Men's Basketball Improved Across The Board
If it’s true that you are only as good as your last game, then the Pac-12 is definitely on the rise in men’s basketball.
After getting two teams into the NCAA Tournament last year and finishing ninth as a conference in RPI, the Pac-12 is in much better position as conference competition gets going. The Pac-12 is currently fifth in conference RPI and has four teams already in double-digit wins overall.
Pac-12 play commenced last weekend and if the first week is any indication, we’re in for a highly competitive couple of months.
“That it’s better,” Pac-12 Networks analyst Ernie Kent said when asked what the nonconference season taught him about the conference. “It’s better than last year. The top end is better. The bottom end is better, if you want to call it a bottom end. You have a lot of returning players that have worked on their game and are stepping up with productive years.”
Perhaps the most telling development about the conference last weekend is what happened in Tucson. Arizona, far and away the most decorated team in the Pac-12 so far this year with a perfect 14-0 record and a No. 3 national ranking, were on the ropes in games against Colorado and Utah. The Wildcats needed overtime to get by Colorado and then were pushed to the limit by Utah before finally prevailing by three.
Arizona State, one of the surprise teams of the conference at 13-2, was taken to overtime before beating Utah. Washington got all it could handle from Washington State before prevailing.
“I’ve said all along that it’s not wide open,” Kent said. “Arizona is not going to run away with the conference by any means. The fact that two teams can go in there and almost beat them tells you a lot about the conference.”
Along with Arizona, Oregon has been another surprise in the conference. The Ducks, despite losing two of their three top scorers from last year, enter the week with a 12-2 mark. Big things were expected of UCLA, and after an uneven start, the Bruins are 12-3, including a sweep of the Bay Area schools last weekend. Colorado, which won the Pac-12 Tournament, is 10-4 and has an RPI of 7.
“It’s going to come down to who protects its home court and who steals a few on the road,” Kent said. “Everybody is tough at home. There are just too many new pieces around the conference where nobody is going to run away with it.”