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What’s Wrong with the Pac-10?

January 22, 2010

Dear lord… it seems like it’s been forever since I’ve updated this blog. My access to the internet has been extremely spotty over the past 2-3 months due to moving and the cable bill continually changing hands. I’m finally settled now and I think I’m going to be here for a while… well, at least I have my connection set up for the time being.

So on to the question: what the hell is up with the Pac-10 in college basketball this year? It’s a brutally, ugly mess. Prior to the start of the season, we all knew it was going to be a down year in the conference, but I don’t think anyone saw it being this bad; Washington and California, at least, looked like nationally relevant teams. As we near February, with the first third of the conference schedule behind us, however, there’s not a single team in the Pac-10 that looks like they’re going to make an impact in the NCAA tournament. Cal and UW have gone from being ranked in the top 15 on every preseason poll in existence to not even registering a single vote in the latest AP poll. In fact, Arizona State, a team that looked like one of the conference’s worst teams in October, is the only Pac-10 team that got any AP love: a whopping three votes total.

As it stands, someone out of this mess of a conference HAS to make the NCAA tournament. We are guaranteed an automatic bid, thankfully. Is it really going to come down to whoever wins the conference tournament? Is the Pac-10 really a one-bid conference? Here’s a look at the current standings:














Team Conf. All
Arizona State 4-2 14-5
California 4-2 12-6
Washington State 4-3 14-5
USC 3-3 11-7
Arizona 3-3 9-9
Stanford 3-3 9-9
UCLA 3-3 8-10
Washington 3-4 12-6
Oregon 2-4 10-8
Oregon State 2-4 8-10

Wow.. someone needs to hone their HTML skills. As it stands, Cal looks like the best team in the conference. They are tied for first in the conference standings, have a decent overall record, and enough talent to justify their performance. What Cal doesn’t have is a single marquee win on their resume. The best team they’ve beat this year is Washington State and they’ve lost badly to any team worth winning against (UW, Kansas, Syracuse). They did at least give Ohio State a game when OSU was ranked #15.

I still think Washington has the best chance for an at large bid, but their conference performance has been miserable. They have notable wins over Texas A&M (ranked 19th at the time) and California, killed Portland (a top 25 team at one point), and lost a brutally close game to a pretty good (at the time) Texas Tech team. On top of some good wins on their resume, the Huskies have enough talent on the team to believe they can have a strong finish to the conference schedule. Unless something horrible happens, I still think they are tournament bound.

Arizona State and USC are the question marks in the league. Neither of these teams are supposed to be very good. ASU looked considerably weak after losing James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph, yet they embarrassed a good Washington team and beat Washington State. USC was supposed to be a disaster after a controversial off-season that left the program in shambles. However, since December 8th, they’ve gone 9-3 with a huge win over #9 Tennessee and respectable victories over St. Marys, UNLV, and Arizona State. Mike Gerrity has been a difference-maker for the Trojans and they’ve certainly been a different team since he’s been eligible. I’m not really sold on either of these programs, but they’re certainly making some noise in the conference right now.

Washington State has probably been the most consistent team in the conference. They are tied for the best overall record in the conference, have a winning league record, and have one of the nation’s most valuable players in sophomore superstud Klay Thompson. The Cougars aren’t going to be an easy win for anyone and Thompson, 6th in the nation in scoring, is good enough to keep them competitive in any game. I think if any team is going to surprise and win the conference tournament, it’s the Cougars.

Arizona has some potential, but the rest of the conference is only relevant by providing the occasional thorn in the side of the better teams. UCLA is arguably sporting the worst team I’ve ever seen from them, but somehow have managed to eek out wins over Arizona State, UW, and Cal. That’s pretty much been the story in the Pac-10 this year: everyone is beating up on everyone and, so far, no one is really pulling away from the pack. I think Oregon State has solidified themselves as the worst team in the conference, but other than that, everything else is still up in the air. The parity in the league is ridiculous this season, which is exciting for the conference, but on the national level, the Pac-10 has rendered itself a non-factor.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the Pac-10 being a two-bid conference and that’s a pretty fair assessment. Cal is probably the only current lock to make the tournament and I think UW is still on track for an at large bid, but the Huskies definitely need to step it up in conference play to stay on that pace. I think the Pac-10 will probably end up being a three bid conference with Cal and UW getting in on their resumes and someone unexpected winning the league tournament.

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