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College Hotline: NCAA tournament winners and losers (the West Coast makes its stand … for the moment)

This has to be the year, right? This has to be the year the West Coast ends its Final Four drought.

UCLA made the semifinals in the spring of 2008, and since then — we’re talking about the entirety of the Obama Administration — zippo.

No team west of Norman has played on the final weekend of the season.

This year, however, teams from the Pac-12 and West Coast Conference account for 25 percent of the Sweet 16 field and 50 percent of the West regional in San Jose.

If not now … with Gonzaga so well positioned and Arizona so balanced and Lonzo Ball and the Dillon Brooks-Tyler Dorsey tandem … when?

It might be another decade before the west produces as many elite teams, and all four have made it through to the second weekend.

To this point, the region stands as one of the big winners of the NCAAs. There are others, and an equal number of losers, too.

Here we go ..:

Loser: ACC. Sent nine teams to the tournament and has seven alive … sorry, it has five alive … err, make that three …. nope, one: ONE team left (North Carolina). Really, what more can you expect out of a football conference?

Winner: SEC. Three teams in the Sweet 16 and two head-to-head victories over the ACC in the second round. Really, that’s exactly what you’d expect out of a basketball conference.

Loser: Duke. Bounced from the tournament on the opening weekend for the third time in the past six years. Cosmic justice after Krzyzewski’s handling of the Grayson Allen suspension? Nah, just bad defense. (As The Big Lead noted, the game was in Greenville, S.C., about 100 miles from USC’s campus, because of HB2.)

Winner: Pac-12. Placed three teams in the Sweet 16 for the third time in the past four years and polished the conference’s reputation after the ’16 debacle. Of the three, Arizona has the path of least resistance.

Loser: Villanova. KOed on the opening weekend for the third time in the past four years as a No. 1 or 2 seed. Makes the ’16 title run seem like the aberration.

Winners: Wisconsin. In the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive year after grinding Villanova. Best basketball-football combination? Can’t think of one that’s better.

Losers: Defending champs. Of the past five, two have missed the ensuing tournament entirely and none have reached the Elite Eight.

Winners: Duke 1991-92 and Florida 2007-08. With Nova out, they remain the only repeaters in the past 44 years.

Loser: Madison Square Garden. Because the arena expected to have Villanova and Duke on display but instead gets Wisconsin and South Carolina. (Also because of the Knicks.)

Winner: FedExForum: With Kentucky, North Carolina and UCLA in town, there won’t be an empty seat in the building. Actually, that would have been the case with Kentucky and three schmoes.

Losers: Renegades. Banned from the 2016 tournament for off-the-court transgressions, Louisville and SMU were full of hope and motivation this year … and both bid adieu in the round of 32.

Winner: Little guys. Three of the 16 teams still standing are not major football-playing schools (Gonzaga, Butler and Xavier). That’s not ideal for the have-nots, but it could have been much worse.

Loser: Wichita State. Seeded a couple lines low, matched against Kentucky, and banished in the second round. The Shockers sure don’t get any breaks, or much respect, from the committee.

Winner: USC forward Chimezie Metu. Cha-ching.

Loser: Players and coaches. There wasn’t enough consistency in the way the Flagrant 1 rule was applied by officials in intentional-foul situations. That has to be fixed by Thursday.

Winner: Turner Sports. We’re how many years into this split-coverage thing, and the NBA studio guys finally sound like they’ve been paying attention to college basketball throughout the winter. Or maybe their research staff is better.

Loser: Tony Bennett. The only hole in his game is his team can’t put the ball in the hole. Even his dad’s Wisconsin teams scored more than 39 points (barely).

Winner: Baylor. The Bears are in the Sweet 16 after back-to-back exits in the round of 64. Coach Scott Drew, who has been roasted in this space previously, deserves credit for sharp adjustments against USC.

Loser: Gonzaga-Northwestern officiating crew. Of all the teams to slap with an egregious blown call late in a tight game, the crew picked the one making its first tournament appearance, ever.

*** Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline

*** The Hotline podcast is available on iTunes.