by Daniel Olsen
Any avid college basketball fan west of the Rocky Mountain can be heard complaining about West Coast bias. Do they have a point? Yes and no. While the Pac-12 had the most successful first round of any of the Power 6 conferences, there is still some concern at the outlook of basketball as a whole in this region of the United States. While some Olympic sports thrive out West, there is work to be done in the sports that generate the most revenue for the school. It’s time to look at three reasons why this is the case.
• The mid–major schools don’t win out here
While Gonzaga is technically in a mid-major conference, they are not a mid-major program. Outside of the Bulldogs, teams from mid-major conferences or lower went 0-5 in the west. They include UC Santa Barbara, San Diego State, Grand Canyon, Utah State and BYU.
Some may say that the mid-major programs don’t win as much anyways but that is not entirely true. There were five major upsets in the opening weekend but none came from the West Coast.
- 15 seed Oral Roberts knocked off Ohio State in the first round. They are a small school in Oklahoma so this doesn’t really qualify as the West. They also knocked off Florida to be the second 15 seed ever to reach the Sweet 16.
- 14 seed Abilene Christian upset in-state opponent Texas.
- 13 seed North Texas defeated Purdue
- 13 seed Ohio defeated Virginia
- 8 seed Loyola Chicago defeated Big Ten champion and in-state opponent Illinois to reach the Sweet 16
Until mid-major schools make some noise in the tournament, the West Coast as a whole won’t receive the respect that they deserve. Pac-12 teams are expected to make a run for the Sweet 16 at least. They are a Power conference so they should get at least more representation than mid-majors do.
• The west doesn’t win championships often
The University of Arizona was the last college in the West Coast to win an NCAA championship in basketball. That was 24 years ago. Under Lute Olsen, they became the first champion to defeat three 1-seeds in the process.
Since then, there have been four championships by the SEC, seven from the Big East, one from the Big Ten, eight by the ACC, one from the American and one from the Big 12. While teams from the west have advanced to the Final Four and even the championship game, the Pac-12 remains the only Power 6 conference without a championship. As good as Gonzaga is as a high-caliber team in a mid-major conference, they haven’t gotten that monkey off their back yet.
• There aren’t enough scorers
Utah State in particular proved that it’s hard to win against athletic teams without being able to shoot. Texas Tech was quick and pressured the Aggies into committing over 20 turnovers. If Sam Merrill had been able to play in the NCAA Tournament his senior year, it might have been a different story. This group of Aggies rebounds and hustles but they will need to hit more shots if they hope to capture that elusive tournament win soon. The last time they did was in 2001 over Ohio State in overtime.
• Bonus: Too high expectations
The East Coast in a way is setting the expectations too high for mid-majors out west. BYU, Utah State and even San Diego State were expected to beat teams from Power conferences to advance out of the first round. Nothing is given but getting a team from a one-bid league after losing 6 or more games is as close as it gets. Teams from respected conferences on the East Coast are given better seeds because of a perceived more impressive strength of schedule.
It will take either a championship by a West Coast team or a few wins from mid-majors before this region of the United States gets the respect they deserve. If the coaches of these schools can find pure shooters, that could change the narrative when it matters most.
Featured image courtesy IndyStar – USA TODAY Sports