Yes, the Pac-12 has not had the greatest year as a basketball conference. But they could've had a much easier time earning tournament bids if they could just improve their non-conference schedule. Pac-12 teams have played a majority of these games away from home, and in neutral sites that pretty much qualify as away contests.
As you can see at the end of this column, the Pac-12 went 1-26 against teams ranked in the top 50 according to Ken Pomeroy's standings, and went 7-36 against teams ranked in the top 100. But of those 27 losses, 20 were on the road or at neutral sites. The Pac-12 went 5-10 in home contests, playing only 15 of their 43 contests at home. That's only about one game apiece for each conference member.
Worst of all, the Pac-12 went 1-15 against top 25 teams (according to Pomeroy), with only five of those games being home contests, with half of those contested by the worst in the Pac.
Additionally, with teams like Arizona State, USC and Utah stuck in perpetual suckitude and losing home games of all sorts, it hurt the profile of everyone else. Lacking the big home games that would've increased the probability of upsets to help prop up RPI causes struggles for everyone.
How'd it get this bad? One big possibility is the Pac-12 not currently enjoying any good tie-ins with another conference. During lean years for each team in college basketball, the Pac-10 and the Big 12 generally propped each other up with their Hardwood Series. It assured teams from each conference quality home contests that would prop up their RPI. However, after the Pac-10 poached Colorado and nearly poached other conference teams, the Big 12 called the series off after 2010, and it really left teams with blanks to fill with mid-majors, most of them not very good.
That left the conference scrambling to find other matchups, and they probably didn't get ideal matchups. Many of those games were neutral site contest played in remote locations favoring teams from other conferences, particularly in Madison Square Garden or Kansas City or East Rutherford. With the Pac-12 playing vastly superior teams in unfavorable environments, the conference struggled to pick it back up.
Starting in 2017, each team from the Pac-12 and the Big Ten will play a team from the other conference in football each season, and the conferences will also begin to play each other extensively in other sports starting as soon as next season.
Having the Pac-12 team up with the Big 10 should provide much needed boosts in strength of schedule. The Big Ten has one of the best conferences in the country with teams like Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State, as well as eight teams ranked 50th and higher in the conference (the Pac-12 has two). While it's not likely the Pac-12 does particularly well in these matchups, a few home games (and one or two upsets) against these top schools could help boost the conference profile. Starting next year.
So the Pac-12 is bad, but they might not be as bad as everyone thinks they are, because the odds were stacked against them to succeed in the first place.
After the jump, the numbers.
- vs. top 50 in Pomeroy: 0-2 (losses to #9 Missouri, #29 UNLV, no home games)
- vs. top 100 in Pomeroy: 0-3 (loss to #62 SDSU; no home games)
- vs. top 50: 0-2 (losses to #13 Florida, #33 Gonzaga, no home games)
- vs. top 100: 0-4 (losses to #62 SDSU, #78 Mississippi St., only one home game)
- vs. top 50: 0-3 (losses to #10 St. Louis, #12 Duke, #16 Marquette, no home games)
- vs. top 100: 1-5 (loss to #54 South Dakota St, win with #83 Georgia St., 1-1 in home games)
- vs. top 50: 0-1 (loss to #5 Syracuse, no home games)
- vs. top 100: 3-1 (wins over #57 NC State, #87 Colorado St, #92 Oklahoma St., 3-0 at home)
- vs. top 50: 0-1 (loss to #8 Wichita St., no home games)
- vs. top 100: 0-3 (losses to #65 Wyoming, #87 Colorado State, 0-1 in home games)
- vs. top 50/100: 0-3 (losses to #21 Virginia, #24 Vanderbilt, #32 BYU 0-1 in home games)
- vs. top 50/100: 0-4 (losses to #4 Kansas, #20 Michigan, #26 Texas, #49 MTSU, 0-2 in home games)
- vs. top 50: 1-1 (win over #24 Vanderbilt, loss to #26 Texas, no home games)
- vs. top 100: 2-1 (win over #93 Montana, 1-0 at home)
- vs. top 50/100: 0-2 (losses to #11 New Mexico, #33 Gonzaga, no home games)
- vs. top 50: 0-1 (loss to #11 New Mexico, home game)
- vs. top 100: 1-2 (losses to #52 Southern Miss, win over #79 Tulsa, 0-2 home)
- vs. top 50: 0-2 (losses over #32 BYU, #30 Harvard, 0-1 at home)
- vs. top 100: 0-3 (loss over #75 UMass, 0-1 at home)
- vs. top 50: 0-4 (losses over #4 Kansas, #11 New Mexico, #29 UNLV, #50 Minnesota, 0-2 at home)
- vs. top 100: 0-5 (loss over #62 SDSU, 0-2 at home)