Daily Dribble: Pac-10 Overrated?

    
February 2nd, 2007

Thanks to those who emailed comments about Wednesday's historical Conference RPI Daily Dribble. Particularly to a guy by the name of Tom Stephenson, who sent over some expanded stats going back to 1994 that I hope to put in an upcoming Dribble.

But for now, back to the regularly scheduled show.. which apparently is about a) how surprising Washington State is, and b) how the Pac-10's greatness is overrated:

Coming off a surprising loss at Stanford, and having lost to Oregon earlier in the year, you knew UCLA was going to come out and own the Ducks last night. They did, getting up 22 to 9 start and never looking back.

UCLA is now alone atop the Pac-10 at 8-2, while Oregon drops into a 2nd place to with USC and.. Washington State. The Cougars went into Arizona and knocked off the.. yes, they're still ranked.. #22 Wildcats. Now Oregon is somewhat of a surprise in the standings, and Butler's success has been surprising, etc, etc.. but the fact that Washington State is 18-4 and 7-3 in the Pac-10 is crazy. Its beyond shocking. We had Washington State 173rd to start the season. Now you can say we were just dumb.. but that was a pretty fair assessment at the time taking into account the Cougars recent history and the prior production of their roster. 173rd.. and on Sunday they were 16th in the CHN Top 50. Such a rise is unheard of.

For comparison, we had Butler ranked 106th.. which is also very low. And they rose 93 spots in the ranking. Washington State is up 157 spots since opening day. The 3rd biggest mover in our Top 25 is Notre Dame, up from 87th to 18. Oregon is up from 56th to 7th for comparison. 56th is low, but at least 56th is a projected postseason bid and on the verge of the NCAA Tournament. 173rd is like 5th place in the Southern Conference type ranking..

Anyways, all this Pac-10 talk makes me wonder just how good this league is? To me, the best judge of a league is simply non-conference wins. What teams have the Pac-10 beaten in non-conference play? Well, I took a look at the results and this is what I found:

As a whole, the Pac-10 hasn't really beaten many ranked teams. A lot of the teams that Pac-10 squads beat early on ended up fading and dont look quite so good anymore.

Pac-10 wins over currently ranked teams

UCLA: #24 Kentucky (neutral), #8 Texas A&M (home)
Oregon: none
Washington State: none
USC: none
Arizona: #25 UNLV (home), #18 Memphis (home)
Cal: none
Washington: none
Oregon State: none
Arizona State: none

That's it.. 4 wins over currently ranked teams out of a 10-team league. Not one road win over a Top 25 team.. and UNLV only makes it because I happened to be using the Coaches Poll. Using the AP Poll (which is really the better poll in my opinion).. UNLV is only the 32nd ranked team. Similarly, Kentucky is 27th in the AP.. So basically you have 3 or 3.5 wins over ranked teams.

There were also a couple wins over teams that might end up in the Top 25.. Oregon over Georgetown, Stanford over Virginia, maybe Washington State over Gonzaga if the Bulldogs get hot again. But still.. the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place Pac-10 teams have not beaten a single currently ranked team.

Now, Top 25 wins are hard to come by.. so its a bit misleading to say the Pac-10 has only beaten 4 ranked teams without comparing that to other leagues.. so I will compare it to another league. Here's what the ACC has done:

UNC: #4 Ohio State (home), #24 Kentucky (home), #22 Arizona (road)
VT: none
BC: none
Virginia: #22 Arizona (home)
Duke: #13 Air Force (neutral), #25 Indiana (home)
Clemson: none
Florida State: #4 Florida (home)
Georgia Tech: #11 Memphis (neutral)
Miami: none
Wake Forest: none

So that ends up being 8 for the ACC.. which isn't a huge amount.. but twice as many. Plus noting wins against close Top 25 teams, there's.. Duke over Georgetown and Gonzaga, Virginia over Gonzaga, and UNC beat Tennessee.

Now the ACC is the #1 ranked RPI conference so perhaps its an unfair comparison to the Pac-10. But my point is not to say that the Pac-10 is bad. Its simply to point out that all the talk about the Pac-10 being "back" and being the deepest league and blah blah, is a bit overdone.

Plus, it could be worse. It could be as bad as the Big East.. where the league's #1 team hasn't beaten a single Top 25 all year.. including conference play. In fact, Pitt doesn't play a ranked team again until the season's final game (Marquette).