Pac-12 basketball this week: Conference is full of struggling teams

2011-12-21T00:01:00Z 2014-07-08T15:42:19Z Pac-12 basketball this week: Conference is full of struggling teamsPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 21, 2011 12:01 am  • 

No one, certainly, expected this Pac-12 season to be a blockbuster.

But the league just posted a weekend as ugly as any high-priced flop.

It was "Gigli."

Four Pac-12 teams lost nonconference home games, two in embarrassing fashion.

On Saturday, Arizona State let NAU make a game-winning three-pointer with a second left. On Sunday, Washington lost to South Dakota State by 19.

About 5 1/2 weeks into the season, a Pac-12 team has yet to beat anyone in the Top 25.

When Cal played Missouri, then No. 21, a month ago, it lost by 39. UCLA lost to Loyola Marymount. USC fell to Cal Poly.

"Everybody's aware the Pac-12 has probably had more losses than we care for," said first-year Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, whose Utes are 3-8.

Oregon coach Dana Altman said there have "been some scores that are a little bit not typical" this season.

That's being kind.

Before Tuesday's late games, the Pac-12 had won 58 percent of its nonconference games, down from 65 percent last year.

Pac-12 squads are a stunning 73-52 against Div. I-A teams. That's with the benefit of cosmetics - 18 wins have come against Big Sky and Big West teams.

Pac-12 teams are 3-10 against the Mountain West.

Against the five other power conferences - the Big East, Big 12, SEC, ACC and Big Ten - Pac-10 teams are 10-17.

The nation has noticed; the Pac-12 was ranked No. 9 in the nation by Jeff Sagarin on Monday, behind, among others, the Mountain West, Missouri Valley and Atlantic 10 conferences.

Two weeks ago, UCLA coach Ben Howland told the Los Angeles Times that the only way UCLA would make the NCAA tournament, based on its record then, was to run the table in the Pac-12 tournament.

The Bruins won three straight games to improve to 5-5 before Tuesday's late game against UC-Irvine, but the fact remains: Coaches are already handicapping how the embarrassing losses will affect the conference's number of at-large Big Dance berths.

"It's just put a lot of pressure on everybody in the league," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. "When everybody was winning and everybody was ranked, you're thinking, 'Man, we can finish fifth and get in.' … It's not that way now."

Stanford (10-1) and Cal (10-2) seem to be favorites to contend for the title, though Arizona, Washington and UCLA were praised Tuesday.

Oregon State, a surprise at 9-2, is playing "as good as anyone in the league," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said.

The league "looks like it's up in the air," USC coach Kevin O'Neill said.

Then again, it's early.

Ugly, but early.

"To me, it looks like, if I had to say, Stanford and Cal might be the two best teams. But who knows?" O'Neill said. "It's hard to compare nonconference schedules."

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