Football season is finally over. What's that, you say? Eight Pac-12 teams have bowl games left, and one team might still have two games left to play?
Fie! I say, fie! No more college football pain! Do you really care whether or not Utah beats Colorado State? Stanford/Maryland? Arizona State/Duke? Booooooring!
Indeed, non-conference basketball is where it's at! That's where you get exciting matchups like Washington State vs. Rice and Oregon State vs. Mississippi Valley State. Basketball fever!
Basketball season has been going for three weeks now, and I'm woefully behind in my annual cataloging of the Pac-12's non-conference NCAA tournament resume. Let's catch up, quickly.
As always, every single game will be roughly graded as either a Good Win (a win over a team likely to finish in the RPI top 100), a Missed opportunity (a loss to a team likely to finish in the RPI top 100), an Expected Win (a win over a team likely to finish outside the RPI top 100), and a Bad Loss (a loss to a team likely to finish outside the RPI top 100). Do you think that's a reductive way to grade a schedule and a team's performance? I agree, it is! But the NCAA tournament selection committee doesn't have much time for nuance, and those are the folks we care about.
As you would expect, Pac-12 teams have secured many Expected Wins. Thus, I'm not going to bother to list them all. Telling you that Arizona beat Gardner-Webb is neither interesting nor insightful.
Preview alert: things are a little ugly
Arizona: 66-63 over Gonzaga, 61-59 over San Diego State
Arizona State: None
Cal: 73-59 over Syracuse
Colorado: 65-48 over Drexel
Oregon State: None
USC: 89-84 over Utah St., 72-70 over Drexel
Utah: 69-68 over Wichita St.
Washington: 49-36 over San Diego St., 68-65 over UTEP
Washington State: None
Nine good wins, with six teams yet to record a meaningful win. I was nice and gave Drexel the benefit of the doubt. If you think the Dragons are going to fall outside of the RIP top 100, then there are only seven high value wins left.
The main key is that Arizona is again taking care of business. The Pac-12 is utterly dependent on the Wildcats to prop up the rest of a pretty weak conference.
Arizona State: 76-71 to Alabama, 78-73 to Maryland, 72-71 to Texas A&M
Cal: 71-55 to Texas
Colorado: 56-33 at Wyoming
Oregon: 70-63 to Michigan, 77-63 to VCU, 79-73 to Ole Miss
Oregon State: 66-53 to Oklahoma St.
Stanford: 70-59 to Duke
UCLA: 75-65 to Oklahoma, 78-56 to North Carolina
USC: 66-46 to Akron
Utah: 53-49 to San Diego St.
Washington State: 65-52 to UTEP, 81-54 to TCU, 71-43 to UCSB
To be honest, I'm being generous with a few of these games. Texas A&M and TCU have, at least lately, been not-very-good major conference teams. Wyoming and Akron could well be borderline teams as well.
More importantly, there are 17 games listed in this category, vs. 9 in the previous category. What that means is that Pac-12 teams have gone 9-17 in resume games. That's as solid an indication as any that the conference is down this year, something that everybody predicted thanks to another talent drain to the draft.
Arizona State: None
Oregon State: 71-69 to Auburn
Stanford: 87-72 to DePaul
USC: 63-61 to Penn St.
Washington State: 77-71 to Idaho
Only four bad losses! That's actually pretty good considering that a) there are some not-good teams in the Pac-12 this year and b) Pac-12 teams have had MANY opportunities to pick up bad losses.
How many opportunities? Well, according to realtime RPI, the Pac-12 does not have a single team with a strength of schedule higher than 107th in the nation. In fact, a few Pac-12 teams have currently faced schedules ranked in the 300s. As a result, the Pac-12 currently 9th in the RPI as a whole, with the 23rd ranked schedule strength.
At the moment, it appears that the coaches and ADs of the Pac-12 have failed to set up schedules that will collectively give them a chance at the NCAA tournament. There are still a few weeks left in the non-conference portion of the season and I haven't reviewed the schedule of every team, but the outlook is grim. Teams like Washington State and Oregon State probably won't care as they work in new coaches. But legitimately good teams like Utah and Colorado are badly hurting themselves with weak non-conference resumes, and they might not have the chance to boost themselves in conference play . . . unless they can beat Arizona.
Right now, Arizona is the only team obviously positioning themselves for a tournament spot. Utah, Cal and Washington have kinda sorta positioned themselves if they have a good conference season. Everybody else may already be in trouble.
Monday: No games
Utah Valley at Arizona
Utah at BYU
Colorado St. at Colorado
Washington St. at Gonzaga
UC Riverside at UCLA
Wyoming at Cal
Thursday: No games
Friday: No games
Princeton at Cal
Pepperdine at Arizona St.
Utah at Kansas
Mississippi St. at Oregon St.
Michigan at Arizona
Northern Colorado at Colorado
Denver at Stanford
Oregon at Illinois
Washington St. at Santa Clara
Gonzaga at UCLA
Army at USC
Eastern Washington at Washington
A huge week for Utah, who need to take one of two this week against BYU and Kansas to make up for a bunch of low value games earlier in their schedule. Meanwhile, Gonzaga will be playing another two Pac-12 teams, and Arizona needs to stay undefeated for the greater good.
Colorado welcomes two decent Mountain West teams to Boulder, hoping that playing basically zero power 5 teams before Pac-12 play will be enough. Arizona State continues to play nobody, and Herb Sendek hopes that nobody notices the Sun Devils at all this year.