The calendar says college basketball’s regular season covers four-and-a-half months, from early November through the middle of March. But all weeks are not created equal.
The non-conference portion of the schedule, which carries outsized significance in shaping the NCAA Tournament selection process, only lasts seven weeks.
Two of those weeks have come and gone, and the Pac-12 is running out of time to avert a dreadful outcome.
For each quality win, there has been a bevy of embarrassing losses.
The same day Arizona State upset 20th-ranked Michigan (by 25 points), Colorado lost to Massachusetts, Utah stumbled against Sam Houston State and Washington lost to Cal Baptist.
For every victory over an SEC foe, there are a handful of losses to teams from the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Here’s Washington State, losing to Boise State by 10 points. There’s Oregon State, losing to Portland State by 13.
Here’s UCLA, losing the Baylor. There’s Oregon, losing to Houston.
Here’s Cal, losing to … everybody.
Two weeks down, the Pac-12 has won just 62.5 percent of its non-conference games (35-21) — far below the 70-percent rate that historically correlates to a respectable haul of NCAA bids.
How does that compare to other power conferences? Atrociously.
Big Ten: 87.3 percent
Big 12: 86 percent
SEC: 78.4 percent
Big East: 75.4 percent
ACC: 70.3 percent
The conference has five weeks to take corrective action.
Frankly, we don’t like its chances.
To the power ratings …
1. Arizona (5-0)
Last week: 2
Results: beat Utah Tech 104-77, Cincinnati 101-93 and San Diego State 87-70
Comment: Meet the one-eyed team in the kingdom of the blind.
2. UCLA (3-2)
Last week: 1
Results: lost to Illinois 79-70 and Baylor 80-75
Comment: The Bruins will be fine, eventually. But these early losses to premium opponents could lower the ceiling for their NCAA seed.
3. Arizona State (5-1)
Last week: 9
Results: beat Michigan 87-62 and Grambling 80-49
Next up: Meet the only team in the conference that doesn’t host Cal and reap the spoils.
4. Oregon (2-2)
Last week: 4
Results: lost to Houston 66-56
Comment: There is no shame in losing to Houston, but the decisive nature of the loss highlights how much work remains for Dana Altman’s reconfigured roster.
5. Colorado (3-3)
Last week: 3
Results: lost to UMass 66-63, beat Texas A&M 103-75, lost to Boise State 68-55
Comment: We haven’t seen a team (anywhere) as erratic as the Buffs, who have a loss to Grambling and a victory over Tennessee in addition to the scores listed above.
6. Utah (4-1)
Last week: 6
Results: lost to Sam Houston 65-55, beat Georgia Tech 68-64
Comment: The Sam Houston result isn’t a complete abomination: The Bearkats opened the season with a victory at Oklahoma. But still …
7. USC (3-1)
Last week: 8
Results: beat Mount St. Mary’s 83-74
Comment: Instead of suggesting doom, the season-opening loss to Florida Gulf Coast is starting to look like an outlier.
8. Oregon State (3-1)
Last week: 7
Results: lost to Portland State 79-66
Comment: We considered leaving this spot vacant.
9. Washington (3-1)
Last week: 5
Results: lost to Cal Baptist 73-64
Comment: Not as embarrassing as losing to Cal Berkeley.
10. Stanford (2-2)
Last week: 10
Results: beat Cal Poly 80-43
Comment: On the bright side, the Cardinal is one of the few teams that doesn’t have a bad loss. Then again, it doesn’t have anything remotely close to a good win.
11. Washington State (2-2)
Last week: 11
Results: beat Eastern Washington 82-56
Comment: We should remind fans that the early round of conference play begins next week. The Cougars visit Oregon and host Utah.
12. Cal (0-5)
Last week: 12
Results: lost to Southern 74-66 and Texas State 59-55
Comment: The Bears could fire Mark Fox at any point and depressed Cal fans would be left wondering what took so darn long.
Support the Hotline: Receive three months of unlimited access for just 99 cents. Yep, that’s 99 cents for 90 days, with the option to cancel anytime. Details are here, and thanks for your support.
*** Send suggestions, comments and tips (confidentiality guaranteed) to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 408-920-5716
*** Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline
*** Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.