Early on we dubbed this thing the Game of the Year. It was the conference’s two most storied programs set to square off on ESPN in the season’s waning moments with what was presumed to be title implications and a possible top NCAA seed on the line. It was UCLA. It was Arizona. Muhammad. Lyons. Anderson. Hill. With all the perspective of zero games played, this had “Game Of” written all over it; after all it was the necessary return to glory for the Conference of Champions perhaps still reeling from last season’s abomination. Well now it’s here and it sure doesn’t seem that sexy. One team will host with an underwhelming albeit sound 21-7 record wearing a home loss to Cal Poly amidst ambiguous rumblings surrounding the future of their head man. The other enters Pauley with lauded victories from what seems a season past but with just one win over a top-five Pac-12 team while looking the part of effortless softies. No, the aforementioned would not suggest this is anyone’s Game of the Year and certainly not as the producers of the game have hyper-hyped their prime-er time game featuring Duke and Miami.
This is an improved year by way of Pac-12 product but hasn’t quite lived up to its moderate hype. The conference held its first game featuring ranked opponents (#21 Oregon @ #24 UCLA, 1/19) since March 2009; but that cannot be the barometer by which we measure the conference’s success. It’s in fact a touch embarrassing and we should probably not mention it again, like walking into the women’s restroom. The collective RPI has hovered in the #6 range throughout the year which isn’t great but it’s certainly an improvement. Last year the conference sat in ninth, easily last amongst the power conferences. I mean, the conference champion wasn’t invited to the NCAA Tournament, do I really need to demonstrate that last year was bad again?