College Basketball: Meet the PAC 10

t williAnalyst IJanuary 27, 2008

Ladies and gentleman, allow me to cordially introduce the PAC 10.

This West Coast conference is spread across 5 states; and each states boasts two great universities. There's Washington and Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State, Arizona and Arizona State. In the state of Northern California we have Stanford and California (Berkeley) and in the bordering state of Southern California there's UCLA and USC.

This colorful conference—made up of green and yellow ducks, maroon and gold sun devils, orange beavers, two sets of yellow and blue bears, and many others—certainly has its place in college sports as being one, if not the top conference this year in basketball.

Sports critics focus on several key blow-outs in the past several years, citing a “weakness” of the PAC 10 conference. Therefore, they claim East Coast teams and conferences are superior. This claim can be traced back to recent blow-outs in several major sports, including last year’s bout with UNC beating Arizona (at home) in basketball, 92-64.

Other national embarrassments include this year’s Holiday Bowl blowout with Texas dominating ASU 52-34, lowly Notre Dame slamming UCLA (at home) in football this year with a 20-6 loss, and unranked West Virginia beating #2 UCLA 70-65 in basketball last year.

Despite these few losses, the hype and excitement surrounding the PAC 10 stays strong and the current overall stats and game outcomes certainly pack a powerful punch.

Historically, UCLA leads the conference in 47 NCAA tournament bids and the national championship run with 11 titles (thanks, Coach Wooden). The Bruins are second only behind Duke for the all-time winning percentage in the NCAA tournament. Five of the teams have won the national championship, and all but ASU have made it to a Final Four.

AP preseason rankings listed six of the ten teams in the top 25; and Arizona State can be added into the select top 25 after an impressive start to the season.

The remaining three teams yet to be ranked this season can still hold their own.

California’s sophomore forward Ryan Anderson posts the current conference-high average of almost 22 points per game, and Washington junior Jon Brockman leads the conference in rebounds, at over 11 per game.

Oregon State recently fired head coach Jay John, and the university is expected to launch a nationwide search for a new coach.

Herb Sendek, head coach of ASU, turned the program around in his second year (the Devils started 0-14 in the conference last year; ended with a 2-16 record), so Oregon State can look to a tremendous turnaround in the upcoming years if a similar coach switch is made.

The Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) includes four teams in the top 30, and Arizona takes the medal for the toughest schedule this season. Because all the teams are playing every conference game at such a high level of competition, every single game is crucial.

Basketball standouts such as Memphis in Conference USA, or Gonzaga in the WAC, have little competition in their respective conferences, and therefore entering the tournament in March is almost guaranteed year after year.

This intense pressure put on the ten teams in the PAC, in turn, is shaping and testing each player and coach, and readying them for the big dance in March. It is up to the gods of bracketology as to which teams could vie for a spot in the Final Four, much less the championship game.

The teams are great at recruiting players as well; the PAC 10 boasts freshman stars OJ Mayo at USC, Kevin Love at UCLA, Jerryd Bayless at Arizona, and James Harden at ASU. All the top recruits are living up to their high expectations, and impressing fans, commentators, and newscasters across the country.

As with most introductions, this article only scratches the surface of a well-stacked, jam-packed conference.

As the season of college basketball plays out, teams of the PAC 10 will surely provide countless hours of entertainment, wondrous displays of athleticism, hopefully a national contender or two, and earn a well-deserved spot in the hearts of basketball fans everywhere (perhaps even on the ACC and Big East side of town).