Watching some of Wednesday night’s college hoops results, I was struck by a notion that surely will be felt a lot in Pac-12 precincts over the next nine days.
Every night, there will be results affecting teams fighting to get into the tournament, and a good many will feel like shots to the solar plexus of Pac-12 tournament aspirants. Wednesday night was a big one for those trying to play their way in, as South Florida won a huge game at Louisville, Cincinnati dropped Marquette and Colorado State upended Nevada-Las Vegas.
There’s going to be a lot of helplessness among Pac-12 fans as they see such scores come in. Helplessness, because there’s only so much their teams can do in this year of less-than-sterling performance by the league. For most of the bubble teams, there are clear opportunities to make a case — witness South Florida’s breakthrough at Louisville, a ranked team. Just about everybody in that gray area has a chance to make a closing statement against a team that’s going to the tournament — and it’s often going to be in a game in which the favored team will feel it has little to play for.
Contrast that with the Pac-12 hopefuls — Cal, Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, and yes, Washington. True, all of them have their NCAA destiny in their hands, courtesy of the post-season conference tournament. But no, there isn’t that one, defining marquee game that can vault them into the Big Dance, because of the overall weakness of the league.
In short, there’s no colossus team. Obviously, it helps if Colorado beats Oregon Thursday night, or vice versa, but it’s not a definitive statement. So they have to make it with a prolonged campaign — two or three or four games that impress the committee.
Just one more element of a tough year in the league.