Power rankings: Pac-12, WCC, MWC men's basketball, NCAA Tournament Preview Edition

By Nate Gagon

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, March 18 2014 9:05 p.m. MDT

Utah Utes forward Jordan Loveridge (21) drives between the Arizona Wildcats defense during a game at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014.

Matt Gade, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

Last year, as I pointed out in the first edition of these power rankings, was a very disappointing NCAA Tournament for the Pac-12, Mountain West and West Coast conferences, with no teams advancing past the Sweet 16.

Arizona (No. 6 seed) and Oregon (No. 12) were the only two that even got out of the Round of 32.

Gonzaga, you may remember, was a No. 1 seed last year but lost to the now-famous Wichita State Shockers (who went all the way to the Final Four) in the Round of 32.

Others that lost in the second round were San Diego State (No. 7 seed), Colorado State (No. 8) and California (No. 12).

Several other teams from these conferences were first-round casualties: New Mexico (No. 3 seed) and UCLA (No. 5 seed) endured embarrassing upsets while Colorado (No. 10), Saint Mary’s (No. 11), Boise State (No. 13) and Pacific (No. 15) also failed to win a game in the tournament.

Meanwhile, none of our Utah teams even made the Big Dance, though BYU made a nice run to the NIT Final Four.

This season has not been overly impressive for these three conferences, either. The top three conferences in the west combined to get just 10 teams into the tournament (two less than last year, if you count Pacific).

The seeds were slightly better on average this season, however. Last year the average seed for teams from these conferences was an 8.6. This year, thanks to having no teams seeded lower than a No. 10, the average seed is a 6.9.

In my bracket, published today as part of my weekly Utah Sports Ruckus column, I picked Arizona State and New Mexico to make the Round of 32; San Diego State, UCLA and Oregon to make the Sweet 16; and I picked Arizona to win it all.

So, this would certainly be an improvement over last year for these conferences.

Here are is my NCAA Tournament Preview Edition of the power rankings, with teams ranked according to how far I think they will go in the tournament.

1. Arizona Wildcats (Pac-12)

No change

I think Arizona (30-4), which kicks off the tournament by playing Weber State, has by far the easiest bracket in the tournament. I think Wisconsin is the weakest of the No. 2 seeds, Creighton is the weakest of the No. 3 seeds and San Diego State is the weakest of the No. 4 seeds.

The Wildcats absolutely suffocated the Utes in the Pac-12 Tournament, and I think they will have just enough offense to win the tournament with their defense.

2. UCLA Bruins (Pac-12)

Up two

The Bruins, who won the Pac-12 Tournament, have a great draw in the first two rounds starting with Tulsa and then playing either VCU or SF Austin in the second round. If Florida somehow loses before the Sweet 16, look for UCLA to go to the Final Four by beating Kansas in the Elite 8 round.

3. San Diego State Aztecs (MWC)

Down one

The Aztecs (29-4) have a tough opening opponent in the New Mexico State Aggies. These are the same Aggies that won at New Mexico earlier this season. I like the Aztecs’ draw with Oklahoma in the second round and look for them to make the Sweet 16 before bowing out to Arizona.

4. Oregon Ducks (Pac-12)

Up seven

I think Oregon got a fantastic draw in the tournament as a No.7 seed facing a BYU team that is not only over-seeded, but substantially wounded with Kyle Collinsworth out. I also like the Ducks’ matchup with Wisconsin in the second round and think they will beat the Badgers before losing to Baylor in a Sweet 16 bout.

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