Pac-12 on path to extend 21-year National Championship drought

But the conference's long-term prospects are improving

After an undefeated run in non-conference play, the ASU men’s basketball team appeared ready to compete with the UA Wildcats for dominance in the Pac-12. However, with teams playing tug-of-war within the conference, it’s easy to get lost in the feeding frenzy. 

The Pac-12 can feel like nearly every matchup could be an upset, but what does that say about the strength at the top of the conference?

The No. 11 Wildcats and No. 21 Sun Devils are the only teams boasting AP poll rankings.

ASU is currently No. 9 in the country in scoring offense, but outside of the Sun Devils the next Pac-12 team on deck is UCLA with a No. 25 spot on the list. 

If only two teams with above-average scoring isn’t concerning, the Pac-12 doesn’t feature a top-75 scoring defense — the highest is No. 88 Oregon State.

Nonetheless, this isn’t the first time the “Conference of Champions” has been outranked by out-of-conference competition. Last season’s NCAA March Madness Tournament put 68 teams on display – only four came out of the Pac-12 (Oregon, UA, UCLA, USC). 

As of late, the Pac-12 hasn’t kept up at the Big Dance. The last time a Pac-12 team played in a National Championship game was 2006, when UCLA lost by 16 to Florida.

Jake Rusnak

Graphic published on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. 

A Pac-12 team hasn't been crowned champion since 1997 (UA) – the same year gas was roughly $1.19, Tom Brady was the backup quarterback at the University of Michigan and "Titanic" was the highest-grossing film in theaters. 

While recent history proves the Pac-12 is stumbling in its efforts to keep up with other Power Five conferences, little has changed this season.

The Pac-12’s three 15-win teams are average enough for fourth among the five major conferences. As far as prime statistics go, USC holds the only player in the conference in the top-five of a major statistic.

Jordan McLaughlin, the Trojans senior guard, is fifth in the country in assists per game (7.5). 

Yet no other Pac-12 school can claim it has a top-five player in any of the following categories: points per game, assists per game, rebounds per game, blocks per game, steals per game or field goal percentage. 

And as the landscape changes for Pac-12 basketball, other teams are looking to overstep the Wildcats, the historic poster child for the conference.

ASU has locked in several verbal commitments from highly-recruited high schoolers, including Taeshon Cherry (247 Sports’ No. 29 prospect in 2018).

UA basketball will also face a challenge from the University of Oregon, a young up-and-coming team that will add two top-20 recruits next season. 

As conference play steams ahead, these programs are desperate to edge one another for future recruits. 

Although teams are still in thick of their seasons, the Pac-12 has a bright future with the flock of recruits on the way, 10 of which are among the top-50 in the country. 


Reach the reporter at atotri@asu.edu or follow @Anthony_Totri on Twitter.   

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