Pac-12 Basketball: Ranking the 10 Biggest Disappointments of the Season

Sean BielawskiContributor IIIMarch 8, 2013

Pac-12 Basketball: Ranking the 10 Biggest Disappointments of the Season

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    Pac-12 basketball has been pretty nondescript this season.

    The league has been good but not great. The Pac-12 will send five or six teams to the NCAA tournament, but only one, Arizona, will likely get a top-four seed.

    From a talent standpoint, the same could be said. The conference has plenty of good players but few great ones. Currently, UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad is the only player in the league projected to be a first-round pick in the next NBA draft, according to DraftExpress.com.

    As is the case with every conference, there have been some disappointments along the way, with the lack of an elite team being one.

    Here are the 10 biggest disappointments of the season in the Pac-12.

10. Washington State

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    Washington State had a nice moment on Wednesday when it upset UCLA, 73-61. It was the first time the Cougars had beaten the Bruins at home since 1993—a streak of 19 games.

    However, that win was just Washington State’s third Pac-12 victory of the season. The Cougars have been the worst team in the league, and that is disappointing considering it is Ken Bone’s fourth year on the sidelines in Pullman.

    Washington State finished above .500 in Bone’s first three seasons, but after this year, it’s tough to find reasons to be optimistic moving forward. 

9. Oregon State's Step Back

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    Oregon State has played in the CBI in three of the first four seasons Craig Robinson has been at the helm in Corvallis. Last year, the Beavers won 21 games, and Jared Cunningham became the first Oregon State player to be drafted since 1998.

    This year, the Beavers have regressed. They are 3-14 and on their way to the worst conference record during Robinson’s tenure, even though they have an experienced roster with four starters who are upperclassmen.

8. Washington’s Struggles at Home

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    Washington is 17-13 this year with six of those losses coming at home, six on the road and one on a neutral court. With a better home record, the Huskies could be looking at a possible NCAA tournament berth.

    Washington has lost to Albany, Nevada and Utah in front of the home crowd at Alaska Airlines Arena. All three teams are ranked No. 158 or lower in the RPI, according to Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com.

    Unless they make a run in the Pac-12 tournament, Washington will be in the NIT for the second consecutive year, and its struggles at home are a big reason why.

7. Andre Roberson’s Illness

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    Colorado is on its way to the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive year, but the Buffaloes received some tough news as Andre Roberson is out indefinitely with a “viral illness,” according to The Denver Post.

    Tad Boyle is telling the media he expects Roberson to be back this season, perhaps for the Pac-12 tournament. If that is the case, then the crisis will have been averted.

    Roberson is one of the best rebounders and defenders in the country, averaging 11.5 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. The Buffaloes need to have him at 100 percent if they want to make any noise in the NCAA tournament.

6. Dominic Artis’ Foot Injury

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    In its first 19 games, Oregon was 17-2 and 6-0 in conference play, in firm control of the Pac-12 race. The Ducks had wins over UNLV, Arizona and UCLA.

    Then, freshman point guard Dominic Artis suffered a foot injury and missed the next nine games. Over that span, Oregon went 5-4 and, obviously, did not look like the same team.

    The good news is that Artis has returned in time for the postseason, but it would have been fun to see what Oregon could have done if he were healthy all year.

    Now, the question is how the selection committee will treat the Ducks come Selection Sunday. Will Oregon get the benefit of the doubt because of Artis’ injury and get bumped up a seed or two?

5. USC’s Start

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    Kevin O’Neill loaded up on transfers in hopes of upping the talent level at USC, but the Trojans got off to such a slow start that it cost O’Neill his job.

    The combination of poor chemistry and an extremely tough nonconference schedule ultimately spelled the end for O’Neill. USC began the season 7-10, and O’Neill was fired on Jan. 14.

    Lately, the Trojans have been playing some pretty good basketball. They have won six of their last nine games and could very easily finish 9-9 in conference play.

4. Stanford’s Regression

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    Stanford won 20 games in the regular season last year, and the Cardinal followed that up with an NIT championship.

    This year, despite returning many of the key contributors from a season ago, Stanford has failed to take the next step, which would be making its first NCAA tournament appearance since Johnny Dawkins took over in 2008.

    The Cardinal are 18-13 and 9-9 in conference play, and they will need to win the conference tournament to punch a ticket to Big Dance.

3. Arizona’s Late-Season Struggles

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    Arizona started the season 14-0 with wins over Miami, Florida, San Diego State, Southern Miss and Colorado. The Wildcats looked like they were on their way to a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

    Since that start, however, Arizona has been 9-6, and it has not registered a win over a team ranked in the RPI top 50 since the victory over Colorado on Jan. 3, losing five straight.

    The Wildcats are still in the top four of the conference and will receive a bye in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament, but they are not a team that can be trusted in the NCAA tournament. 

2. Mike Montgomery’s Shove

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    Early in the second half of Cal’s game at USC on Feb. 17, Mike Montgomery got a little heated with leading scorer Allen Crabbe. During a break in the action, Montgomery yelled at and shoved Crabbe, setting off a national debate.

    The Golden Bears came back to beat USC, 76-68, but that shouldn’t be used as justification for Montgomery’s actions. Both Montgomery and Crabbe said the right things after the incident, and they have moved on.

    Luckily for Cal, the incident has been overshadowed by the fact that the team won seven of its last eight games to end the regular season.

1. Lack of an Elite Team

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    The Pac-12 will likely end up with five teams in the NCAA tournament, which isn’t bad for a league with 12 teams. The league has its fair share of good teams, but the problem is there are no great teams.

    Take Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, for example. The Pac-12 has just two teams that rank in the top 40 in Pomeroy’s ratings at KenPom.com. Arizona is No. 23 and Colorado is No. 39.

    Once the NCAA tournament gets started, there won’t be a team from the Pac-12 that will be a serious threat to make a Final Four run.