Pac-12 basketball is a story of missed opportunities and wasted wins.

Pac-12 basketball is a story of missed opportunities and wasted wins.

In the Pac-12, there’s never a good situation or outcome that can’t turn bad. The conference has a way of taking a good thing and wasting it, of turning an optimistic vision into misery just like that. Consider the bowl games: The Pac-12 went 3-1 and headed to a great postseason. Then UCLA bumped into Pitt in the Sun Bowl. USC blew a late 15-point lead in the Cotton Bowl. Utah was crushed by Penn State in the Rose Bowl. The Pac-12 finished 3-4 in the bowls, another sub-.500 record.

A promising situation was wasted.

It’s much the same in Pac-12 basketball, where the conference looks like a three-team league in terms of NCAA Tournament representation. UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State are the only schools clearly in the field. USC leads the group of teams just outside the gate, trying to get in.

The history of Pac-12 basketball through mid-January is one of wasted victories. What do we mean? Consider Oregon beating Arizona by 19 points.

Ducks Wire reported on that story on Saturday:

“Dana Altman’s Ducks stunned the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday afternoon in front of what turned out to be a loud and boisterous crowd at Matthew Knight Arena,” Ducks Wire editor Zachary Neel wrote. “He brought the energy and effort that has been lacking in so many lackluster performances this season and gave Oregon its ultimate win of the season thus far.

“A prospect that featured lost tournament bubbles and potentially another trip to the National Invitational Tournament has now undergone a shakeup. With a resume-building win like this on the record, Oregon should feel good about playing in March if he keeps things rolling. If they play as well as they did on Saturday afternoon, then the Ducks shouldn’t feel crazy entertaining the idea that a couple of weekends might be possible in the tournament.”

The big “if” for Oregon is the Ducks’ ability to maintain that level of performance. Oregon jumps from beast mode in one game to junior-varsity trash in the next. The ducks are 10-8. Even with the win over Arizona, they still aren’t in the bubble. They can’t keep splitting games. They need to win a lot of games in a row. Right now, that Arizona win isn’t part of an NCAA Tournament resume. To that extent, it’s a loss of a win. Oregon may “blow” that win if it can get going, but we’ve got to see it first.

Colorado is in a similar place. The Buffs beat Tennessee by 12 points. If they had avoided stepping on a rake in so many other games this season, they’d be an NCAA Tournament team… but then again, they lost to Grambling. They lost to UMass. They lost to Washington. They lost to Cal. They’re nowhere near the bubble after losing to USC and UCLA this week.

Their big win over Tennessee has been wasted up to this point.

Utah’s win over Arizona also seems like a waste. The Utes are 5-3 in the Pac-12, but have lost three straight. Plus, their four victories outside of Arizona in conference play come against Washington State, Oregon State, Stanford and Cal. That’s three baseliners and a Wazzu team that’s still under .500. The Utes didn’t do much in non-conference play, so their resume isn’t up to NCAA Tournament standard.

Wasted wins are the theme of Pac-12 basketball. Teams need to start dominating just to have a chance at the Grand Ball. It’s not where they expected to be in mid-January.

Ready

A Trojan Tribute to Charles White: 1958-2023

The story originally appeared on Trojans Wire

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