Marching to Vegas: This Is Our Game of the Year?Posted by AMurawa on March 2nd, 2013
Early on we dubbed this thing the Game of the Year. It was the conference’s two most storied programs set to square off on ESPN in the season’s waning moments with what was presumed to be title implications and a possible top NCAA seed on the line. It was UCLA. It was Arizona. Muhammad. Lyons. Anderson. Hill. With all the perspective of zero games played, this had “Game Of” written all over it; after all it was the necessary return to glory for the Conference of Champions perhaps still reeling from last season’s abomination. Well now it’s here and it sure doesn’t seem that sexy. One team will host with an underwhelming albeit sound 21-7 record wearing a home loss to Cal Poly amidst ambiguous rumblings surrounding the future of their head man. The other enters Pauley with lauded victories from what seems a season past but with just one win over a top-five Pac-12 team while looking the part of effortless softies. No, the aforementioned would not suggest this is anyone’s Game of the Year and certainly not as the producers of the game have hyper-hyped their prime-er time game featuring Duke and Miami.
This is an improved year by way of Pac-12 product but hasn’t quite lived up to its moderate hype. The conference held its first game featuring ranked opponents (#21 Oregon @ #24 UCLA, 1/19) since March 2009; but that cannot be the barometer by which we measure the conference’s success. It’s in fact a touch embarrassing and we should probably not mention it again, like walking into the women’s restroom. The collective RPI has hovered in the #6 range throughout the year which isn’t great but it’s certainly an improvement. Last year the conference sat in ninth, easily last amongst the power conferences. I mean, the conference champion wasn’t invited to the NCAA Tournament, do I really need to demonstrate that last year was bad again?
This year we’ve seen marked improvement and we’ll celebrate it in due time. But the focus here remains on the supposed big dogs and their marquee matchup in Pauley this Saturday night. It’s the Game of the Year the conference deserves as it’s a shell of what it could be, confusing us as to what exactly to make of it while maintaining an almost irritatingly high level of intrigue for the possibilities the outcome could produce. An Arizona loss and they’re dangerously close to dropping to the Pac-12 #6 seed. That’s a deep dive. And that scenario assumes a Bruins win for which they’d remain in the title hunt; ground left un-Bruin-ed for five years now.
But this is still FanMatch’s second most intriguing game of Saturday and the aforementioned – Muhammad, Lyons, Hill, Anderson, etc. – holds true. Because when the Blue and Gold takes to the court against the Cardinal and Navy, we watch. We watch because whether there’s a title or otherwise on the line, the ghosts of these programs loom large. Maybe it is the Game of the Year because it’s being played at just the right moment; the first big game in March here to usher in the Madness that ensues because this is a free sample. We’ve got our big programs and our big names with very real postseason ramifications on the line. Cal is on everyone’s heels, Oregon looms above, Colorado is making noise. Indeed this national tilt has Of the Year implications. And this is just the tip; the bulky dangerous part of the iceberg? Well this ship’s about to run into that at the MGM.