Led by No. 1 seed USC, the Pac-12 has 7 teams in the NCAA Tournament in its final run

The Pac-12 Conference could be poised for a strong showing in its final March Madness run.

Led by Pac-12 tournament champion Southern California and regular-season champion Stanford, the conference got seven teams into the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, including the Trojans as a No. 1 seed and the Cardinal and UCLA as No. 2 seeds.

USC, led by star freshman JuJu Watkins, has dazzled much of the season and defeated Stanford 74-61 to win the conference tournament.

The Trojans start the NCAA Tournament at home against No. 16 seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Stanford faces 15th seed Norfolk State while UCLA plays California Baptist in first-round games.

USC and Stanford were picked for Portland Regionals while UCLA would go to the Albany site if it advances.

The rest of the conference teams competing are Oregon State, a No. 3 seed, which plays Eastern Washington in the Albany 1 bracket; fifth-seeded Colorado takes on Drake in the Albany 2 region; fifth-seeded Utah faces South Dakota State in the Portland 4 region, while Arizona plays Auburn in a First Four contest.

The Arizona-Auburn winner would take on sixth-seeded Syracuse in the Portland 3 bracket.

It’s been a season of farewells for the “Conference of Champions,” which has been torn apart in the frenzy of college realignment.

Oregon, USC, UCLA and Washington are all headed to the Big Ten. Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah are going to the Big 12. Cal and Stanford are joining the Atlantic Coast Conference while Oregon State and Washington State attempt to hold on to whatever part of the league they can.

The Trojans’ McKenzie Forbes said earlier this month that showing what Southern Cal and the rest of the conference can do on the national stage would be something special. “Just for everyone to see what’s been going on here,” she said.

It could be a very special end for the Pac-12.

Stanford won the conference’s last NCAA Tournament title in 2021, defeating conference rival Arizona in an all-Pac-12 final.

Watkins and the Trojans have shown they belong with the game’s best, topping Stanford and All-American Cameron Brink twice in three meetings.

An emotional Southern Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said it was special to win the last Pac-12 conference tournament and to do it over Tara VanDerveer of Stanford, who paved the way for the league to have the reputation it does.

“It is meaningful to me to get the championship in the last one, in this iteration of what it looks like,” Gottlieb said. “It’s also meaningful to me, I don’t know that I’d be in coaching if it wasn’t for Tara and people like her who did it when there was no money and none of this.”


AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-womens-bracket/ and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness