Pac-12 Burning Question: Who Has Been the Biggest Disappointment?Posted by AMurawa on December 14th, 2012
Way back in the preseason, while trying to be objective, we as a group of Pac-12 writers couldn’t help but be optimistic about the immediate future of the conference. Arizona and UCLA were welcoming in elite recruiting classes, Colorado had added a nice group of freshmen to solid returnees, etc., etc. All throughout the conference there were stories of promise and hope. And then the season began. While it has certainly been nowhere near the debacle that last year was, there have been hiccups along the way. You know, a loss to Cal Poly by a team picked by one of us (ahem, me) to be a top five national team, losses elsewhere to Albany, Pepperdine, and Sacramento State. So, to say the least, things have not been all about half-full glasses around these parts. In the interest of getting the negativity out of the way now, in advance of the holiday season, we’ll take a look at the downside of the Pac-12 this week.
“Which team, player, or other entity, has been the most disappointing thus far this year?”
Parker Baruh: The biggest disappointment thus far this year in the Pac-12 is the Washington Huskies. I thought the Pac-12 media went too high when they picked them to finish fifth in the conference especially with the losses of Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross. And thus far, Washington has shown nothing this year to prove my hunch wrong. The Huskies were upset at home by Albany, were embarrassed at home by Colorado State, upset again at home by Nevada, and barely pulled out a win against a bad Cal State Fullerton team, once again, right there at home. As you can see, there is a recurring theme here: Washington’s bad play at home. One of the greatest things about college basketball is home court advantage and typically Washington has had it in spades, but this year it ceases to exist at the Alaska Airlines Arena. Washington doesn’t have the talent to win the Pac-12 and I know they are dealing with injuries, but they certainly shouldn’t look this bad. It’s still early and I expect the Huskies to bounce back somewhat, but as of right now, they are my choice for biggest disappointment.
Adam Butler: To ask who or what has disappointed the most – particularly in early/mid-December – is baiting us into a crow consumption opportunity. It’s also fresh bait to just rip on UCLA; a task I’ve taken to three times already in this young season. Alas, I won’t take the bait – although by season’s end I will be full of crow – and I find myself most disappointed, to date, by USC. This was a group that had a chip on its shoulder, a squad that Kevin O’Neill called his hardest working team and a group of castoffs who had an opportunity to turn some heads. For the Trojans, I haven’t done much beyond turn the channel. KO teams rarely play a viewer-friendly brand of ball but I do always appreciate their effort. What’s disappointed me the most isn’t that they haven’t given effort, just that they set themselves up to fail. I suppose I could have looked at the schedule and forecast this, but I also felt they had enough dynamic pieces to overcome some of these preseason hurdles. But ultimately, these guys have played about how we unfortunately and unromantically should have figured they would. J.T. Terrell shooting 30%? Jio Fontan with a 24% turnover rate? And maybe I’ve made this selection selfishly. I figured bigger things for what, at least on paper, appeared to be a more competitive group. That said, one can say that this group has competed and maybe, just maybe, partaking in an arguably less competitive Pac-12 season will prove this group better than their non-conference effort.
Connor Pelton: At first I thought 3-6 USC may be a good pick, especially after hearing and eventually buying into all of the preseason hype. But then there’s Washington, who had even more hype (some of which I actually contributed to), dropping games to teams like Albany and Nevada. Like 37-point blowouts and losing to bad WCC teams? You can look to Washington State. And who can forget the mother of all disappointments, UCLA, who started the season by getting taken to the brink of defeat by UC Irvine and Georgia, and even gave away an 18-point lead against Cal Poly. I’m indecisive, so I’m just going to take the entire bottom third of our beloved Pac-12. Sure, every conference has its share of Penn States and South Floridas, but it’s tough to find a league with this much disappointment throughout the basement. And it’s all because of stupid hype. What if we lived in a world where we had no idea what any team featured before actual games started? We’d have no idea what campus Shabazz Muhammad landed on, or how all of USC’s transfers would “gel” so perfectly within the Kevin O’Neill’s system. Of course, this is crazy. There will always be projections, predictions, and hype. And with that will come disappointment. It just sucks that the Pac-12 has so damn much of it.
Andrew Murawa: Sure, I’m the guy that picked UCLA #5 in the nation in my preseason poll. Let’s just say that projection hasn’t quite held up. And, yeah, I had Kyle Anderson as a third team All-American. Oops. Really, up to this point, there is nobody else I can pick than the UCLA program. Anderson has looked lost, Shabazz Muhammad got a gift from the NCAA in the form of relatively early eligibility and he showed up out of shape and unready. Joshua Smith and Tyler Lamb quit on the team within weeks of tip-off and the UCLA fanbase wasn’t far behind. Ben Howland has struggled to integrate his new pieces seamlessly and, for the fourth consecutive year there is an inexplicable home loss (2009: Cal State Fullerton, 2010: Montana, 2011: Loyola Marymount, this year: Cal Poly). Along the way, the Bruins handed over their title as the crown jewel of college basketball in Southern California to an upstart San Diego State program and have again become a national punchline. All is not necessarily lost, as there is a lot of hoop left to play, and there have been bright spots here and there. Jordan Adams has been excellent and Larry Drew II has been solid at the point. If Howland can coax the talent out of Muhammad and Anderson, this is still a team that could be a scary proposition to see in your pod come March. But for now, UCLA is the obvious pick as biggest Pac-12 disappointment.