Pac-12 Conference play is set to begin in the week after Christmas. But if the preseason to date has shown us anything, it is going to be a long college basketball season for the conference.
This weekend provided a pair of examples of poor play by the Pac-12. On Saturday, the Arizona State Sun Devils lost at home to the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks, a team rated 275th out of a possible 345 teams in the Sagarin computer ratings. Then on Sunday, the No. 115 South Dakota State Jackrabbits delivered a 92-73 home loss to the Washington Huskies.
The Pac-12 hasn't had a team in the top 25 of either the Associated Press poll or ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll in either of the last two weeks, and might make it three straight weeks unless the Cal Bears can climb at least three spots in the coaches poll from 28th.
Cal (9-2) and the Stanford Cardinal (9-1) have been the class of the conference so far, but there is a large chasm between them and the rest of the conference so far. Stanford is ranked No. 17 and Cal No. 23 in the latest Sagarin ratings, but they are the only two Pac-12 teams in the top 50. Five of the 12 conference teams are rated No. 140 or below.
The Pac-12 preseason media poll was fairly split, as Cal was among a trio of conference favorites with the UCLA Bruins and Arizona Wildcats. Arizona is rated No. 67 by Sagarin and fell to 7-4 with their 71-60 loss to the Gonzaga Bulldogs on Saturday in Seattle. The Bruins began the season with high hopes, but have struggled just to reach 5-5 and are ranked No. 140 in the Sagarin ratings. Their leading scorer and rebounder last season, Reeves Nelson, has since been kicked off the team and apparently on his way to Lithuania.
The numbers for the conference haven't been pretty:
- The Pac-12 is 0-10 against teams ranked in the AP top 25.
- The conference is 9-21 in neutral site games this season
- Pac-12 teams are 9-10 on the road.
The USC Trojans (4-7) play good defense, but they can't shoot and can't score and as a result don't have many wins to show for it. USC welcomes the No. 12 Kansas Jayhawks to Galen Center later this week, providing an opportunity for a team and a conference in need of a signature win this season.
But given the quality of play so far by the Pac-12, there's no reason to expect anything but a Kansas victory on Thursday. It's going to be a long season for the conference.