Happy with Only Two Ranked Pac-12 Teams? You Should Be

Posted by KDanna on October 18th, 2012

The USA Today Preseason Coaches Poll, released yesterday, revealed two Pac-12 teams ranked in the Top 25: Arizona at No. 11 and UCLA at No. 13. While the Pac is the only power conference to have as few as two teams in the top 25, Pac-12 followers should not feel slighted in the slightest.

The Bruins and Wildcats give the Pac-12 the best chance to restore the conference to what it was a few years ago. (Photo credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images).

The major reason for the top-15 rankings for UCLA and Arizona is pretty clear — stellar recruiting classes that feature three five-star talents and one four-star guy for each. With names like Shabazz Muhammad (assuming he plays), Kyle Anderson (assuming he plays), Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley, there is no dearth of talent coming into Westwood and Tucson this year. And surely, with the No. 2 and No. 3 recruiting classes in the country (in addition to high-profile transfers Larry Drew II and Mark Lyons), the Bruins and Wildcats are deserving of preseason recognition. No. 11 and No. 13, however, might be a little high for two teams relying heavily on players who have yet play in a collegiate game. High preseason rankings for super-frosh-dominated teams are nothing new in college basketball; after all, Kentucky was No. 5 in the 2009-10 USA Today preseason poll because of a John Wall-DeMarcus Cousins combination that had yet to play in a game led by a coach who hadn’t yet handled a power conference school as the head man. And certainly, the expectations and hype surrounding the 2012-13 Bruins and Wildcats are more modest than that Kentucky team three years ago. All signs are pointing to these freshmen being great, but until they step on the court in November, you don’t really know what’s in store. And it’s not like these teams haven’t had to deal with a flamed-out recruit or two in recent years…

Both are also coming off seasons during which they underachieved. After the Wildcats were ranked #16 and the Bruins #20 in the same preseason poll last year, neither team made the NCAA Tournament at the end of the season. The Wildcats were probably a victory over Arizona State away from an at-large bid; UCLA was not. I’m not suggesting UCLA and Arizona are going to have disappointing seasons again; to the contrary, I think both can become second-weekend NCAA teams. Right now in the middle of October, however, there are probably more than 10 to 12 teams in the country that can beat either based off experience alone. Two months down the line? Perhaps not.

As far as the rest of the conference goes, Stanford is probably right where they should be at #37 with seven votes. That sounds accurate for a team coming off an NIT Championship but hasn’t yet taken that next step. Colorado and California are probably deserving of some votes with the players both teams have returning (I’d like to think the Buffaloes and Golden Bears could beat St. Joseph’s and Marshall), but there’s no reason to make a fuss about teams that should be in the “others receiving votes” column.

At the end of the day and like our Big 12 microsite brethren said yesterday, these preseason polls are absolutely meaningless. Pittsburgh was a far bigger perpetrator than UCLA or Arizona of not living up to the preseason hype last year, falling from No. 11 in October to a CBI appearance (and eventual championship) in March. Preseason flops are far from the sole propriety of the Pac-12. But for a conference that has had its struggles in recent memory, two teams in the preseason top 15 is a pretty good deal.

KDanna (28 Posts)

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