HARMELING: Trying to make sense of the Pac

LET ME GET THIS straight. The last-place team in the Pac-10 is 2-3. The third-place team is a whopping half game ahead of the last place team, Arizona. But if Arizona wins this weekend, they could potentially be tied for second. Questions anyone?

Well, for starters, I have a few.

Somebody call President Obama. Tell him to put his brother-in-law on the phone because I need to have a word. Mr. Robinson, can you please explain to me how you let your team lose by 51 points to a Seattle U. team that is in their second year of D-1 ball?

I understand that Cameron Dollar is doing a fantastic job over there, but you'll have to excuse me for hoping that your squad could keep it a little closer than that. Not that this is the first time OSU has thrown us a curveball; see 2007-08 (0 for the entire Pac-10), and 08-09 (CBI Tournament Champions).

If you don't know what the CBI Tournament is, don't worry; I assure you it's the most irrelevant tournament in the history of college athletics. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised with the blow-out loss though. They did start the season off with a bang, losing to Texas A&M…oh wait, check that. Texas A&M CC. Those last two letters are very important.

Man that felt good to get off my chest. And if that came off as disrespectful to Coach Robinson, I do apologize because I do respect you as a coach and as a person, and actually went on record last week as saying your squad will (I think) improve quite a bit over the next month or so. And to OSU's credit, they might be the hottest team in the Pac with a two game winning streak.

But this article really isn't about OSU. It was just too hard to resist throwing in a couple jabs, but more importantly they seem to be a perfect microcosm of the Conference.

The Pac-10 has taken quite a bashing from the media -- perhaps as a result of the bashing they've taken from teams outside the conference. And call me a hater, but I'm going to call it like I see it: I believe the Pac-10 may actually be worse than "they" are saying it is. But enough has been made about the conferences' struggles.

I've been waiting to write about the parity in the conference for a week, but have held off because I inaccurately assumed a handful of teams would figure it out and start playing with some consistency.

I secretly have been waiting to realign my pre season picks for the conference, but it's becoming clear that there are only a few acceptable ways to foresee what's going to happen from here on out. I would encourage you to adopt one of these two methods next time you need to predict the outcome of any given game or overall conference standings when it's all said and done.

1) Flip a coin. I know its old-school, but can you honestly tell me you have a better method?

2) Poll all the coaches as to what place they see each school finishing at. Take the list in order from 1-10. Reverse the order. That's likely to be your best guess.

Good News/Bad News. The bad news: the conference is bad. The good news: the conference is bad. Which bodes well for our Cougars, because I believe they can scratch and claw their way into the top 3, which might give them a shot at the Dance. And I've got 50,000 Alaska Airlines Miles that says I will be there with the rest of you if that's the case.

If you held a gun to my head and asked what quality of a team might prevail in a state of parity such as this, I would say a team that has a very defined "system." Those are the teams with identities. And when I think of a system, ASU's jumps out to me. You know they're going to run that 3-2 extended zone until they're blue in the face. And while I'm extremely cautious about making predictions giving how things have been going in the league, I'll make the bold statement of saying that I won't be surprised if ASU shows slightly more consistency and success than most teams in the league But that's as far out on that limb as I'm willing to go.

Coach Dick Bennett had no less than a 30 sayings that I will remember for the rest of my life. Perhaps the most pressing one right now is his saying (he used this a lot during 2004-05): "If we're a C-minus team, let's always be a C-minus team." By that, he meant that we all knew we weren't as talented as a team like Arizona, especially at the time. But if we always played up to our maximum potential -- even if that roof wasn't very high -- you never know when you might beat any given team on any given night. Because although Arizona was an A-minus team at the time, they might play at a D-plus level. Believe it or not, that actually happened and we did win. It's downright creepy how wise Dick was.

Oh, by the way -- if anyone hears about a Vegas line regarding the odds of every team in the Pac-10 finishing at .500, I want in on that. It might even be worth putting a dent in that 50,000-mile surplus.

Two random thoughts in closing.

1) A special thank you to FSN for not broadcasting either of the Cougar games this week. I'm currently writing a book (a combo of laughs/lessons from my time at WSU), which could be very uninteresting to you or might be cool to those that enjoy this type of content. I'm about 15,000 words into it, started on New Year's Day. If there is interest from the Cougar Nation, I'll hopefully finish within a couple months.

2) It's amazing how a disaster such as what happened in Haiti can make these 1,020 words seem so trivial.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daven Harmeling was a mainstay on the Washington State basketball team – and a fixture on the Pac-10 All-Academic team – during the most successful three-year stretch in Cougar history. Part of Dick Bennett's stellar recruiting class of 2004, this Grand Junction, Colo., product completed his eligibility last season and now is in Vancouver, Wash., running clinics for Dan Dickau Basketball, coaching high school ball, and working as a substitute teacher. He is writing a regular column for Cougfan.com this season.


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