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The Pac-12 Is Riding a High

Kyle Koster
Sarah Stier/Getty Images
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Somewhere Bill Walton is considering the mysteries of the universe, connecting very strongly with an extended prog-rock riff, attuning himself with the rhythms of the Pacific Ocean and beaming with pride over the Pac-12's NCAA Tournament performance. Because the group of schools he so fondly calls the Conference of Champions at every turn is now 8-0 in the NCAA Tournament after the Oregon flirted with 100 points against Iowa.

Now, one of those was the Ducks' 1-0 no-contest victory over VCU in the opening round, but still. It's a total domination. And an unexpected one coming into the Madness as the conference lacked any significant hype. Compare what the Pac-12 has done compared to their Rose Bowl foes from the Big Ten and it's more stark.

Colorado, which entered as the lowest-seeded team at No. 5, waxed Georgetown behind 96 points. USC dominated Drake while showcasing devastating athleticism and flashes of a potential Final Four team. UCLA overcame a 14-point deficit against Michigan State in the First Four before breezing past BYU to set up another winnable date with Abilene Christian. Oregon State rode the disrespect to double-digit successes against both Tennessee and Oklahoma State.

Walton's dream of five Pac-12 teams in the Final Four is very much alive and if you think it's not that's only because you're playing defense on your own brain and not seeing through the kaleidoscope of alternate realities. The dream only ends if you wake up. The colors only dim when you put limitations on their splendor.

There is not a flukier way in all of sports to crown a champion than a single-elimination where teams from every corner of the country are ushered onto an ark and forced to share a court for a low-possession basketball-playing content destined to come down to the final five minutes of play. This presents great theater, disappointment, and opportunity. Teams from the West Coast and states adjacent are seizing the moment and using their admission to hang out for another song. To jam a little longer, to worry about the future at a later date.

The full Walton suite. No losses. Just vibes. The Pac-12 is living its best life.

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