Yet again, the Pac-12 came up just short of getting a team into the Final Four. Just as I was saying that this season's Arizona squad wasn't your typical Pac-12 team that could get just to the cusp of national prominence in the tournament, but couldn't quite break through, the Wildcats became just that in the waning moments of their regional final loss to Wisconsin. Despite having a virtual home court in Anaheim, a two-seed that I felt wasn't getting a ton of respect and a their best overall team since Lute Olson was coaching, the Wildcats' run ended in the Elite 8.
With the Pac-12's two Final Four-worthy programs (Arizona and UCLA) likely losing at least a good chunk of their best talent and experience, one has to wonder when the next time that a Pac-12 team will have as good of an opportunity to get the Final Four as the Wildcats squandered Saturday night. I know that the Wildcats are building a monster under Sean Miller and will definitely be back in this situation, but it felt that they had that truly rare, perfect combination of experience, talent, youth and chemistry that so rarely comes along, especially in the Pac-12. Now, even with some great freshmen coming in next season, I think it will be a little while before a Pac-12 team has that chance, unless the Wildcats get all of their underclassmen to come back.
It has now been nearly 20 years since a Pac-12 team has won a national championship in basketball, eight since they have played for a national championship and six since one has made it to the Final Four. In the time it has been since the Pac-12 last went to the Final Four, the Big Ten and AAC five times, the SEC four times, the ACC and Big East three times and the Big 12 twice. I know that the Pac-12 has pulled itself out of the absolute dregs of the late 2000s and early 2010s, but the conference cannot truly be taken that seriously on a national level again until they can start being serious contenders in the tournament.
While many people, including me to a certain extent, could just say, who care? I pretty much only watch and care about Pac-12 basketball - who cares what the rest of the country thinks, but that is a very depressing/limiting state of mind. I love Pac-12 basketball and during the regular season, it is the bulk of the college basketball that I watch, but I have a hard time (especially since I don't have a team that I live and die with) getting too excited about Pac-12 basketball if I feel that the conference can't have a team compete on a national level consistently (And by that I mean, still playing for a national championship on the final weekend of the season).
And I am not alone. I am constantly (probably way too often) checking traffic figures for the site and Pac-12 basketball simply fails to generate anything near the stratosphere of Pac-12 football. I know that football interest outweighs basketball interest greatly in almost every major conference, but I am still shocked of how simply low interest in Pac-12 basketball is and I wonder how in compares to back in the early and mid-2000s, when the conference was much healthier.
Until that happens I'm afraid that the masses and I might not be as interested as we should be.