2019 March Madness – Pac-12 Edition

Salsa.  Merengue.  Cha-cha. The Hype.  The Floss.

Pick your poison, but there’s only one dance that matters at this time of year.  And there are three teams from the Pacific Northwest who are participating—Washington, Oregon and Gonzaga—and each are intriguing for different reasons.

Let’s look at them in order of reverse expectations, starting with the lowest and working our way up.  (There’s a double-secret agenda here. Let’s see if you can figure it out).


In some ways, Oregon (23-12, 10-8) has no business being in this tournament.  They started out the season rough, losing to any team they played that had a pulse—one exception being Syracuse—but finished strong, winning their final eight games, including beating the brakes off of Washington in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game.  They ended up finishing tied for fourth in the conference, nothing to write home about, but they’ve got all kinds of momentum right now, given how they’ve performed as of late.

That puts them as a 12 seed in the tournament, and they face off against old nemesis Wisconsin, whom they lost to in the 2014 and 2015 tournaments.  Wisconsin (23-10, 14-6) is a decent, middle-of-the-road Big Ten team, and is a five seed in the tournament, mostly behind the strength, size, power and shooting of big man Ethan Happ.

Should Oregon pull off the upset on Friday, they likely will face a four-seed Kansas State team.  Make it out of the first weekend, and that sets the Ducks’ trajectory on a collision course with one-seed Virginia, which seems like an awfully tall order, and that’s assuming they can win a game in between against the winner of the 8-9 seed matchup of Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma.  But sometimes having people not expect much of you, at least sports-wise, gives you the perfect opportunity to prove them wrong.


Which Washington (26-8, 15-3) team is going to show up?  Is it the one who lost to lowly Cal and then did a first-class fold job against Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament title game, or is it the one who mostly rolled through their season and conference in devastating fashion, getting a tournament bid and winning the regular season conference crown, both for the first time in eight years?

The Huskies, an eight seed, are paired against a nine-seed Utah State team that some are calling the hottest Cinderella prospect in the country, coming as they are off a 10-game winning streak and a conference championship of their own.  The early line on the game actually favors the Aggies by a point or two.

The problem, for Washington, is that should they win their first game they collide with likely first-round winner, North Carolina.  You may have heard of them. They’re like, good at basketball and stuff. The upside is that should the Huskies pull off that upset, that would be enough mojo to carry them much, much further.


Will this finally be the year for the Zaggies? Is this the best Gonzaga team yet?  Many believe it is, and the fact that they lost their conference tournament title game to St. Mary’s, scoring only 47 points, should not really be taken into account.  They are big and long and deep and powerful on offense, a lethal combination for teams to plan for on short notice.

Is there any team that has the potential to outscore Gonzaga? There are probably a few, especially on any given day, but the only team that comes to mind is the team that Gonzaga has already beaten this year—Duke—and that was before Gonzaga was fully healthy, as they are now.  

So yes, this is shaping up to be their year, though sometimes having the most to lose means just that.

So how should you, the fan, proceed?  Rather than doing the dance your kids do, and risk throwing out your hip or your back, I recommend doing what I call the Dad.  That’s where you kick your feet up and enjoy some hot wings while watching some basketball. Perhaps even get hopped up on Northwest IPA.  

I promise, no matter who wins or loses on the screen, you, yourself, will be a champion.

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About Paul Redman 122 Articles
Paul Redman is a writer and chef in Seattle who grew up in the Midwest. His work has appeared in print and online, including San Francisco magazine, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and Contrary. He eats too many chicken wings and cracks way too many dad jokes and food puns. Follow him on Twitter @predman.