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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

COLUMN: Pac-12 is now the ‘Beat Each Other Up’ league

Remember the good days when the notorious white hair of Lute Olson was leading the Arizona Wildcats? Back then, they still had to worry about Ben Howland at UCLA and the USC pump ‘n’ run squads under Tim Floyd.

Since then, the Pac-12 Conference been pretty much all Arizona.

Not so anymore, as the Wildcats are found at fourth in the Pac-12 three weeks into the season, despite thumping the Washington schools this weekend. Washington, meanwhile, sits pretty at 4-1 in the conference followed by USC and Oregon.

In total, there are seven teams in the Pac-12 with a record of .500 or better and UCLA along with California are on the outside looking in with a 2-3.

With highly-touted freshmen in potential NBA lottery picks, Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb and UCLA lead by sharpshooter Bryce Alford, the fact that those pair of teams are in the lower half of the conference can speak for itself.

It’s not just the records and Arizona not being in first place that displays the depth of the conference, but also how the league ranks and competes with the notable non-conference foes.

Arizona knocked off Gonzaga in Spokane and UCLA would follow against the Zags eight days later in the same arena. The Bruins also beat Kentucky at home and squeaked by UNLV with a healthy Stephen Zimmerman by two points.

Even Arizona State, who is eleventh in the Pac-12, was only down by a point to at the time No. 5 Kentucky at halftime on the road. Even the teams that reside in the cellar of the conference can hang with the nation’s best.

“The non-conference schedule and whoever looks at us as a collection of twelve, we did an outstanding job of key games,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said on Thursday following the Wildcats’ win over Washington.

“I heard somebody say that ‘we’re off to a roller coaster start.’ What in the world does a roller coaster start in conference play mean?” Miller said. “How could you say that? Really what it reflects is the unbelievable quality of depth that’s in our conference.”

In college sports, usually SEC in football is the conference that beats each other up in conference play, but Pac-12 hoops is currently sharing the same experience.

Washington beats USC at home, USC beats Arizona at home and Arizona disrespects Washington at home. It’s a carousel of going on the road, and the chance of getting quality conference wins on the road is slim to none.

“We have as many as nine that I believe can make the NCAA tournament,” Miller said. “We’re the beat each other up league. We’re the league that when you go on the road, it’s hard to win. We’re the league when you’re at home, we have to win. We’re the league that has really good coaches.”

It may sound like Miller is tooting his own horn, but he’s got a point.

Outside of Arizona, there were five schools that received votes for the Associated Press’ Top-25 rankings and if this can maintain until March, Miller will sound intelligent rather than just a confident west coast coach.

“The middle of the pack in this conference is going to be in the tournament,” Miller said. “Eight, nine, or seven teams are going to be in the tournament. That’s the Pac-12.”

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