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The Pac-12 Conference remains impossible to predict

The Pac-12 Men's Basketball has become as stable and predictable as McMurphy's crew.

TEAMS

CONFERENCE

OVERALL

LAST GAME

NEXT GAME

Best Win (Kenpom Rank)

12Arizona

9-4

21-5

W86-78 USC

VS Arizona State

2/17ESPN2

USC (27)

16Oregon

9-4

20-6

L72-76 STAN

VS Oregon State

2/20Pac-12 Networks

Arizona (15)

Colorado

8-5

19-7

W81-80 WASH

@ USC

2/17ESPNU

Oregon (21)

Utah

8-5

19-7

W88-47 WSU

@ UCLA

2/18ESPN2

Duke (11)

USC

7-5

18-7

L78-86 ARIZ

VS Colorado

2/17ESPNU

Wichita State (12)

California

7-5

17-8

W83-71 ORST

@ Washington

2/18FOX Sports 1

Arizona (15)

Washington

7-6

15-10

L80-81 COLO

VS Cal

2/18FOX Sports 1

Texas (23)

Oregon State

6-7

15-9

L71-83 CAL

@ Oregon

2/20Pac-12 Networks

Oregon (21)

UCLA

5-7

14-11

W78-65 ASU

VS Utah

2/18ESPN2

Kentucky (8)

Stanford

5-7

12-11

W76-72 ORE

@ Washington State

2/18Pac-12 Networks

Oregon (21)

Arizona State

4-9

14-12

L65-78 UCLA

@ Arizona

2/17ESPN2

Texas A&M (20)

Washington State

1-12

9-16

L47-88 UTAH

VS Stanford

2/18Pac-12 Network

UCLA (54)

 

                The Pac-12 has officially gone Hollywood, which is to say what William Goldman once said: “Nobody knows anything.”  Just when it seemed that there was some clarity emerging from the chaos of conference play, everybody just goes ahead and goes wacko.  Aside from boasting college basketball’s only glockenspiel-playing color analyst, there is very little we can say for certain about the conference of champions (last men’s basketball NCAA Champion: 1997).

                Just when Oregon looked like it had established itself as the class of the conference, the Ducks went to the Bay Area and left Puddles wading in tears of disappointment.  USC, the darling of the league in year 3 under Andy Enfield, was lost in the desert this past week.  The Rocky Mountain Schools swept the Washington schools, and now the accordion has contracted once more.  Four teams are one game back of the two first place teams, with a third team (UW) two loss column games back.

                Unlikely as it may be for Stanford and Arizona State, a full eleven teams are technically still capable of winning this conference.  The one team that is clearly out, Washington State, has lost 11 in a row and is clearly a basketball abomination.  Of course that means the Cougars will sweep the Bay Area schools this week, because, you know, Pac-12 Gonna Pac-12.

                Joe Lunardi currently has six teams (Colorado, Utah, USC, Cal, Arizona, and Oregon) in the field of 68, with the Huskies among the First Four Out and the Beavers among the Next Four Out.   Five of the six teams in according to Lunardi rank as middling seeds (6-8) with only Oregon, who just got swept, rating as high as a 3 seed.  Basically, Lunardi is suggesting that  the Pac-12 is extremely deep but its top-shelf is not Final Four-worthy.

                So this week, we’re going to look at the efficiency profiles to see what’s propelling each team and what’s holding each team back.  I’ve decided to “create” a category called Efficiency Differential.  Don’t worry, you won’t need a graphing calculator or a major in Applied Mathematics to understand it.  All it entails is the gap between a team’s offensive and defensive efficiency ratings in conference play.

Team

ORtg

DRtg

Differential

Arizona

1

4

3

Oregon

2

7

5

Colorado

9

1

8

Utah

3

2

1

USC

4

5

1

Cal

5

3

2

Washington

7

11

4

Oregon State

10

6

4

UCLA

6

8

2

Stanford

11

9

2

Arizona State

8

10

2

Washington State

12

12

0

 

                So what do we see?  First, it seems that it is slightly better to excel at offense than defense.  The conference’s top two offenses are both in first place, while the top two defenses (Colorado and Utah) are right behind them.  It will be interesting to see if these numbers hold.  Stanford fans certainly know how real the struggle is when there is no offense to energize defense, but we’ll have more conviction about this at the end of the season.  Regardless, it's always good to excel at something.  Duh. 

                Speaking about Stanford, it’s also important to note that “balance” is not really something to celebrate if it’s achieved by being awful on both sides of the ball.  The Cougars are perfectly “balanced” but are also perfectly putrid.   They have the worst offense and the worst defense in the league.  Arizona has closed the gap on its differential significantly over the last month, and that’s undoubtedly helped the Wildcats surge back to the top of the standings.

                Colorado stands out as the most interesting team if for no other reason that they are successful (tied for second), they excel at something (defense), but are the least balanced team in the league, coupling that defense with the 9th-rated offense in the Pac-12.  Something’s got to give there.  Either the Buffs find some offense, or I don’t see them climbing or maintaining over the last three weeks.    Utah, the second-best defensive team, would seem a good bet to rise based on the fact that they are very good on both ends of the court.  If somebody scoots past the Ducks and Cats, it could very well be the Utes.

                So the Arizona schools and the Oregons both have rivalry games this week that obviously have huge implications in the league race.  The Bay Area Schools head to Washington.  At 17 wins, Cal would seem to be in a good position to ensure an NCAA Tournament berth without collapsing.  That being said, Lunardi projects them as an 8 seed, so a Lost Weekend could put the Bears back on the bubble.

                The SoCal schools look to bounce back against the rugged Rocky Mountain Schools.  This could be the end of the Bruins, so obviously you can expect them to confound expectations and play well this weekend.

                So with three weeks left before it gets turned up at the MGM, the best advice I can give is to embrace the crazy.

                And grab your glockenspiel. 


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