Pac-10 Dominance (!)

by David Mihm | January 2nd, 2007

The Pac-10 is the best conference in the nation this year. I don’t need to wait for ESPN’s InsideRPI to tell me this next week. Their arguments have some merit, but I get tired of hearing analysts cite the ACC or SEC. Just because the ACC and SEC play on ESPN while the Pac-10 is exiled to the regionalized Fox Sports Network does not mean they deserve to get all the media hype.

(Those who somehow believe that the Big East is tops this year have forever lost all credibility in my book. The bottom of that conference is downright awful.)

It’s been about a decade since the Pac-10 has been considered the cream of the crop; certainly as far back as the late 90′s, if not mid-90′s. I think this year, when all is said and done, the conference will get at least six members (and maybe as many as seven) into the NCAA Tournament. And in this era of mega-conferences, it’s percentage, not number of quality teams that matters.

For those who might accuse me of “West Coast Bias,” which might be a first for any college hoops analyst (!), here’s my rationale for this assessment:

Nation’s Elite – 2 (UCLA, Arizona)
Bonafide Sweet 16 / Dark Horse Final Four teams – 1 (Washington)
NCAA-Caliber teams – 3 (Washington State, Oregon, USC)
Sure-fire NIT teams – 3 (California, Stanford, Oregon State)
Spoilers – 1 (Arizona State)

Nation’s Elite – 1 (Florida)
Bonafide Sweet 16 / Dark Horse Final Four teams – 3 (Alabama, LSU, Tennessee)
NCAA-Caliber teams – 2 (Kentucky, ____?)
Sure-fire NIT teams – 3 (Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, Vanderbilt)
Spoilers – 3 (Miss. State, Ole Miss, Auburn)

Nation’s Elite – 1 (North Carolina)
Bonafide Sweet 16 / Dark Horse Final Four teams – 2 (Duke, Maryland)
NCAA-Caliber teams – 3 (Boston College, Georgia Tech, Florida State)
Sure-fire NIT teams – 4 (Clemson, Virginia, Virginia Tech, NC State)
Spoilers – 2 (Wake Forest, Miami)

I predict 90% of the Pac-10 teams will be playing in the post-season (as will 90% of ACC teams). But the ACC has only one truly elite team in UNC–unless Duke suddenly figures out how to break the 70-point barrier. The SEC is far more top-heavy, with Florida, Alabama, LSU, and Tennessee, but there’s not much meat in the middle…we’re still waiting for the sixth NCAA team to emerge from that conference.

No team has been as dominant as UCLA this year, and two teams among the four biggest national surprises (Washington State, Oregon; I’d say the others are Butler and UNLV) play their ball out west.

So keep your eyes open for those Fox Sports and CBS regional listings and catch as many Pac-10 games as you can. If you like well-executed basketball at both ends of the floor, and a variety of styles of play, you will not be disappointed. The Left Coast simply cannot be Left Out this year.

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