to Oregon State. UCLA finishes at home against Washington and Washington State.
Brooks does it again
For the second time this season and the fourth time in his career, Oregon's Dillon Brooks was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week.
Like he did earlier this season against UCLA, Brooks came up with a clutch winning shot at the buzzer, using a 3-pointer to complete the Ducks' comeback win last week at Cal. Brooks went 9-for-18 against Cal, finishing with 22 points. Brooks followed up that performance by going 7-for-13 with 14 points and four assists in the Ducks' win at Stanford.
UCLA's win at Arizona gave the Bruins the distinction of being the first team to win at Kentucky's Rupp Arena and Arizona's McKale Center in the same season...Washington State senior Josh Hawkinson is 10 rebounds shy of becoming the Cougars' all-time leader.