The Pac-10/12 did not send a team to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004. For the second time in three years the Pac-1X only sent two teams, this time as only an #11 seed and as the #12 seed play-in, while the regular season champion ended up relegated to the NIT.
The West Coast conference had three invites and all are gone by the 2nd round. Of those three teams, they only were given two #7 seeds and a #14 seed play-in. #6 seed San Diego State? Gone in the 1st round. #6 seed UNLV? Gone in the 1st round. #5 seed New Mexico? Gone in the 2nd round. How about from a minor conference out west? Big Sky champion Montana and Big West champion Long Beach State were both knocked out in the 1st round.
Where is the West Coast Hoops?
For the first time in who knows how long, there will not be a single team west of the Rocky Mountains in the Sweet 16. I tried to figure out when the last time that was, but after going back to 1991, I gave up looking! East Coast Bias? Why not, when western teams are not stepping up to represent!
Is this just a cyclical thing?
Back in October, I wrote an article analyzing which conferences do the best in the NCAA tournament. In that article, I concluded that the Pac-10 and Big East were the most successful in getting their teams to the Sweet 16 in the past 6 years. Is this just a cyclical thing? If so, then why has the Big East, Big 12, and ACC been successful in getting at least one team to the Sweet 16 every year since 2006 and the Big Ten since 2007? Do those conferences take “years” off the way the Pac-10/12 has the last few years?
In 2009, the Pac-12 sent only two teams (Cal and Washington) and ended up with an #8 and #11 seed respectably. In 2010, the Pac-10 was able to sneak in four teams with USC getting into the expanded field as a #12 play-in. Nonetheless, it wasn’t as if the seeds were great (#5, #7, #7, and #12). This year only two got in and barely at that.
So, what’s the reason for this sudden downfall?
Many will point to the massive loss of talent to the NBA in recent years. It’s true that the Pac-12 has been “raided” by the NBA with early entries to the draft in recent years. But, that can’t be the only explanation. Talent will leave early everywhere. Kentucky reloads. Kansas reloads. Syracuse reloads. Michigan State reloads. And, if the Pac-10 does have a higher rate of early entries than other conferences, then you have to start to ask, why is that? Is it the types of players the coaches are recruiting? Or is there something more structural at play. Whatever the reason, it’s not enough to say that losing players to the NBA can explain why the West Coast has become a virtual vacuum of victories this season.
So, is it the coaching? Why are so many coaches across the region and across several conferences having so much trouble compiling wins? Ben Howland lost control at UCLA. Sean Miller has shown he can recruit, but has not shown he can coach. Lorenzo Romar had a team full of freshmen and sophomores that he apparently was unable to teach defense. Plus, in addition to a bunch of mediocre teams, the conference had three of the worst teams in the entire history of the conference simultaneously in Utah, USC, and Arizona State. That absolutely killed the RPI and at-large chances of every team in the conference, but particularly those of bubble teams like Washington and Oregon. How did that happen?
I don’t have any real answers…
I do think there is a coaching problem in this conference that will need to be worked out. I also think that the players these coaches are bringing in are perhaps “uncoachable” from the standpoint of them not wanting to play as a team and within the system. I’ve seen very good talent play very poorly this season on many teams across the conference. A number of Pac-12 games this season had me thinking “this is horrible, but at least somebody has to win this game tonight”. That was most definitely my feeling in that lackluster Husky win in Tempe against Arizona State in January.
If you have any thoughts as to why West Coast Hoops is down, I’d love to hear them…