The Pac-12 tournament tips off Wednesday in Las Vegas, and I think it’s probably the most wide-open field in the history of the league. One coach has said he thinks any one of nine teams could win it (no offense to you, Utah, Washington State and Oregon State).
But UCLA won the league championship with a 13-5 record, which prompts the question:
What happened to all the great teams?
This marks the fifth consecutive year the Pac-12 has been won with four or more losses. It’s the second time in four years the champion had five defeats, while that happened only one other time since the league expanded in 1978-79 (when Washington and USC tied at 13-5 for the title in 1985).
We’re now nearing a decade since we’ve seen a 17-1 team, which has happened, on average, about every five years.
Last 17-1 team was Stanford in 2004, the Josh Childress-Chris Hernandez group. It was preceded by another 17-1 team (Arizona) in 2003, with Jason Gardner and Luke Walton.
The other 17-1s since 1979: The Miles Simon-Mike Dickerson-Mike Bibby Arizona team of 1998, which was coming off the national title; the Damon Stoudamire-Chris Mills Arizona team of 1993; the Sean Elliott-Steve Kerr ‘Zona teams of 1988-89; and the first of the Pac-10 era, the 1981 Oregon State team with Steve Johnson, Mark Radford, Ray Blume and Lester Conner.
Of course, going 17-1 has hardly been an entrée to big things: Of the seven 17-1 teams in league history, only the 1988 Arizona team made it to a Final Four. Three of them bowed out on the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.
I think it’s been an interesting Pac-12 season, with its share of twists and switchbacks (Washington, Cal, Oregon, we’re talking about you). Now it’s up to the league to prove we haven’t been watching mediocrity.