Is it too late to change our minds about who gets into the Pac-12 Conference?
The reason I am asking is that I can’t help but notice that the best men’s basketball program in the western United States continues to be Gonzaga.
• The Zags have advanced to 20 NCAA tournaments in Mark Few’s 20 years as head coach, including this year when they are the No. 1 seed in the West and will play Thursday in the Sweet 16 against Florida State. No one in the Pac-12 is even close. Arizona is at 16 of 20, UCLA is at 13 of 20 and Oregon is at 11 of 20. The Beavers are at 1 for 20.
• Few has earned three No. 1 seeds in the past 7 years. In that time span only Arizona (2014) and the Ducks (2017) from the Pac-12 have received a No. 1.
• The Zags have advanced to the Sweet 16 9 times in the 20 years under Few and have a runner-up finish. UCLA also has 9 Sweet 16s and leads the Zags in Final Fours, 3-1. Arizona also has 9 Sweet 16s and a Final Four. Oregon is next with 5 Sweet 16s and a Final Four. Please note that since the 1999-2000 season, the beginning of the Few era, Cal, OSU, ASU and Colorado all have 0 Sweet 16s. USC hasn't been there since 2007 and it's 2008 for WSU.
• Few’s Gonzaga program has won 23 or more games in all of those 20 years, a record no Pac-12 team can match. In 5 of the past 7 seasons, starting with the 2012-13 campaign, the Zags have won at least 30 games. Arizona has 3 such seasons, the Ducks 2 and UCLA 1 in that span. Please note that in those 20 years OSU has never reached 23 wins. And Few has 6 more seasons with 28 or more.
• Few’s 2016-17 team played for the NCAA title and lost to North Carolina by 6. Only Arizona (2001) and UCLA (2006) among Pac-12 teams has played in a final in those 20 years.
Yes, there are some caveats here. The Pac-12 is a tougher conference top to bottom, but it’s hard to get to 20 consecutive NCAAs. Actually the Zags are at 21 in a row, counting the final year under Dan Monson in the 1998-99 season. The only teams currently ahead of Gonzaga are Michigan State at 22 consecutive years, Duke at 24 and Kansas at 30. UCLA had a 15-year streak from 1967-81 and Arizona had a 14 from 1985-98.
But haven’t you noticed that no one is spreading rumors about Few, who turns 57 in December, taking over a Pac-12 program? Why should he? He has the best program on the West Coast already.