Marching To Vegas: Washington Loses, Conference GroansPosted by AMurawa on November 14th, 2012
From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.
I won’t spend much time citing the University of Albany Great Danes’ resume. Maybe I’ll remind you of their projected strength of schedule (#318) or that their conference is approximately the 29th best in the nation. No, I don’t want to rain on the Great Danes’ parade. They walked into what’s often discussed as the toughest arena in the Pac-12 and beat the Washington Huskies, 63-62. Now losses like this make us prone to hyperbole, toss around words like “hot seat” and “overrated” and, to be frank, I’m prone to lambast Lorenzo Romar and his team’s performance. This is the program that, last year, lost at home to the South Dakota State Jackrabbits by 19 during a season in which they won the conference but did not dance; so yes, I believe they’re susceptible to questioning. When you lose to a team with the pedigree and assumed resume of Albany, a team that cites the win as the greatest in school history, one must raise questions.
Is LoRo complacent a la Ernie Kent? What’s this whole no-recruiting-class-thing all about? Why did UW lose this game? This monumental-by-Albany-standards loss makes the company line so overtly fed to us by each of the conference’s coaches hard to swallow. Is this conference really improved? If the most consistently successful Pac-12 program of the last four years can’t beat a team that was 9-7 last year in the America East and who is nicknamed for a domesticated animal best known for youthful deterioration, then I have to question what’s going on. A question that leads me back to complacency.
In 2006-07, Ernie Kent and his Aaron Brooks-led Ducks were an Elite Eight team. That’s rarefied air for most programs and to accomplish such was commendable. Two years later, the Oregon program was 2-16 in conference, 8-23 on the season. In a word: bad. Ernie Kent would have one more season (16-16) before Oregon embarked on an elongated coaching hunt, landing Dana Altman as their man. Oregon is a gig that affords a coach access to everything: money, recruits, facilities, and exposure. In Eugene you’re close enough to the hot beds of Seattle and Oakland to recruit and the aforementioned perks make this a desirable job. I can’t imagine Dana Altman is complaining about his situation. A situation not unlike LoRo’s.
As previously stated, I don’t want to get hyperbolic here. I will not ask for heads on platters. But I will question whether or not Washington and their tenured coach are up to the challenge of carrying this conference torch. As I’ve stated, every single coach at Media Day mentioned the conference’s improvement, gloating of depth and competition. Sean Miller essentially said he roots for everyone in November and December. That’s to say he wanted Washington to win because that looks good for his Wildcats! Or your Buffaloes, Bruins, Trojans, or Cardinal. To say the Pac-12 took a PR hit last season is an understatement. The very Huskies who didn’t dance despite the best conference record have just lost again. What’s that mean for conference perception? Nothing good, I can promise you that. My impression has been that the national dialogue has been such that they’ve been waiting to jump on this conference. And that’s not my homer hat. I can’t recall a time in which there’s been particular national conversation surrounding a particular conferences’ unblemished early record. Alas, it’s been discussed whether or not the Pac is legit and UW made no argument of the former. Albany won’t be good.
But hopefully it’s early enough for shoulders to be shrugged and learning curves to be applied. I do not want to excuse this Husky loss but it is just the second game of the season and there is a lot of hoops to be played. The Huskies have yet to avenge losses at Saint Louis and Nevada and against UConn. There is a season to conquer. But this initial tasting has not been kind to the palate. In fact, it’s been down right grotesque. And one can only hope it’s not complacency, an acceptance of a perceived success insurmountable by recruiting or effort, that’s led to this taste. If it has, well then we have the anecdotal evidence to write these Huskies off. If not, the good news is there’s plenty of season to be played. Stay tuned.