It was a good year for the Pac-12, but for multiple fan bases, the season ends with could-have-beens.
What if Brandon Ashley doesn't break his foot? What if the refs don't call an iffy offensive foul on the final possession of overtime? What if McConnell, Gordon and Johnson combined to shoot just a bit better than 11-37 collectively?
What if Wisconsin didn't shoot their way back from a 14 point deficit? What if we didn't have a massive and inexplicable mid-season 2-8 slump?
What if Spencer Dinwiddie doesn't blow out his knee?
What if Bachynski grabs that board, and Texas doesn't hit that buzzer beater?
What if, after two surprising upsets, we could just beat the one team in the tournament we were favored to beat? What if Chasson Randle doesn't shoot 5-21 after playing six good-to-spectacular games in a row?
What if we played a respectable non-conference schedule that didn't automatically relegate us to the NIT almost before conference play began?
What if Jabari Bird didn't sprain his ankle, and we got a few NIT level performances from him in Pac-12 play?
What if Tony Bennett kept his word and built a dynasty of slow, defensively brilliant teams in Pullman?
What if John Wooden were reanimated, Frankenstein-style, so we don't have to suffer the shame of a Sweet 16 appearance?
Requiem for the Wildcats
I don't particularly care for Arizona, but I respect the passion of their fans and the talent they usually assemble. But I really, really respected this particular Arizona team because they played the best defense I've seen in the Pac-12 since at least early Howland at UCLA, if not longer. So it's a shame to see them lose before the Final Four, and it was particularly jarring to see them lose in part because they couldn't handle the interior threat of Frank Kaminsky.
Arizona 2013-14 will be remembered as one of the best Pac-12 squads in recent memory, and as a team that could do everything really well, but with an Achilles heel: They struggled to shoot the ball. 77th in the country in 3FG%, 83rd from behind the arc, and 305th from the line. When they were hitting jumpers (or simply blowing by defenders to the rim) they were an unstoppable force. When they were forced to take a bunch of jumpers they could be beaten by mediocre teams. We Cal fans know that more than most.
Last year, two Pac-12 basketball jobs opened up, both in L.A. This year, it's looking like two jobs may be open again, although a few other coaches might be lucky to still have a job. To summarize:
Ken Bone: Gone, and WSU got rejected by their first candidate.
Lorenzo Romar: On the hot seat, but expected to stay.
Craig Robinson: Given one more year for reasons beyond my understanding.
I want to focus on something from the Oregon State article linked above:
Craig inherited an 0-18 team and has worked hard to recruit nationally, build a practice facility and change the culture at Oregon State," Giles said. "This year, he had Oregon State within two league wins of the NCAA Tournament.
Oregon State's AD is arguing that if OSU won 2 more Pac-12 games, they would have been 10-8 in the Pac-12, and thus would have made the NCAA tournament. Which is ludicrous. Obviously enough, Cal went 10-8 and failed to make the NCAA tournament. With a non-conference strength of schedule of 213, plus losses to Hawaii, DePaul and Coppin St. (!!!), Oregon State wasn't even CLOSE to sniffing an NCAA bid. Which is why they didn't even receiving an NIT bid. In the past, I assumed that OSU's wretched scheduling practices were Robinson's fault, but maybe the problem has been in the AD office all along. If Giles really believes what he is saying, then Oregon State basketball fans are in for many more years of CBI bids, no matter who the coach is.
Next Week in the Pac-12
Nothing, obviously. The season is over. But over the next week or two we'll track the coaching search at Washington State and any other schools who decide or are forced into making a change, and break down new coaches. Plus, there have already been transfers and early draft declarations, and those will be sorted out as much as possible once the dust settles.