In the first few minutes Thursday – when Belmont took an early lead over UCLA – the sportswriter next to me leans over and says, “This could be the worst day in the history of the Pac-10.”
His point was that it would be bad enough if an unknown No. 15 seed like Belmont from the Atlantic Sun conference could beat the champion of the Pacific-10 conference. And that would move all the way to embarrassing if Utah State would be Washington later in the evening.
Now, on Friday morning, we have a new question: How good of a tournament might this be for the Pac-10?
Answer: very good.
The conference that took a lot of national grief during the season begins Day 2 with all four teams still alive. UCLA and Washington both rolled, doing to lesser opponents what good teams do to lesser opponents. Later today, seven-seed California will play No. 10 seed NC State, and No. 8 seed Arizona will play No. 9 seed Wisconsin.
So two Pac-10 teams already have advanced, and seeding expected the other two to do so today.
Then things will get really interesting on Saturday when the big boys square off. Those cute little teams are part of the fun of the NCAA tournament, but those cute little teams are flying out of San Diego today. Saturday in San Diego features big-time schools from big-time conferences: Alabama vs. UCLA and Washington vs. Illinois.
We’ll have much more on the Huskies and Illini in a few hours after the teams practice and meet the media.
But for just now, there’s no reason to think this won’t be a very good tournament for the Pac-10.