I wonder how many years the Pac-whatever can stay down. It seems like this is the third or fourth year in a row that we've been complaining about bad basketball in the conference, and its hard to find any kind of silver lining about why things are going to get better. I've said that when this conference is at its strongest, UCLA, Cal, Arizona, Oregon, and Washington are all relevant at the same time. UCLA is a dumpster fire. Cal hasn't won a game away from Berkeley, Washington is on a three game losing streak, and while Arizona and Oregon haven't lost to any bad teams, they also haven't beaten any good ones. I'm going to outline just how many bad losses the Pac-12 has this season (Pomeroy has them ranked the #6 conference, far below the ACC, and just barely above the Mountain West), but first I want to talk a bit about Oregon.
Last year's Oregon team wasn't a very good team. They shot horribly, didn't have a ton of athleticism, and had less talent than almost every team they played. But we loved them because they played hard every possession, worked incredibly hard on defense, and didn't turn the ball over. They were everything that Ernie Kent's last couple of teams weren't, grinding out games that they had no business winning. This season has been the opposite, as we've the same terrible mistakes over and over again. Oregon turns the ball over with alarming frequency. They have poor defensive rotations and horrible lapses leading to wide open layins. Their rebounding has been poor, in spite of the fact that the Ducks have the size advantage over most teams they play. We're learning just how special Joevan Catron was last year because, although Oregon is deeper at the post, they have been struggling to replace his production. Only EJ Singler and Garrett Sim are playing at a high level right now.
Now, I'm not going to say these problems aren't fixable, they are. The Ducks don't have any bad losses yet, as they've managed to squeak by all the bad teams on sheer talent, but they weren't terribly close against either Vandy or BYU, and they aren't going to beat many good teams until these problems are fixed. The Ducks play Virginia on Saturday, in a game they need to win if they want to claim any kind of non-conference resume. Other than that, its four creampuffs until conference play, and Oregon must start taking care of the basketball of playing better defense because, even in a very down Pac-12, the competition level is about to ratchet up considerably.
Its been awhile, so I'm just going to do a set of power rankings. RPI's aren't out, so I'll just use Pomeroy rankings, and highlight each team's good wins (top 100) and bad losses (sub 100). Guess what the Pac-12 has more of?
1. Stanford (8-1) :: Good wins: vs Oklahoma State at MSG (48), vs. NC State (68) :: Bad losses: none
A surprise to see the Cardinal at the top, as we weren't expecting a lot out of them this season. But the Cardinal have as good a resume as is to be found in the conference. They have 2 top-100 wins, three wins away from Palo Alto, and have not let a bad team stay in a game for any period of time. Their only loss was a last minute fight with Syracuse at Madison Square Garden.
2. Arizona (7-3) :: Good wins: at New Mexico State (82), vs. Clemson (65) :: Bad losses: none
Arizona has steadily gotten better from a shaky early season. They have three losses, but to three pretty good teams in Mississippi State, SDSU, and Florida, and they have multiple wins on the road.
3. California (8-2) :: Good wins: vs. Denver (99) :: Bad losses: none
Here's where it starts to get tricky. I looked at Cal, Washington, Oregon, and Oregon State for this position. All three of those teams have a better win than Cal does, but UW and OSU each have a bad loss, and Oregon has looked very vulnerable against bad teams, whereas Cal has dominated bad teams, and lost by one to SDSU on the road. They got blown out by Mizzou, and don't have a road win yet, but of the teams considered, Cal is the one I'd least want to face if I were an opposing coach.
4. Washington (4-4) :: Good wins: vs. Georgia State (73) :: Bad losses: at Nevada (112)
I'm prepared to take some flak for this, as UW is 4-4 and doesn't have a win outside Seattle. But the Huskies played Duke and Marquette to the last possessions, and their "bad" loss isn't that terrible, a two point loss on the road. Washington has been competitive with good teams. Oregon hasn't.
5. Oregon (5-2) :: Good wins: at Nebraska (76) :: Bad losses: none
Oregon has a good win on the road, and both of their losses were on the road to top-50 foes. But they have struggled at home with some really bad teams due to turnovers and defensive issues. If they can get a win at home against Virginia this weekend, they have a chance to shoot up this list.
6. Oregon State (6-2) :: Good wins: vs. Texas at NJ (33) :: Bad losses: vs. Idaho (123)
I still think the Beavers are going to be a factor in the conference, and they have a really good win away from Gill. But of the top six teams in the conference, they have by far the worst loss. You can't be non-competitive with Idaho at home. You just can't.
7. Washington State (6-4) :: Good wins: none :: Bad losses: vs. UC-Riveside in Anaheim (269)
Washington State had a 17 point second half lead on UC-Riverside, then gave it all away, and its the clear blemish on the Cougars' resume. They don't have any good wins, but three of their losses (at Gonzaga, neutral vs. Oklahoma and New Mexico) aren't bad. If only they hadn't blown the big lead, we'd feel a lot differently about the Cougs.
8. USC (4-6) :: Good wins: none :: Bad losses: vs. Cal Poly (130)
The Trojans not only had a ton of turnover this year, but they've had a brutal schedule. Their losses: Nebraska, at San Diego State, New Mexico, at Minnesota, and at UNLV. Its hard to fault any one of those, but a good team needs a win or two. Also had the crazy loss against Cal Poly, where they only scored 36 points.
9. Colorado (5-4) :: Good wins: none :: Bad losses: vs Maryland at PR (125), at Colorado State (136)
I'm not ready to call a loss to Maryland bad, regardless of what the numbers say at this point, but Colorado hasn't exactly done anything impressive, either.
10. UCLA (3-5) :: Good wins: none :: Bad losses: vs. Loyola Marymount (194)
They opened the season with double digit home losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee, haven't been competitive against the three good teams they've played, and barely beat Penn at home in their last game. And their best player (Reeves Nelson) got kicked off the team. Only above ASU because having Josh Smith and the Wear twins suggest they have the potential to get better at some point.
11. Arizona State (4-5) :: Good wins: at Tulsa (97) :: Bad losses: vs. Pepperdine (246), vs. DePaul (174), vs. Nevada (112)
A moderately good home win doesn't make up for some completely non-competitive bad losses at home.
12. Utah (1-8) :: Good wins: none :: Bad losses: vs. Montana State (265), vs. UMass (129), vs. UNC-Asheville (137), at Fresno State (153), vs. Cal State-Fullerton (180)
Utah will go down as one of the worst major conference teams in college basketball history. They stand at 1-8, their only win on a buzzer beater against DII San Diego Christian. Pomeroy gives them a 60% chance to win their next game at home against Idaho State--then no better than a 22% chance to win any other game on their schedule.