Friday, November 25, 2011
3-point shot: Pac-12 off to slow start
By Andy Katz
1. The Maui Invitational final between Kansas and Duke is yet another example of why neutral site tournaments are a must in the sport. Elite teams have an aversion to true home-and-home series, outside of forced league agreements. Setting up potential matchups in Maui, and now the events like the Champions Classic, continue to help grow the sport. The Maui Invitational was in danger of being squeezed out by greed once again as elite teams needed/demanded another home game on campus as part of the event. That’s why Maui went with the Mainland format to get a fourth game as part of the commitment prior to leaving for Maui (Duke and Memphis played Belmont). It was a must/survival move by Maui scheduler, former South Carolina and Wake Forest coach Dave Odom.
2. The Pac-12 did fine in the NCAA tournament last season with Arizona reaching the Elite Eight, wins by Washington and UCLA in the second round (newly named of the first round), as well. The regular season was pedestrian by power six standards. But the league is ultimately judged like all others by March. Let’s see if that occurs again. So far the most consistent Pac-12 teams are Stanford and Oregon State. That could bode well for those two, but not for the league. Cal got blown out by possible Big 12 champ Missouri, but that still doesn’t show well. UCLA doesn’t have a Division I win. Arizona will be a contender for the league title, but hasn’t won a “big game” yet, losing to Mississippi State in New York and San Diego State. Oregon is an unknown after losing its top recruit when Jabari Brown quit. Washington is once again subpar on the road, getting blown out at A-10 contender Saint Louis. Washington State got blitzed by Oklahoma on Thursday. USC, Arizona State, Utah, Colorado have been dreadful.
3. Big West commissioner Dennis Farrell said he still hasn’t heard one word from Boise State or San Diego State in a request for possible membership if they end up leaving the Mountain West and joining the Big East for football only. The Big West is the most natural destination for the rest of their sports, over a geographically challenged WAC or the perceived lower-level Big Sky. The WCC has shied away from looking for state schools in any expansion. San Diego State would be a major catch for the Big West and fit in perfectly with the all California/Hawaii conference in 2012-13 and beyond. Boise State would enhance the league, as well, but would add travel like Hawaii. These are positive expansion moves -- if it happens for the Big West -- but it’s hard to ignore that they would be let downs for the schools if they were to go backwards to a league that has been a one-bid conference for quite some time.