For the last couple of years now the Pac-10 has been a bit of a joke punchline when it comes to the power conference in College Basketball. Last year had to be the epitome of that when only two teams qualified for the big dance, with Cal the highest seeded at 8.
So far it seems that, this year might be more of the same. Other than Washington, there are no other ranked teams. Arizona poppin in to say hi at #25, only to have the door slammed shut by Washington. Despite beating Washington State a few days later, the Cats were shunned from the rankings.
Even Washington fell out at one point before climbing back due to their Pac-10 dominance.
But, the Pac-10 has a fighter’s chance at garnering just a little more respect this March. Washington seems to already wrapped up it’s spot in the NCAA’s. Arizona is on the right track.
But then you have Ken Bone’s Washington State Cougars. The men of the Palouse who hit a brick wall last year on their way to last place in the Conference have quietly battled back in 2011.
But, the road to make it back to the NCAA Tournament isn’t an easy one for the Cougars. Their all-important RPI only stands at 68 and their strength of schedule stands at 96.
An uphill battle, since, in the last five years no Pac-10 team with an RPI lower than 44 has made the NCAA Tournament.
But beating the Huskies could change all of that. Especially at home, where the Cougars almost knocked off Kansas State back in December. And where they already knocked off Baylor and Gonzaga.
So is it better for the Pac-10 if the Cougars knock off the Huskies and help the Conference garner some respect?
It’s hard to imagine that the Huskies will lose only footing by losing what will be a tough road game anyways. A loss sticks them at 7-2 with the only other really tough game coming a month later in Tuscon. Worst case, even if UW drops this game, Huskies finish 14-4 in the Conference.
The Cougs, on the other hand, have to win this game. Being 4-5 in the Conference having dropped back to back games against Arizona and Washington will deprive the Cougars a signature win that the selection committee looks for.
But, then again, when you have Isaiah Thomas and Mathew Bryan Amaning firing shots across the Cascade Mountains like this , don’t expect Lorenzo Romar’s group to sympathize.
But, it will be hard for me to get too disappointed should Washington drop this game. After all, the more Pac-10 rivals that make the trip to the NCAA tournament, the less of a joke it will be for Washington to dominate the Conference.