College Basketball: Is Pac-10 a two-bid league?
Think the Pac-10 had a mediocre regular season in football, punctuated by an abysmal 2-5 showing in bowl games?
Wait until the once-proud basketball league, decimated by players leaving early for the NBA, gets to March.
While the neighboring Mountain West Conference is still crowing over its 4-1 football bowl record, including easy wins by BYU and Utah over Pac-10 foes on the gridiron, little brother appears poised to outdo the Pac-10 when it comes to postseason on the hardwood, too.
The MWC has two ranked basketball teams -- No. 15 New Mexico, No. 25 BYU -- and two others which are close to the Top 25, UNLV and San Diego State. The Pac-10 has just one ranked team, 10-3 Washington, which dropped in the polls Monday after a Saturday loss to Oregon.
"There are going to be some rough nights for all of us [in the Pac-10]," Arizona coach Sean Miller said last week, after BYU pounded his Wildcats 99-69, Arizona's worst-ever loss in the McKale Center.
Could the MWC earn more bids to the NCAA Tournament than the Pac-10 this year?
While the MWC could easily get three teams in, possibly four, the Pac-10 might have to settle for two. The 2009-10 season has been that bad for the so-called Conference of Champions.
California (9-4) and Oregon (10-4) are the others receiving votes category in the national polls.
Oregon, which opened league play with a pair of road wins at Washington State and Washington, has a 13-point home loss to Montana on its, um, resumé. The Ducks also lost at Portland and at home to St. Mary's.
California blasted Stanford 92-66 in its conference opener, but the Bears have yet to win a meaningful road game. They came close at The Pit, losing 86-78 to New Mexico after leading most of the way.
USC might be the league's best team. Trouble is, the school has voluntarily banned itself from postseason play this year amid allegations of NCAA rules violations.
The Trojans have won eight straight, after opening the season 2-4. But this is a team that lost at home 51-48 to a Nebraska squad that BYU beat by 22 on a neutral court in Las Vegas.
Picked to finish ninth in the Pac-10 after coach Tim Floyd resigned, the Trojans have picked it up since Mike Gerrity became eligible Dec. 18. Gerrity, a fifth-year senior who has played at Pepperdine and Charlotte, leads the Trojans with a 12.8 scoring average.
And then there's the sad state of UCLA, which lost 77-63 at home Saturday to the same Arizona team that gave up 49 points to BYU's Jimmer Fredette in that 30-point humiliation Dec. 28.
The Bruins were 6-8 heading into Wednesday night's game at Cal, and some UCLA fans have been spotted wearing paper bags over their heads, according to USA Today . The Bruins were booed lustily following a 72-54 loss to Mississippi State in Anaheim, Calif., in front of 99-year-old John Wooden, the coaching legend.
"It makes you feel terrible," guard Michael Roll said. "Wearing those four letters across your chest is a pride thing."
And so is putting more teams into the NCAA Tournament than the MWC -- although that might not be the case this year.
National College Basketball
The Tribune's Top 10
1. Kansas (14-0)
* Four players averaging between 11 and 16.3 points per game
2. Kentucky (15-0)
* Guard John Wall might be country's best all-around player
3. Purdue (14-0)
* Whipped previously undefeated West Virginia by 15 on New Year's Day
4. Texas (14-0)
* Got a 6-point scare from Texas A&M-CC, ran past Arkansas
5. Villanova (12-1)
Sole loss was a 75-65 setback at Philly rival Temple
6. Syracuse (13-1)
Showed some weaknesses in home loss to Pitt
7. West Virginia (11-1)
Got in big hole vs. Purude, couldn't get out
8. Duke (12-1)
Closest game nine points since Wisconsin loss
9. Kansas State (13-1)
Only loss was at home to Mississippi
10. Georgetown (11-1)
Another club with four scorers in double figures