Pac-10 & WCC Overview
SPOTLIGHT COVERAGE CONTINUES
WITH PAC 10, WEST COAST CONFERENCES
by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor
We continue our SPOTLIGHT evaluations for TV conferences tonight with a look at a couple of the standard Thursday Night leagues...the Pac 10 and the West Coast Conferences.
Tomorrow we'll take a one-day hiatus to look at the NBA entering the All-Star Break. Friday's are pretty quiet in the colleges anyway, so that's the perfect time to get caught up with one of our pet stats.
Saturday, we finish off the week with the Big 12. We've already covered the Big Ten and SEC (Tuesday), along with the Big East and ACC (Wednesday). We hope you're enjoying RIVALRY WEEK on ESPN and its family of networks. Be sure to call JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK at 1-800-323-4453 tonight for more TV winners.
We start today's coverage with the Pac 10...in the midst of what has to be one of the most bizarre conference seasons we've even seen!
*This team was respected entering the season in the polls, but is currently only slated to get ONE team into the Big Dance!
*Parity has been the rule of thumb here, with 11 teams within two games of first place heading into last weekend's action. Have things spread out some? No, now all 10 teams are within three games of each other! You could go from worst to first in two weeks!
*The quality of play has been abysmal for the most part. We're not talking about parity where everyone's 'pretty good.'We're talking about parity where 'how did everyone get so bad?'is the question everyone's asking. Shield your eyes with the Pac 10, this stuff is hard to watch!
Here are the standings heading into tonight's action...
PAC 10 STANDINGS
Arizona State 6-5
Washington State 5-6
Oregon State 4-6
To call these teams evenly matched is an understatement. We can't recall ever seeing a league that was this wide in the middle. ESPN's most recent 'bracketology'report shows California as the only tournament team...sitting as a 10th seed in the projections right now. Should Cal win the postseason tourney, nobody else has much of a resume for an at-large bid. If Cal doesn't win the tourney, they could easily fall out of the mix.
We expect SOMEBODY to get hot and close strong in these last few weeks. It's very difficult for the selection committee to take just one school from a traditionally powerful conference. For now, we're projecting two spots for the Pac 10...and we'll be looking to go against those teams as soon as they play!
You could make the case here that almost every single team is a disappointment. Cal and Washington were both top 15 in the preseason polls. Arizona and UCLA have long and storied histories in this sport. Southern Cal was coming on strong in recent years (apparently by bending the rules). Oregon snuck into the Great Eight not too long ago. Remember when Stanford had the Lopez twins and made a deep run in the Dance? That team is in last place now in a crappy conference.
Enough of the ugliness, let's crunch through our favorite indicator stat to see if there are any edges we can exploit when handicapping games tonight and Saturday...
PAC 10 2-POINT DEFENSE
Arizona State 44%
Washington State 49%
Oregon State 49%
Well, there you go. Hardly anyone is playing defense in the Pac 10!
USC will get our attention the rest of the way in value spots. Any team that plays defense in the middle of a group that doesn't will typically come through for you over the long haul. Arizona State is strong in comparison to everyone else. That's a team that's got a borderline resume for consideration...led by a coach we respect.
Otherwise, we just have to sit back and be stunned. How can an entire conference...one of the big boys...play THAT badly defensively in a sport where defense and rebounding wins championships. What an across-the-board failure. And, with the surprisingly bad bowl season in football...a continuation of a dark period in Pac 10 history. Are these guys trying to fall behind the Mountain West?! There's a real and legitimate danger of that given recent form.
This Week's Schedule
Oregon State at Arizona State
Washington at California
Washington State at Stanford
Oregon at Arizona
Washington State at California
Oregon at Arizona State
Oregon State at Arizona
Washington at Stanford
UCLA at USC
Washington at Cal is still kind of a marquee game given the standings, though it was set to be one of the 'must see'matchups before the season started. There just aren't any must-see games left any more. Cal had a nice TV win over UCLA last week. Maybe that will signal a strong finish for the Bears.
Let's see if USC's stellar inside defense gives them a leg up on their archrival UCLA Bruins this Sunday.
Speaking of 'real and legitimate'dangers...it's very possible that TWO teams from the West Coast Conference will be seeded higher than anyone from the Pac 10 in the Big Dance. Let's see what's going on in that league. It's the perfect time to check in because the conference powers play TONIGHT!
WEST COAST STANDINGS
St. Mary's 8-1
San Francisco 4-5
San Diego 2-7
Santa Clara 2-7
ESPN's current 'bracketology'report DOES have Gonzaga (5th seed) and St. Mary's (9th seed) rated ahead of the Pac 10 in the projected brackets. Who could have imagined that. Sure, Gonzaga always gets respect. But, TWO teams from this conference ahead of EVERYONE from the Pac 10. The Pac 10 often has a one or a two seed. An amazing development out West.
Portland was supposed to make this an exciting three-way race this year. They've been a disappointment all things considered. There's still time for the Pilots to change that in the second half of round robin play. We just can't see three teams from the West Coast Conference going to the Big Dance unless there's a huge upset in the conference tournament.
WEST COAST 2-POINT DEFENSE
St. Mary's 47%
Santa Clara 48%
San Diego 50%
San Francisco 51%
Another league with poor defenses. Gonzaga is still the best by default, but isn't great by national standards. They sure did enough to win on the road at Memphis last week. Of course, Memphis is on the way down. We can't forget that Gonzaga was routed by Duke...a team we're typically not that fond of. This could be a bummer for the whole Pacific region of the US. The caliber of ball being played out there just doesn't match what we're seeing from the best in the East and Midwest. Sorry, you're just NOT going to string together wins against quality opposition on neutral floors with defenses that are that soft vs. weak schedules.
This Week's Schedule
Pepperdine at San Francisco
Loyola Marymount at Santa Clara
St. Mary's at Gonzaga on ESPN2
San Diego at Portland on ESPNU
St. Mary's at Portland on ESPN2
Loyola Marymount at San Francisco
San Diego at Gonzaga on ESPNU
Pepperdine at Santa Clara
St. Mary's at Gonzaga is the big one tonight. The winner will be in a tough letdown spot two days later. St. Mary's really has a tough weekend with road trips to both Gonzaga and Portland. They'll surely have smooth sailing after that though. Should St. Mary's get swept, they may fall back to the bubble. Two big wins...and they would surely have solidified a Dance bid.
That wraps up today's SPOTLIGHT coverage in college hoops. We'll be back tomorrow to talk NBA with you entering the All-Star Break. Saturday we'll go in depth with the Big 12...a league that could well contain the next National Champion the way Kansas is playing right now. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have a big rivalry game that day as well. We'll also have a chance to try and figure out what's happening with slumping Texas.
Tonight, BIG PLAYS are on tap in the CASHLINE and BLUE RIBBON clubs here at JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK. Call 1-800-323-4453 to sign up. Check to see if there's a TV EXTRAVAGANZA as well. We're certainly paying very close attention to Washington/Cal and St. Mary's/Gonzaga.
There's word brewing that something very special is on the horizon Saturday in the first big weekend after the Super Bowl. Start building your bankrolls tonight!
Take your first step down the road to MARCH MADNESS with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!
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