And You Wonder Why the Pac-12 Gets No Respect…

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 21st, 2011

Adams State, Seattle Pacific, and Loyola Marymount. Oh yeah, don’t forget about Cal Poly, Pepperdine, and Middle Tennessee. What do all of these teams have in common, you might be wondering? They have all posted early season wins over Pac-12 teams, causing much of the nation to already write off the conference as an elite power. People over here on the left coast love to point out “East Coast bias,” referring to the lack of love that the Pac-12 gets in terms of both rankings, publicity, and respect. But can you blame them after some of these losses? As it stands today, the league is 24-15, with an astonishing 11 of those losses coming against teams from outside the six power conferences.

You could make a good argument that Arizona is the best team in the Pac-12, yet they lost to Division II Seattle Pacific in an exhibition game earlier in the season. Behind the Wildcats is California, who has not yet been tested this season. But after those two, what does the Pac-12 have to offer? Washington lost by 13 against Saint Louis and only defeated Florida Atlantic by six. Surely not UCLA, who in the midst of chemistry issues has fallen to LMU by 11 and MTSU by 20. God knows what will happen when they play at Chaminade tonight and against Pepperdine (who beat Arizona State) a week from today. It’s reasons like these that people around the country stop paying attention to the Pac-12 in December, something that hurts the conference considerably on Selection Sunday.

Missed rebounds like this one by Arizona forward Angelo Chol led to a Seattle Pacific upset of the Wildcats. The game started a chain reaction of early season losses for Pac-12 teams (credit: Arizona Star)

Bad non-conference losses are nothing new to the Pac-12. Last year featured upsets like San Jose State and Idaho over Oregon, and Seattle University, Texas Southern, Utah Valley, and George Washington over Oregon State. In 2009-10 there were losses by the Beavers against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Sacramento State, Illinois-Chicago, Seattle (again, this time a 51-point defeat), and Boston U, while UCLA lost to teams like Cal State Fullerton, Portland (by 27), and Long Beach State.

So, why does this trend keep continuing? It’s a good question. Some of the teams previously listed (SLU, SU, UP, and LBSU) have SOME talent, but the level is nowhere near what Pac-12 teams have (or are purported to have). There is a pattern of western teams (with a few exceptions) pulling the upsets, which makes sense. All year long, those guys read about Pac-12 schools in the newspaper and on the internet in their home areas, so they are definitely saving their best performances for the marquee teams. And then there are the usual things, such as not taking the opponent seriously, looking past to a bigger game, etc.

In order to prove to the selection committee and fans on the east coast that the league is to be taken seriously, there has been a spike in scheduling games back east. The Huskies will play a pair of games against Marquette and Duke in New York City in early December, while Oregon State is in the middle of a three game trip to East Rutherford and Towson. Stanford will play a couple of games at Madison Square Garden this week, one against Oklahoma State and the other against an opponent to be determined. The key, however, is to win these games, not just schedule them. The Beavers got a solid résumé win over Texas to start their road trip, but just a day earlier the Wildcats dropped a very winnable game against Mississippi State in New York.

It will be interesting to see how the rest of the non-conference slate plays out. There are still chances to improve the conference’s reputation with big games coming up (UA @ Florida, Dec. 7, UW vs Duke, Dec. 10), but as we’ve seen in the first two weeks of play, a bad loss — and there are many — can negate those wins in a hurry.

Connor Pelton (300 Posts)

I'm from Portland. College basketball and football is life.

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