Marching to Vegas: The Pac is Definitely Not BackPosted by Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) on January 24th, 2014
Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) of Pachoops again will be joining us all year, providing us with his weekly take on our favorite conference, as we begin the March to Las Vegas.
When we started this march to Vegas together, I had a lot to say about the return of the Pac-12. It fit so nicely into a tight rhyme and it’s easy to say, “The Pac is back!” It even rolls off the tongue as an exclamation. Yet where we find ourselves today, both Drew and my predictions of seven dancing Pac-12 teams seems a far cry from reality. Furthermore, it seems asinine! The most glaringly poor prediction since the 2012 Mayan Armageddon (which was interestingly Pac-12 Armageddon). Drew even posed the question of whether the Pac was the best conference in the nation? That was a piece I really enjoyed, as it dove into matters bigger than good, better, best. It became an examination of objectivity versus subjectivity and what does it even mean to evaluate a collective? Drew addresses smart stuff but it would seem, as of right now, that there’s very little about the Pac-12 that suggests anything remotely great. Or best. By the objective standards Drew noted, KenPom and RPI, the Pac ranks fifth and third, respectively. Don’t care. This is a column and by definition is a matter of subjectivity and I tell you, the way the teams within this conference are playing right now, they’re not scaring any other teams and not impressing any committees.
Of course there are innate flaws to subjectivity. I’m upset that Oregon is letting us down by letting everyone score. I’m sad that Spencer Dinwiddie’s knee let us and, above all else, him down. I’m looking for Arizona State but can’t really find anything to cling to. And I’m teased by California, its senior duo, and their abysmal loss to USC in which they never held anything remotely close to a lead. I’m a fan too and prone to hyperbole and gut reactions. But look at everything I just said and tell me if any of that resembles a Conference of Champions? In some capacity, sure, we can excuse Oregon’s spill in conjunction with what Iowa State, Ohio State and Wisconsin have done. And what they’ve done is underwhelm in the shadow of overwhelm. Combined, the aforementioned undefeateds have lost their last 200 games. I joke, yes, but in all seriousness, it’s been an odd sequence for all of them.
However, as this is a Pac-12 column, I won’t spend too much time on the aforementioned B1G. That conference has its own bout of crazy to deal with. What’s troubling the Pac-12 is a terrible bout of I don’t know what. Because it’s long been expected that the conference was back; as already mentioned. I mean even Stanford won at Connecticut. But they also lost in Corvallis and in Palo Alto to now 13-8 BYU. Par for the course, but we can’t necessarily predict anything. Beyond Arizona playing defense on a nightly basis, I can’t tell you what to expect anymore. And I won’t even venture to try. I can tell you, from the perspective of a storyboard, what’s going to be intriguing; but what transpires, the competitive disarray that unveils before us each week, is an atomic lunacy equally capable of combustion, implosion, or stagnation. And I’m not entirely sure which varietal I prefer? Combustion would suggest what we’re currently faced with: a conference spilling all over itself and incapable of distinguishing itself as a competitive body. In such a model there are teams definitively better than others; but not so much that competitions are buried before they begin.
The implosion varietal is that of the Oregon Ducks. I’d like to be able to cite another group within this category but I cannot for two reasons: 1) Only one Pac-12 team has dropped from the top-10, 2) Only one Pac-12 team has now lost five consecutive games. I mean, even had USC dropped its Wednesday game to Cal and fallen to below .500, I don’t think their losing streak would hold a candle to Oregon’s because of the already mentioned point number one. The last point mentioned was surrounding stagnation and I’m going to cite the 5-1 Cal Bears. It feels premature but if I’m mentioning the components of “competitive disarray” then a Golden Bears squad dropping one to the KenPom 120th-rated Trojans, then… yes… I’m not terribly inclined to defend their defense. Or much else for that matter.
The unfortunate conclusion is that the Pac is not back. What back necessarily means, I’m not quite sure. But it doesn’t mean whatever the Conference of Champions has set forth thus far.