Things are bad for Pac-12 Basketball right now - we've been talking about it for a few weeks now. But exactly how bad is it? Well, what do the ratings systems say? Jeff Sagarin says that the Pac-12 is the 8th best conference in the nation, behind the other 5 BCS conferences, the Mountain West and the Atlantic 10. Ken Pomeroy ($) still has the Pac-12 6th, but his ratings still include some input from pre-season projections that probably didn't have the conference struggling to badly. Real Time RPI has the Pac-12 9th, behind with the Missouri Valley ahead and the West Coast Conference creeping up behind!
The ratings systems agree - the Pac-12 is generally on par with the best mid-major conferences in the country. The types of conferences that typically get 2, maybe 3 bids per year. Boy do I feel stupid for predicting that five Pac-12 teams would go dancing in March!
What happened?!? Well, to start with, it seems nearly every team has had massive personnel issues caused by injuries, suspensions and transfers. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's take a team-by-team look at why exactly nearly every team in the conference has failed to impress, starting with the worst team in the conference and working back up.
Various Rankings: RPI - 307 ; Kenpom - 311 ; Sagarin - 332
Worst loss: Montana St. is probably the worst team the Utes lost too, but at least that game was close. In this case, a 30 point home defeat to Cal State Fullerton takes the cake
Best win: N/A
What went wrong? Gee, where do you start? Ken Pomeroy wrote an article about the Utes threatening to fail to win a single D1 game this season:
In the spring, Krystko lost the services of Will Clyburn (Iowa State), Shawn Glover (Oral Roberts), and J.J. O’Brien (San Diego State), who all decided to transfer after the coaching change. In addition, shot-blocker extraordinaire David Foster broke his foot in the Utes’ exhibition loss to Adams State and may miss the season. The transfers left Krystkowiak to fill his rosters with unheralded freshmen and junior college recruits after he arrived. That, combined with Foster’s injury, has been a disastrous formula.
Various Rankings: RPI - 177 ; Kenpom - 121 ; Sagarin - 223
Worst loss: An 11 point home loss to Loyola Marymount
Best win: A four point win over Pennsylvania at home. You read that right.
What went wrong? Where should we start? The pre-season hope was for adequate guard play, but that hasn't remotely been the case. Reeves Nelson was suspended, reinstated, missed a flight, suspended, then kicked off the team. Josh Smith had every reason to work hard but came into the season in worse shape than last year. And the Wear twins aren't a magic panacea.
Somebody needs to write a book explaining how a coach that rebuilt a broken team and took it to three straight Final Fours could then so utterly mismanage a program with every natural advantage you could hope for. I can't begin to explain it.
Will it get better? Only if you think getting rid of Nelson is an 'addition by subtraction type of situation, which wouldn't totally shock me at this point.
Various Rankings: RPI - 178 ; Kenpom - 119 ; Sagarin - 151
Worst loss: Cal Poly
Best win: South Carolina
What went wrong? Kevin O'Neill's bizarre roster construction leaves little room for any of the random events that typical strike teams, so Jio Fontan's injury turned USC from 'potentially frisky' to 'dead in the water.' Their offense is even more of an affront to basketball than usual. Poor Maurice Jones is 4th in the country in minutes, and will stay around that high until his legs fall off.
Will it get better? Not until O'Neill is either fired or can recruit a team with more depth than a kiddie pool.
Various Rankings: RPI - 140 ; Kenpom - 118 ; Sagarin - 159
Worst loss: 6 point home loss to Pepperdine
Best win: 3 point road win over Tulsa
What went wrong? Well, losing hyped recruit Jahii Carson to academics hurts pretty badly. Without him Arizona St.'s offense has been dysfunctional, with an assist-to-turnover ratio of .628, 324th in the nation. If I were a Sun Devil fan, I might be wondering if Herb Sendek is capable of putting together a halfway decent offense without a player like James Harden around to make him look good.
Will it get better? Sendek has recruited well enough, and was respected enough as a coach, that I really thought ASU would be better than what they are right now. Without Carson, I don't think things get much better until next year.
Various Rankings: RPI - 119 ; Kenpom - 138 ; Sagarin - 134
Worst loss: 11 point home loss to Wyoming
Best win: 2 point home win over Georgia
What went wrong? Actually, nothing really so far. Colorado lost a ton of talent and they are doing about as well as anybody expected they might do. Some freshmen have shown solid abilities and Andre Roberson has been a rebounding machine. In a rebuilding year Tad Boyle has found pieces to rebuild with.
Will it get better? Absolutely. I'm 100% sure Boyle can recruit, and I'm 95% sure he can coach.
Various Rankings: RPI - 61 ; Kenpom - 86 ; Sagarin - 78
Worst loss: Vanderbilt doesn't count as a bad loss, but it goes here anyway, I suppose.
Best win: 7 point road win over Nebraska.
What went wrong? There haven't been any problems on the court, really - the Ducks have won and lost all of the games you'd expect them to win or lose. But two players recruited by Dana Altman have elected to leave the team, putting a serious damper on what seemed to be a promising team in Eugene. It's unclear exactly how badly losing Jabari Brown and Bruce Barron will impact Oregon this year. Barron wasn't likely to see much time on the court but Brown might have ended up the Pac-12 freshman of the year.
Will it get better? Well, transfer Devoe Joesph scored 18 in his debut after becoming eligible in Oregon's last game, and the Ducks have avoided stubbing their toe like most other conference teams. But there are suddenly serious doubts about Altman's roster management. He's quickly re-energized Oregon basketball with some extremely aggressive talent acquisition, but if the players don't stay it won't do him much good.
Various Rankings: RPI - 176 ; Kenpom - 67 ; Sagarin - 88
Worst loss: 1 point neutral court loss to UC Riverside
Best win: 2 point road win over Idaho
What went wrong? Nothing unexpected - nobody expects miracles when you lose a player like Klay Thompson. Actually, WSU has perhaps outperformed expectations, with only one 'bad' loss and a number of solid performances against better teams.
Will it get better? Early returns are positive. Perhaps Ken Bone will succeed after playing with mostly Bennett-ball players for the last few years?
Various Rankings: RPI - 133 ; Kenpom - 89 ; Sagarin - 98
Worst loss: 14 point home loss to Idaho
Best win: 5 point overtime win over Texas, which still might be the single best win in the conference.
What went wrong? Prior to the loss to Idaho, nothing. The slow down, 1-3-1 zone days appear to be over and Craig Robinson was finally avoiding some of the horrible non-con losses that seemed to occur each year in Corvallis. The loss to Idaho isn't nearly as bad as some of the losses the Beavers have suffered in the past, but the margin at home does temper the idea that Oregon St. has finally rounded the corner.
Will it get better? This is a golden opportunity for the Beavers. The conference is clearly down, and one great player like Jared Cunningham (a potential conference player-of-the-candidate) could push OSU up the standings.
Various Rankings: RPI - 78 ; Kenpom - 42 ; Sagarin - 76
Worst loss: 3 point overtime road loss to Nevada
Best win: Georgia State. Seriously.
What went wrong? Washington is the perfect example of why the Pac-12 has such a weak national profile. They play three legit teams (St. Louis, Duke, Marquette), play them mostly close, but lose all three. Add in one close loss to Nevada and you have a team that has a ton of talent but with zero impressive wins. Kenpom appreciates that they blow out the bad teams and play the good teams close, but that doesn't mean much in the RPI. Guess which ratings system the selection committee uses more? Ugh.
Will it get better? Probably, but the damage has been done. Right now Tony Wroten is shooting waaaay to much. Awesome players like Terrance Ross and C.J. Wilcox should be taking control of the ball, but Wroten is 3rd in the country in usage percentage. He's talented enough that controlling the ball might not be a bad thing in the future, but for now he's still a freshman with more talented and/or experienced teammates.
Various Rankings: RPI - 37 ; Kenpom - 40 ; Sagarin - 59
Worst loss: 4 point home loss to San Diego St.
Best win: 16 point home win over Clemson
What went wrong? Like so many other conference teams, Arizona has been bit by the suspension/transfer bug. Freshman center Sidiki Johnson has elected to leave the program and transfer (what is it with Wildcats from New York?!), and freshman point guard Josiah Turner was recently suspended for Arizona's game vs. Florida. Turner came back and played well in Arizona's win over Clemson, so it's probably not a big deal, right?
Will it get better? A win over Gonzaga would go a long way, but Arizona should feel pretty great about their long term prospects. Integrating a bunch of mega-recruits can be a challenge, but Sean Miller is too good coach to not get it right eventually. Just like Ben How . . . oh, that's right. This is kinda awkward.
Various Rankings: RPI - 65 ; Kenpom - 20 ; Sagarin - 35
Worst loss: 39 point loss to Missouri
Best win: 21 point home win over Denver
What went wrong? A match-up disaster with Missouri was one thing, but getting your best rebounder and interior defender suspended just prior to an important resume building road game was worse. With Solomon in the lineup Cal probably beats San Diego St., but the Bears didn't have him and they didn't win. Now a win over UNLV is hugely important to establish a best win before conference play begins.
Will it get better? Ask after that game in Las Vegas.
Various Rankings: RPI - 36 ; Kenpom - 15 ; Sagarin - 17
Worst loss: n/a
Best win: An easy 15 point win over Oklahoma St.
What went wrong? So far, nothing, unless blowing a lead against a really good Syracuse team counts. Stupid Stanford.
Will it get better? God I hope not.
So there you have it. Five teams with consensus rankings above 100, just one team with a consensus top 50 ranking, six teams that lost a player temporarily or permanently because of grades, rules violations or other disputes, and eight or nine teams with a 'best win' that would make a Missouri Valley team blush.
The Pac-12 has just over two weeks until conference play begins, which means very few chances to meaningfully change resumes and perceptions. I'm not optimistic.