Pac-12 men’s basketball failed to pull off a single win against an AP Top -25 team during the 2011-12 regular season.
But that was last season, and with the start of the 2012-13 regular season upon us, the conference appears to be back, after bringing in a couple of top 2012 recruits.
UCLA and Arizona will both likely start off the 2012-13 season in the AP rankings. The Bruins' position which will largely depend on the fate of Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson, as both players have yet to be cleared by the NCAA.
The major lesson learned from the 2011-12 season by the Pac-12 was that for conference play to count toward the postseason, the conference has to pull off some wins against top non-conference teams.
This season, the Pac-12 will have several opportunities to redeem itself during non-conference play.
Below is a ranking of some of the top non-conference games highlighted from that breakdown, losses in which could solidify the Pac-12 Conference in the same spot as last season—the postseason NIT tournament instead of the NCAA tournament.
6 non-conference games/events that could be major buzzkills or mark the return of Pac-12 men's college basketball in 2012-13 (For this list teams were only included once, in attempt to show as much diversity as possible in the 2012-13 Pac-12 Conference’s non-conference game schedule.):
Honorable mentions: Stanford against NC State (December 18). USC against Minnesota (December 8). UCLA against Missouri (December 28). USC (November 25), UCLA (December 1) against San Diego State. UCLA against Texas (December 8), and a potential matchup of USC against Texas (Maui Invitational). Cal against Wisconsin (December 2) and against Creighton (December 15). ASU against Wisconsin or Creighton at the Las Vegas Invitational (November 23-24). Washington against Saint Louis (November 28). Washington State against Gonzaga (December 5).
No. 6 Colorado, Oregon State and Washington State against Kansas. The Buffaloes (December 8), the Beavers (November 30) and the Cougars (November 19) will all be taking on the Jayhawks this season. While all three teams will be big underdogs in these matches, the reason for their inclusion in this list is that blowouts here could have damaging potential, should any of these teams then go on to beat the top Pac-12 teams during conference play.
While not fair, the concept of “"team A' beat 'team B', which beat 'team C', therefore 'team A' is superior to 'team C'” is frequently used. On the other hand, an unlikely upset in any of these matches against Kansas would be a huge win for the conference.
No. 5 Oregon, Cal against UNLV. Both the Ducks (November 23, Global Sports Classic) and the Bears (December 9) will be taking on the Runnin’ Rebels this season. Last season, Colorado’s defeat of UNLV in the NCAA tournament was one of only a handful of highlights from a disappointing season overall for the Pac-12 Conference.
No. 4 Washington in the Tip-Off Hall of Fame Classic (November 17-18). The Huskies will first take on Seton Hall, and then possibly Ohio State, in this event. Wins here would erase any doubts about the returning Pac-12 regular season champion that lost its top two scorers to this year's NBA draft.
No. 3 Stanford in the Battle 4 Atlantis (November 22-24). The Cardinal is coming off a postseason NIT championship, with all the pieces in place to make a run toward an NCAA tournament bid come March. But before the 2012-13 postseason, Stanford will be participating in one of the biggest events of the regular season with a trip to the Bahamas. The Cardinal will take on Missouri on the 22nd, and could possibly be facing Louisville after that.
No. 2 Arizona against Florida (December 15). Following losses against Mississippi State and San Diego State last season, a 78-72 loss against Florida set the Wildcats on a path that would ultimately end in an opening-game postseason NIT loss. Arizona has a chance to redeem that early non-conference loss to Florida and help establish some respectability to the conference, if they can pull off a win against the Gators this season.
The lack of marquee games from the Wildcats' 2012-13 non-conference schedule likely makes this a must-win game for Arizona—a team that has had a huge amount of hype prior to the start of the 2012-13 season.
No.1 UCLA in the Legends Classic (November 19-20). Facing Georgetown and possibly Indiana, this is the type of non-conference scheduling where just a couple of key wins could single-handedly announce the return of the Bruins and the Pac-12 Conference to the national stage.