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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: The Pac-12 is awful, but the conference race should be awfully fun

Simon Asher
Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller shouts at a referee after a foul called on an Arizona player.

The Ringer’s Mark Titus has an infamous tweet about Arizona basketball from back in 2014 that stands true every year in Tucson now. 

“If you ever wonder what it’s like to be an Arizona fan, just clench your butthole for 2 straight hours twice a week throughout every winter,” Titus wrote. 

In 2019, you can just scratch out “Arizona fan” and replace it with “Pac-12 fans”. It’s anyone’s guess as to who will win the conference. Get ready for some serious butt clenching across the West Coast these next few months. 

The upcoming journey is set to be unlike anything the conference has seen in decades. The Pac-12 has been bad, like really bad, this season. So much so that even Bird Box’s Sandra Bullock probably wears her blindfold when she watches some of these games. Need an expert opinion? Feel free to consult a few headlines that have been written in the last week: 

“The realest thing in hoops to start 2019: There might be just one Pac-12 team in March” (via ESPN). 

The Pac-12’s Embarrassing Non-Conference Showing Runs Deeper Than Its On-Court Struggles” (via Sports Illustrated). 

The Pac-12 is historically horrendous” (via CBS Sports). 

Get the picture? 

Now that we’ve gotten that part out of the way, here’s the good news: there’s a collection of 5-7 teams that have a legitimate chance to win the conference. That means each of these conference games should be highly compelling, even if the quality of play isn’t up to standard. 

Arizona Men's Basketball Head Coach Sean Miller yells directions at his bench during the Arizona-UC Davis game on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018 at the McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.
Arizona Men’s Basketball Head Coach Sean Miller yells directions at his bench during the Arizona-UC Davis game on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018 at the McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.

With the likelihood of the Pac-12 having only one or two teams in the NCAA Tournament growing by the day, being crowned the conference champion adds that much more urgency to the stakes. It’s possible that only 12 or 13 victories is enough to win the conference. 

ASU is the slight favorite, but it just lost to Princeton. Oregon would be next, but its top player Bol Bol is likely out for the year  with a foot injury and its second-best player Kenny Wooten is out for four to six weeks with a broken jaw.

RELATED: Resolutions for Arizona men’s basketball

The Pac-12 Tournament could produce one of the biggest roller-coaster rides of the year as the winner gets an automatic bid to March Madness, and that might be the only ticket punched. I wouldn’t want to be the one betting on the outcome of those games. 

So with all the uncertainty surrounding the coming months, my advice is to enjoy it. Root for the drama.

Many of these game are going to come down to the wire. There are going to be plenty of buzzer beaters, head-scratching losses and improbable wins. The unpredictability will grow by the week. 

It’s going to be a lot like March Madness, except, well, without the games actually being played in March.

And Arizona has as good an opportunity as any team to come out on top of the chaos. The Wildcats have won least 12 conference games in each year since 2010 and have won at least 14 per year since 2013. 

This year’s squad is arguably the least talented of the bunch, but the formula for the Wildcats will be win the games at home and do no worse than a split on the road. Arizona won’t have to worry about traveling to Washington or Washington State and only play the Los Angeles schools once.

The trip to face the Oregon schools happen at the end of February and the last game of the season is home vs ASU, the time of year when Sean Miller usually has his team playing its best basketball.

The biggest question facing Miller is if he can pull together a group of transfers and young players and get them to all play their best at the same time. We’ve seen flashes of Brandon Randolph’s and Brandon Williams’ electric shooting, Justin Coleman’s clutch gene and Chase Jeter’s steady post play but not all in sync with one another.

If Miller is able to work his magic and get that to happen, then there’s a solid chance Arizona will be cutting down the nets for a Pac-12 regular season or postseason championship. If not, then the ‘Cats will miss out on the NCAA Tournament for the first time in seven years.

Either way, Arizona fans will no doubt have their butts clenched this winter and into spring time. But then again, so will 11 other fan bases.

Follow Alec White on Twitter

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