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‘Some people ought to be ashamed’: UCLA’s Mick Cronin says experts slept on Pac-12

UCLA guard Tyger Campbell drives past BYU guard Connor Harding.
UCLA guard Tyger Campbell drives past BYU guard Connor Harding during the second half of a first-round game in the NCAA tournament in Indianapolis on Saturday.
(AJ Mast / Associated Press)

Basketball fans on the East Coast who miss Pac-12 games because they stretch past the closures of Taco Bell drive-throughs were probably already slumbering when UCLA coach Mick Cronin essentially said experts who dismissed his conference were asleep on the job.

The Pac-12 is unbeaten through the first round of the NCAA tournament, keeping alive Bruins legend and legendary absurdist Bill Walton’s dream bracket of five Pac-12 teams in the Final Four, were that somehow possible.

After joking about not being able to stay up late like those East Coast fans because he lives in Southern California, where he likes to rise with the early sun, Cronin lambasted pollsters who kept Pac-12 teams on the fringe of the national rankings all season.

The conference has placed five teams into the second round, going 5-0 so far, including UCLA’s First Four victory over Michigan State. Oregon also advanced after Virginia Commonwealth was forced to withdraw following multiple positive tests for the coronavirus.

That’s a sturdy showing for a conference that had only two teams ranked by the Associated Press in its most recent poll, with Colorado ranked No. 22 and USC tied with Brigham Young at No. 23. Oregon was among the teams receiving votes, with UCLA even left out of that category after losing its final four games before the NCAA tournament.

UCLA coach Mick Cronin has the Bruins feeling as if they’re one of college basketball’s blue-blood programs again and they’re behaving like it.

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“You’re finding out that the Pac-12 not being ranked all year was an absolute joke,” Cronin said past midnight EDT on Sunday after his team defensively handcuffed Brigham Young during a 73-62 victory in the first round Saturday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse. “And some people ought to be ashamed of themselves.”

Cronin acknowledged the Pac-12’s struggles in nonconference games while saying it was related to scheduling that required many significant matchups to be played east of the Mississippi River.

“Scheduling was way against us,” Cronin said. “And the West Coast, man, our teams, we didn’t have the whole summer where the rest of the country had workouts in the summer.”

Cronin said closing the regular season by playing the top four teams in the Pac-12 — Colorado, Oregon, USC and Oregon State — helped gird his team for its two opening wins in the NCAA tournament.

The 11th-seeded Bruins will face 14th-seeded Abilene Christian on Monday afternoon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, one win away from their first appearance in a regional semifinal since 2017.

And one more win away from further validation for the Pac-12.


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