The punchless Pac-12

Yesterday, College Gameday was in Tucson, Arizona for the game between the Arizona Wildcats and Washington Huskies. It was perhaps the best atmosphere for a taping of Gameday this season, as they had only been to Tallahassee and Pittsburgh previously — two campuses that didn’t exactly have much confidence in their team at the time the show was in town.

It was supposed to be a big day for the conference, having their biggest game of the day highlighted in the evening. If the Pac-12 was going to prove they weren’t as bad as people thought, it was going to be in a prime-time game on ESPN with two of their best teams on the court.

Instead, it was unwatchable. I had to change the channel to a Tennessee-Auburn game on ESPN2, and that should tell you everything.

Entering Saturday’s game, do you know who was in first place in the conference? Colorado. Not UCLA, Arizona or Washington.


No team in the Pac-12 has fewer than five losses, but two teams have lost 16 games. One of them, USC (currently an awful 6-16), was in the second round of the NCAA Tournament just three years ago. And that’s just the beginning.

Once-proud programs are fighting to get any decent player in recruiting that they can. Arizona is still doing well in that aspect, but the rest are really struggling.

UCLA head coach Ben Howland said he’s having major difficulty convincing kids to come play for one of the most storied college basketball programs ever. Apparently they think he can’t develop them into players that will be able to play at the next level.

Uh … Kevin Love, anyone?

California is one of the most talent-rich states in the nation for basketball, and Howland can’t pluck recruits out of his own backyard. As a result, a team that went to a title game in 2006 (and then back-to-back Final Fours after that) is losing to teams like Loyola Marymount, Middle Tennessee State and Oregon State.

Now, back to last night’s game between the Wildcats and Huskies. It was a tight game with a lot of drama, but it just wasn’t compelling basketball. Maybe it was because of the pace of the game, but I think it had more to do with neither team shooting better than 44 percent from the floor. That many missed shots can take a toll on you.

And it’s taking a toll on the conference, too. This past week, not a single team got a single vote in any of the polls. Even their best isn’t close, and that has to be a red flag for the Pac-12.

I see no way the conference gets more than one bid into the NCAA Tournament, and that’s not going to help them fight back against the perception that college basketball is passing them by.

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