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College Basketball

Forgot About The Pac-12, Did Ya?

Wayne Tinkle celebrates with his crew.
Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Wayne Tinkle will have the last laugh after all. Last night, his Oregon State Beavers comfortably dispatched the Oklahoma State Cowboys to reach their first NCAA men’s tournament Sweet 16 since 1982. The Cowboys came into the tournament with seven freshmen, the most in the men’s bracket, though one of those freshmen is Cade Cunningham, who will almost certainly be the top pick in the forthcoming NBA Draft. The Beavers turned it on early and dropped 44 points in the first half, the most OK State has surrendered all year, and held the Cowboys to 27.7 percent shooting, their worst mark in seven years. This sequence, given the esteemed steam-nose from Bleacher Report, sums up how the game went:

What’s even more impressive than their confident win or sweatless dispatching of the nation’s top freshman is how unlikely this all is for the Beavers program. Pac-12 media picked them to finish dead last in the conference, even though they share it with Cal, and they had to win three straight elimination games over fellow NCAA tournament-goers to capture a Pac-12 tournament title. Now they’ve pulled off two tournament upsets over teams with highly touted NBA prospects to line up a date with Loyola-Chicago. “We’re obviously putting everybody on notice,” Tinkle said after the win. “I’m very happy for our program, but I’m extremely happy for the Pac-12 Conference. Maybe now we’ll get some damn respect.”

The conference’s recently woebegone cadre of men’s teams has gone about earning that respect so far. Only one tournament removed from a historically crappy season, Pac-12 teams are a perfect 7-0 thus far. UCLA has bashed its way past the first four into the second round while favored Colorado and USC teams took care of business. Evan Mobley, who’ll probably go right after Cunningham in the draft, looked “real good” according to my mostly untrained eye. Oregon even advanced past VCU via health and safety protocol, a feat which we can’t give them credit for but can note that it is unprecedented. Once they actually stepped on the court, the Ducks hung 95 on Iowa and presumptive player of the year Luka Garza in a display showing that they possess a staggering quantity of juice.

Speaking of which, this is thankfully also taking place in a year where the Big Ten dominated all year, earned the largest share of the tournament’s top-eight seeds (four) in history, yet has mostly farted and died in the actual tournament. Three of those four have gone quietly. Wow. Who would have thought the “Conference of Champions” would outstrip “Dream Big” (?) when the chips were down? Who could have predicted that the best player in college would watch as a team called the Ducks broke out into a dunk contest? Who could have foreseen that Ohio State would fall to Bobby Mouth, or that Illinois would fall to a team best known for a mustache and an ancient nun, or that Purdue would get owned by a team whose mascot is a color? Who could have imagined that Purdue coach Matt Painter would defend his conference’s honor by saying, “No, we had as great a year as a conference. You’re one point away in three different games from winning, and you don’t win,” without remembering that the whole point is to win and not lose by one point with dignity? Who could have imagined a good chunk of the country by land area coping with their losses by accepting Hunter Dickinson as a savior? Who could have seen Tom Izzo showing his whole ass?

The prophet Wayne Tinkle, that’s who. Sister Jean, you’re next.