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Pac-12 Announces Creation Of Conference Tournament

The Pac-12 on Wednesday announced it will hold a conference tournament to determine its automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, beginning in 2022.

The inaugural Pac-12 Tournament will be held May 25-29 in Scottsdale, Ariz. The conference will use an eight-team, double-elimination format. The tournament will be hosted at Scottsdale Stadium, the Giants spring training home, for the next three seasons.

The Pac-12 had originally planned to create a tournament for the 2021 season, but the pandemic and uncertainty it last fall created in scheduling scuttled those plans. Now, however, the Pac-12 is moving ahead with its conference tournament.

“The Pac-12 Baseball Tournament is a marquee event that will serve to enhance the exposure of the Conference’s baseball programs with competitive, late-season matchups prior to NCAA Tournament selections,” Pac-12 Commissioner George Kilavkoff said.

The Pac-12 long has been one of the few Division I conferences not to hold a tournament to determine its automatic bid. But in recent years the tide began to turn in the conference and the coaches came to embrace the idea of a tournament, in part after a few teams from the conference ended up on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble.

2019 Arizona was the primary example, as the Wildcats went 32-24 (15-14) and finished the season on a 10-game winning streak. But the Wildcats had a poor record against top-tier teams and without a conference tournament were unable to bolster their resume at the end of the season, instead playing their final two weekends against Penn State and Washington State, which both had losing records. Arizona was one of the first teams out of the NCAA Tournament field.

Now, such a team will have an opportunity to make a final statement for the selection committee. In addition, the creation of an annual celebration of the conference’s baseball programs will help push them into a more prominent position in the sport at the end of the season.

“This conference championship will be a wonderful celebration of Pac-12 baseball in an incredible venue,” Washington athletic director Jennifer Cohen said. “Providing our student-athletes a chance to compete on this stage will help to broaden the exposure of the league's programs and elevate the Pac-12 baseball brand. I’m thrilled that college baseball fans on the West Coast and across the country will have the ability to enjoy such a flagship event that will showcase the talents and strength of our league, and am looking forward to the first Pac-12 Baseball Tournament in May.”

The creation of the tournament won’t insulate the Pac-12 from NCAA Tournament selection disappointments, but it likely will only help the conference. In major conferences, more teams in conference tournaments help themselves than hurt themselves. For a league looking to push another team or two on to the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble, that could make all the difference.

Jace Jung Texas Tech John Williamson

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