Just a little more than a year ago, I wrote this article about the state of the Pac-12 and why the conference isn’t held to a higher standard than the other five power conferences. Seattle Pacific, Adams State, and Cal Poly had all beaten Pac-12 opponents just two weeks into the season. If it sounds familiar, you’re right. Nearly all of the preseason hype the league gained from the signings of guys like Shabazz Muhammad, Kaleb Tarczewski, and Grant Jerrett is gone. Oh yeah, don’t forget about Kyle Anderson, Brandon Ashley, or Josh Scott, all ESPN Top 40 players in their own right. UCLA and Arizona were being picked as Sweet Sixteen locks, and Stanford would definitely make the field of 68. And then there were the Californias and Washingtons, expected to make a run at the Tournament if they could put the right pieces together. But the bigger the hype, the bigger there is a chance of disappointment – and there’s certainly been a lot of that through the first three weeks of basketball in the Pac-12.
The conference has lost a combined 24 games so far in the 2012-13 campaign, and an astounding 11 of those have been to teams in the non-power conferences. Basketball factories such as Sacramento State, SMU, Cal Poly, Pepperdine, Albany, and Wyoming have all notched victories against Pac-12 opponents, and there have been some near misses in other places. A Drake squad that ranks 254th in the nation in rebounding led California with 1:10 to play before eventually falling to the Golden Bears. A 1-7 Texas Southern team took Colorado to double overtime on the road before the Buffaloes pulled out a five-point victory. And then there’s UCLA, who entered the year ranked in at least the Top 20 of every preseason poll, getting taken to overtime by UC Irvine after the Anteaters missed two free throws – either of which would have won the game, with five seconds to play in regulation.