Marching to Vegas: The Pac is BackPosted by Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) on November 1st, 2013
Have you ever seen that Dodge commercial? It’s the one narrated by Dexter for the Durango re-release. And don’t fear – not yet at least – I’m not about to go full Grantland on you. I’m just curious if you’ve seen the commercial? Anyhow, it’s got me thinking about Pac-12 basketball. Now in the interest of full disclosure, few things don’t lead me back to that subject. We can dismiss that evidence. But back to the commercial, here it is. Michael C. Hall opens it by telling us it’s 2011. “Wonder where the Durango’s been for the last two years?” Dexter asks. He goes on to explain how the SUV left to improve itself and how, but to be honest I hadn’t given the Durango much thought. The Pac-12 on the other hand? I’ve been curious about where it had gone. It’s how I opened last season, running through the elite programs of the conference and why their disappearance lowered the bar for the others. In our most recent version of Pac-12 basketball, both Arizona and UCLA were included in the field of 68; along with three other Pac-12 schools. Five of 12 ain’t bad coming off a year in which the conference champion was not invited to dance; begging the question: Is the Pac Back?
If we look at predictive measurements, the answer may be a resounding NO. KenPom doesn’t rate a Pac-12 team until his 23rd slot (Arizona) and has three squads rated outside the top 100 (Washington State, USC, and Utah). Conference by conference, the Pac settles in at number five behind the B1G, the new Big East, the ACC and the AAC (please note that I believe this is the first time I’ve ever written AAC, for whatever that is worth). For comparison’s sake, the Pac-12 finished eighth among conferences in 2012 and third in 2013. Perhaps the Pac returned last March? But these 2014 numbers suggest that the conference is still among the latter half of the big kid conferences. And isn’t this the beauty of predictive stats? They help us tell the story, but cannot become the story. Because if that were the case, you could have stopped a lot closer to “Dodge Durango” (and I thank you for not).
No, I’m here to tell you that the Pac-12 is back. Look it up and down. Ask Drew, he wrote this. And while he’s quick to tell you he’s not a Pac homer, I’ll wear it. I stand beside him and believe seven Pac-12 teams will dance and if that isn’t homerism then you can Dexter me (Note: Dexter-ing may only occur if you believe that my prediction of 58% of the conference in the NCAA Tournament isn’t being a homer. To further clarify, that is me being a homer so there will be no Dexter-ing. Glad we could settle that). I mean, just let me run down the guards in this conference: Jahii Carson, Spencer Dinwiddie, Nick Johnson, Dominic Artis, CJ Wilcox, Justin Cobbs, Jordan Adams, and Roberto Nelson. Wow. And I didn’t even mention Jabari Bird, TJ McConnell, Jermaine Marshall, Damyean Dotson, Joseph Young, and DaVonte Lacy. Any player on that list could have been a first team talent in 2011. This year a few of them won’t make an all-conference team. Jordan Adams was honorable mention freshman last year. He could be POY this season. Have you looked at Arizona’s roster? What about everyone who’s transplanted to Eugene? What if Josh Scott blows up? Jordan Bachynski or Tony Parker?
The Pac-12 is back and if you take a gander at the overall health of the conference it won’t soon be looking back. The Los Angeles regimes will be clicking on all cylinders (one cylinder evidently firing faster than the other) shortly and whatever you want to make of the hot seats in this conference, upgrades on the bench or court are required if you want to do things like run a successful college basketball program. The Pac is back because it isn’t fighting itself for bids; it is scratching and clawing its way into the dance to see who gets the chance to kick someone else’s ass on their way to Dallas.
Still curious about the Durango? The Dexter teased model – 2011 with its “European” trained handling, advanced degree, and muscle – was released in August 2010. Eleven months later, Chrysler LLC reported a 33% increase in sales. Yeah, the Pac is back.