Breaking Down The Unbalanced Pac-12 Conference SchedulesPosted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 2nd, 2014
Back in the old days of the Pac-10, comparing the different conference schedules of league teams was largely an academic affair; with an 18-game balanced schedule, each team played every other team in the league both home and away. But with Utah and Colorado now on board, we’re in the era of the unbalanced schedule. Each team in the league still has a travel partner (UCLA and USC, Cal and Stanford, Colorado and Utah, the Arizona schools, the Oregon schools, and the Washington schools), so, for instance, when Arizona goes on the road to play California and Stanford, Arizona State does the same in reverse order. The only difference is that, now in unbalanced schedule land, each set of traveling partners skips a trip to one other set of travel partners and loses a visit from another pair as well. Below we’ll take a look at who skips whom, who gets the benefit of the unbalanced schedule this year, and whatever other little nuggets we can find in the conference slate as we get started tonight.
The Arizona schools
- Road trip skipped: The Washington schools
- Homestand skipped: The Los Angeles schools
In one form or another, Washington and Washington State are consistently regarded as two of the three worst teams in the conference this season (and, honestly, usually the worst two). In other words, missing out on a couple of dates with the Huskies and the Cougars is not necessarily a good thing when it comes to conference standings. Consider that a strike against Arizona, a team that figures to be very much in the hunt for the conference championship. On the other side of the coin, however, skipping those two will give Arizona State a couple more shots against higher RPI squads, and given that the Sun Devils figure to be bubblicious come March, trading out the two Pacific Northwest RPI killers may come in handy. One other note in favor of the Sun Devils is that they’re possibly in line to benefit from traveling with the Wildcats. Arizona is going to get everybody’s best shot this year, especially as long as they remain atop the national standings, meaning ASU could be a trap game on a regular basis. Imagine, for instance, Oregon hosting Arizona on February 6 — win or lose that night, the Ducks could be in for a serious letdown two days later when they host Jahii Carson and his Sun Devils.
The Bay Area schools
- Road trip skipped: The Rockies’ schools
- Homestand skipped: The Oregon schools
There’s no such thing as easy road trips in conference play. But in a very strong Pac-12 this season, that Colorado/Utah road trip looks especially fearsome. Aside from the elevation problem, you’ve got the prospect of delayed and bumpy flights through winter storms and adventurous bus rides to the arena. Then you show up, and not only do you have to face a Top 25 team in Colorado in front of a rowdy Coors Events Center, but you’ve got the prospect of facing a tough Utah team that may be one of the most overlooked teams in America this season. In other words, California and Stanford will make out really nice by skipping that trip. And they only have to face the tough Oregon team once? It pays to be located near the Pac-12 headquarters — the schedule works out pretty nicely for both of these teams. One downside, however, may be the fact that the Cardinal and the Golden Bears, after facing each other in the conference opener, will have to wait another week before they get their second conference game out of the way.
The Rockies’ schools
- Road trip skipped: The Oregon schools
- Homestand skipped: The Bay Area schools
Utah and Colorado have a fairly neutral schedule. They don’t have to go to Matt Knight Court where they would both come in as underdogs against the Ducks, but at the same time, they both miss out on a potential road win over Oregon State. Meanwhile, Stanford and Cal would be games against solid but not overwhelming competition. It is worth noting that both of these teams have conference schedules that are backloaded. After playing Oregon State, Washington, and Washington State in three of their first four conference games, they’ll wind up the haul with games against UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, California, Stanford and each other in six of their last seven. In other words, even if these teams are near the top of the standings in the middle of February, they will still will have a lot of work to do.
The Oregon schools
- Road trip skipped: The Bay Area schools
- Homestand skipped: The Rockies’ schools
Focusing on the Ducks for a second, they’ll skip four games against the top eight schools in their race for the conference title. Compare that to Arizona which will only skip one game against the top eight schools, and Oregon clearly has drawn a primo lane in this horse race. As for the Beavers, much like Arizona State, they may get the benefit of teams looking forward to or experiencing a hangover from the games with their traveling partner. Given that teams could be prone to looking past a Beavers team with some bad losses on their record, maybe Craig Robinson’s bunch could steal a few.
The Los Angeles schools
- Road trip skipped: The Arizona schools
- Homestand skipped: The Washington schools
While basketball fans in the Los Angeles area may be just fine with the fact that the Huskies and the Cougars aren’t among the teams in their season ticket package, Steve Alford and Andy Enfield are likely bemoaning the chance to play against the weakest pair of teams in the conference. Still, they can’t complain too much, because skipping the Arizona road trip is a fortunate turn, even if the conference should be scolded for allowing a regular season to go by with only one Arizona/UCLA match-up – the conference’s best historical basketball rivalry – on the schedule.
The Washington schools
- Road trip skipped: The Los Angeles schools
- Homestand skipped: The Arizona schools
Insult to injury. Not only are these two teams atop the conversation for the worst teams in the conference, but in a season where it really doesn’t matter which teams they play, they have to skip the valuable (recruiting-wise) Southern California trip. As far as the home schedule goes, their fans don’t even get a chance to come out and see their teams get killed by the current #1 team in the country, Arizona. And, they miss out on the most exciting player in the conference in Jahii Carson. It’s a depressing season to be a Washington hoops fan, that’s for sure.