This is a pretty important weekend for West Coast college basketball for two reasons. One, Gonzaga (34-1), Arizona (32-4), Oregon (31-5) and UCLA (31-4) all play in the Sweet 16. And two, a West Coast team hasn’t advanced to the Final Four since 2008 or won a national championship since 1997.
So yeah, this weekend is big.
“It’s the biggest weekend (for West Coast basketball since) I’ve been alive,” FOXSports1 and Pac-12 college basketball analyst Casey Jacobsen said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I’ve only been playing or covering or watching college hoops maybe 20, 25 years of the 36 years I’ve been on earth. This is gigantic.”
Arizona was the last West Coast team to win a national title, as Miles Simon led the Wildcats to a win over Kentucky 20 years ago.
“It’s weird to me to think that’s the last time a Pac-12 team hoisted the trophy at the end of the year because if you look at NBA players produced, the Pac-12 is only second behind the ACC in the amount of NBA players it puts in,” Jacobsen said. “So it has nothing to do with talent, and in my opinion, it has nothing to do with coaching. So what is it? Is it bad match-ups? Bad breaks?”
Jacobsen isn’t sure, but he does know one thing: a West Coast team from the West region needs to reach the Final Four.
“At the very least, somebody’s got to come out of that West bracket between Gonzaga and Arizona,” Jacobsen said. “Both of those coaches (Mark Few and Sean Miller), in my opinion, are the two best coaches in college basketball that we have that have yet to make a Final Four. And then, also add the fact that the Final Four is in Phoenix. Arizona, to me, has got to be the favorite amongst this group. They’re the strongest team right now. They seem to be getting better at just the right moment.”
Arizona is 26-2 over its last 28 games, with the only losses coming at Oregon and against UCLA.
Gonzaga plays No. 4 West Virginia (28-8) on Thursday at 7:39 p.m. ET, with Arizona playing No. 11 Xavier (23-13) at 10:09 p.m. ET.
Looking at the Midwest, Jacobsen believes that No. 3 Oregon will get by No. 7 Michigan (26-11) but would struggle against No. 1 Kansas (30-4) in the Elite Eight – if the Jayhawks beat No. 4 Purdue (27-7), that is.
UCLA, meanwhile, might be the most talented team left in the tournament, but the Bruins have a potentially stiff road ahead. The Bruins could have to play – and beat – Kentucky, North Carolina and Kansas just to reach the national championship.
“UCLA’s got so much work to do,” Jacobsen said. “They’re capable of winning a title, but they got a ton of work to do.”