One Year Later: Things in the Pac-12 Haven’t Changed A BitPosted by Connor Pelton on December 5th, 2012
Just a little more than a year ago, I wrote this article about the state of the Pac-12 and why the conference isn’t held to a higher standard than the other five power conferences. Seattle Pacific, Adams State, and Cal Poly had all beaten Pac-12 opponents just two weeks into the season. If it sounds familiar, you’re right. Nearly all of the preseason hype the league gained from the signings of guys like Shabazz Muhammad, Kaleb Tarczewski, and Grant Jerrett is gone. Oh yeah, don’t forget about Kyle Anderson, Brandon Ashley, or Josh Scott, all ESPN Top 40 players in their own right. UCLA and Arizona were being picked as Sweet Sixteen locks, and Stanford would definitely make the field of 68. And then there were the Californias and Washingtons, expected to make a run at the Tournament if they could put the right pieces together. But the bigger the hype, the bigger there is a chance of disappointment – and there’s certainly been a lot of that through the first three weeks of basketball in the Pac-12.
The conference has lost a combined 24 games so far in the 2012-13 campaign, and an astounding 11 of those have been to teams in the non-power conferences. Basketball factories such as Sacramento State, SMU, Cal Poly, Pepperdine, Albany, and Wyoming have all notched victories against Pac-12 opponents, and there have been some near misses in other places. A Drake squad that ranks 254th in the nation in rebounding led California with 1:10 to play before eventually falling to the Golden Bears. A 1-7 Texas Southern team took Colorado to double overtime on the road before the Buffaloes pulled out a five-point victory. And then there’s UCLA, who entered the year ranked in at least the Top 20 of every preseason poll, getting taken to overtime by UC Irvine after the Anteaters missed two free throws – either of which would have won the game, with five seconds to play in regulation.
While writing this I thought to myself, what if we are not the only ones that has this problem? What if other conferences also struggle in non-conference games, and that all my fears are irrational? Unfortunately, we are the only ones. The Big Ten, for example, has only lost a combined 19 games so far this season, with only seven of those losses coming to teams in lower leagues. No wonder they are playing games against Duke and Kansas on weeknights on ESPN, while the Pac-12 is relegated to close games against Cal State Fullerton on Sunday nights on the Pac-12 Networks.
To avoid seeing the Pac-12 fall into a similar pit like the one we saw last season, we have to perform well in high-profile games. Colorado will travel to Lawrence this Saturday on ESPN2, UCLA will host Missouri later this month, and Arizona will meet Florida in Tucson on December 15. While us that cover and watch this league night in and night out know that there is certainly plenty of bad stories, there are also a lot of good ones. The Wildcats have started the year with five wins against solid competition in all but one of them; two of the best point guards in the west (Jahii Carson and Jarred DuBois) play for probably the least-watched teams in the conference, Arizona State and Utah; and a depleted Oregon roster has gotten a boost from an Iranian transfer to lead the Ducks to a 7-1 start, including an upset win at UNLV. But when the average east coast fan is sleeping through our games and sees those awful losses on ESPN the next morning, the good is typically missed and the league is completely ignored by everyone east of the Rockies by the beginning of January.
So, we plead to you Pac-12 programs. Step it up in each and every game and earn back some respect. It’ll make for a much more fun March when we don’t have to rely on our sixth seed in the Pac-12 Tournament to get more than one team in the Big Dance.