A weekend and a half of Pac-12 basketball is in the books, and though it’s always risky forming too many quick opinions, here’s what the early results are screaming:
Can it be? Can this conference (fresh off a 2-5 football bowl season) somehow manage to do the unthinkable and get only one team into the NCAA tournament — the winner of the league’s post-season tournament?
That simply doesn’t happen to a BCS conference. But it might in 2012.
As has been noted here and many places elsewhere, the league acquitted itself poorly in the pre-conference portion. There were no victories over ranked teams, and it’s arguable which was the best non-league win: It might be Oregon State’s over Texas, but the Longhorns had a 78 RPI Friday. By RealtimeRPI.com’s reckoning, the highest-ranked victim of a Pac-12 team (Stanford) is Colorado State, at 42. There’s also Stanford’s win over North Carolina State (62) and Cal over Denver (67).
Last week, trying to forecast how a jumbled league is likely to sort out, I went with Cal at the top, but I was of the belief that it might be with something like a 13-5 record, with two or three teams at 12-6 and another two or three at 11-7. Nobody’s likely to go 16-2.
Shortly in, it’s already playing out like that. Only Colorado is unbeaten in league play, and the Buffs haven’t been on the road yet. The road has been a very treacherous place; home teams went 9-1 last weekend and Thursday night, they were 5-1. The only breakthroughs on the road have come against bad teams (Washington State and USC).
Ah, you say, it’s always like this. Well, not so much. Last year, at the same juncture (including Thursday night of the second weekend), road teams already had five victories. Washington, in fact, had equaled the entire output so far in 2012 with a sweep in Los Angeles.
I’m not at all convinced the regular-season Pac-12 champion can figure on an NCAA berth. Assuming it doesn’t have a superlative record in league, it’s going to depend on its overall resume (which won’t be overwhelming) and the rest of the landscape in college hoops.