Pac-12 could get up to 7 NCAA bids in '14

The Pac-12 needs Sean Miller and Steve Alford to build successful programs at Arizona and UCLA. AP Photo, Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO -- Amid the spacious studios of its network in downtown San Francisco, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott stepped to the podium in front of the assembled media and delivered a lengthy speech about the status of the league.

“This is certainly the most anticipation and excitement I’ve felt around Pac-12 basketball,” Scott said at last week's media days. “The trajectory is absolutely going in the right direction.”

Usually, that kind of talk is commish-speak -- which can only be outdone by coach-speak. However, Scott isn’t spewing nonsense. Not this time.

Truth be told, the conference had nowhere to go but north. It was a laughingstock in 2010-11 when the league didn’t have a single team in the final Top 25 poll and was still mediocre in 2011-12 despite getting four teams in the NCAA tournament. Last season was an improvement, as the league regained a measure of respectability, but again the Pac-12 still didn’t have a team among the top 20 in the final AP poll.

But the league is back. This should be the season that it truly becomes nationally relevant again. Arizona gives the Pac-12 a chance to end its five-year Final Four drought, and there are enough other teams to support the league’s resurgence. Mark down a minimum of five teams that will head to the NCAA tourney, possibly as many as seven.