Grading the Pac-12 Non-Conference Performances: Part I

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 27th, 2016

The non-conference portion of the schedule is now over for the entire group of Pac-12 teams and, aside from UCLA running roughshod over every team it faced, it was a relatively uneventful non-conference season. Some teams scored important wins and other teams showed their weaknesses, but none of the 12 at-large resumes really stand out at this point in the season. To prove it to ourselves, let’s run through where each team stands heading into the 18-game Pac-12 schedule.

Arizona – B+

Arizona (USA Today Images)

It’s Unclear Where Arizona is Headed But a B+ Non-Conference Grade is Acceptable(USA Today Images)

  • Quality wins: Texas A&M, Michigan State
  • Bad losses: None
  • Synopsis: The Wildcats would have received an A- except that their best win over Michigan State doesn’t look as good as it would have in most years. That said, the Wildcats posted an impressive 11-2 non-conference record and have done so without the services of arguably their best player (Allonzo Trier) and inarguably their best point guard (Parker Jackson-Cartwright). It would have been nice to steal a win against Gonzaga or Butler, but Arizona has to this point helped its NCAA Tournament chances more than it has hurt them.

Arizona State – C-

  • Quality wins: None
  • Bad losses: New Mexico State, Northern Iowa
  • Synopsis: Bobby Hurley hasn’t been subtle about his desire for more national exposure for his program but the strategy somewhat backfired this year as the head coach has opened more eyes with his press conferences than with his team’s play. The Sun Devils are shorthanded and weren’t expected to contend for an NCAA Tournament bid this season, but the way in which they have been blown out by quality opponents is at least mildly embarrassing. Arizona State’s non-conference performance deserves the low side of the gentleman’s C.

California – C+

  • Quality wins: None
  • Bad losses: None
  • Synopsis: The Golden Bears missed the perfect opportunity to make a huge impression last Wednesday when they let Virginia escape Berkeley with a close win. None of the team’s three losses are bad in a resume-hurting way, but it would have been nice if Cal could have split their match-ups with San Diego State and Seton Hall. By losing both games, Cuonzo Martin’s team ensured that their non-conference schedule won’t do them any favors in March. The Bears right now have the distinct look of a power conference bubble team.

Colorado – B-

Tad Boyle (USA Today Images)

Tad Boyle’s Team Wonders Whether the Xavier Win Will Carry Enough Weight (USA Today Images)

  • Quality wins: Xavier
  • Bad losses: Colorado State
  • Synopsis: The Buffaloes made up for their ugly home loss to Colorado State by outlasting Xavier one week later in the same building. Colorado still looks like a power conference bubble team, especially because it couldn’t beat BYU in a big road showdown earlier this month, but beating the Musketeers at least puts them ahead of Cal. It is also worth remembering that starting point guard Dominique Collier didn’t play in any of the team’s three losses. It may not ultimately matter very much, but the Selection Committee may consider such an extenuating circumstance if Colorado is right on the fence in March.

Oregon – B-

  • Good wins: None
  • Bad losses: None
  • Synopsis: The Ducks missed their only real chance to impress the Selection Committee when they were smoked by Baylor during the ESPN marathon and edged a week later by Georgetown. But they essentially played both of those games without their best player, Dillon Brooks (13 inefficient minutes against the Hoyas doesn’t count), and they have responded by winning their last nine games in increasingly convincing fashion. There are a lot of questions about Dana Altman’s team moving forward — especially if Chris Boucher misses more time because of an ankle sprain — and it is fair to criticize the team for playing a much softer non-conference schedule this season. Still, the Ducks didn’t do anything to hurt their at-large candidacy and they should be an easy choice for the NCAA Tournament barring an epic Pac-12 collapse.

Oregon State – F

  • Good wins: None
  • Bad losses: Lamar, Charlotte, Long Beach State, Portland, Savannah State
  • Synopsis: Only putting five opponents in the “Bad Loss” column is probably being too kind to the Beavers. All of the team’s nine losses have come against mediocre opponents and thumping Kent State at home was the team’s first win against a top 200 opponent. Oregon State has dealt with injuries to its two best players (Tres Tinkle and Stephen Thompson) and they were expected to regress, but this has been a nightmare for Wayne Tinkle from the opening tip. The Beavers are better than they have shown, and maybe they’ll turn it around during Pac-12 play, but we don’t grade on potential.



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