Updated March 14, 2021 - 7:52 pm
The Pac-12 will send five teams to the NCAA Tournament after all.
The selection committee revealed Sunday that regular-season champion Oregon, tournament champion Oregon State, Colorado, Southern California and UCLA will travel to Indianapolis and play for the national championship.
The first four teams were shoo-ins, but UCLA (17-9) was among the last four in after closing the season with four consecutive losses, including a Pac-12 tournament defeat to Oregon State on Thursday at T-Mobile Arena. The Bruins will play Michigan State on Thursday in one of the first four games.
The winner will become the East Region’s No. 11 seed and play West Coast Conference tournament runner-up Brigham Young.
“I think that we go through our processes, and you have teams that are the last four at-larges in the field,” selection committee chairman Mitch Barnhart told CBS. “And we worked our way through that, and that’s part of how that process unfolds. We certainly scrubbed that — we go through the process of seeding, and we scrubbed it multiple times. And then we get to a spot, and where it is is where it lands.
“Two teams that we’re thrilled to have in the field, and we thought it’d be a heck of a way to start the tournament off. I say that facetiously. We’re excited to get started — two great teams and great programs with lots of national championships. And so that ought to be a lot of fun.”
UCLA coach Mick Cronin has qualified for the past 10 NCAA tournaments, dating to his tenure at Cincinnati.
“We’re just happy to be playing. We have practice tomorrow, and I’m excited about it,” Cronin said during a video conference. “My biggest concern (was) we did not play poorly down the stretch, we played well, we just didn’t win. We didn’t close games out.”
There was little drama surrounding the selection of the other four Pac-12 programs. Oregon (20-6) was awarded a No. 7 seed in the West Region and will play No. 10 seed Virginia Commonwealth. Oregon State (17-12) took a bid from a prospective at-large team and was seeded 12th in the South opposite fifth-seeded Tennessee.
USC (22-7) is the No. 6 seed in the West and will play either Wichita State or Drake. Colorado (22-8) got the East’s No. 5 seed and will play 12th-seed Georgetown.
Cronin knew the Bruins might be selected for a play-in game.
“To us, we’re in the tournament. We got a game,” he said. “My biggest thing is making sure our guys understand that we’re a good team and we can win, and trying to keep their confidence up.”