For the past couple years, people have considered basketball in the Pac-12 a "joke." This year Pac-12 basketball has returned to its competitive nature and dominance in college basketball.
No.8 Arizona and No.10 Oregon are currently the conference’s only two teams in the top 10 ranking of best college basketball teams this season. The Big Ten conference currently leads the country with three teams in the top 10, while the Pac-12 is right behind with two.
The conference is on pace to send at least four teams to the NCAA Tournament this year with an at-large bid. There is a possibility of a fifth team sneaking into the dance by winning the conference tournament in early March.
The Pac-12 has shown it can play with anybody in the country and achieve success. The thought of an easy victory against Pac-12 opponents has disappeared. UCLA has played as one of the hottest teams in the country this season by winning 11 of their last 13 games, including a win over a championship contender team in the No.7 Missouri Tigers back in December.
The Arizona Wildcats have come out as one of the favorites to take home the title and have dominated this year by knocking off quality opponents like No. 5 Florida and No.17 San Diego State University.
The Oregon Ducks have shocked the entire country by entering this season unranked and rising to become a top 10 team. They’ve defeated top teams such as the No.18 UNLV Rebels, UCLA and Arizona in conference play.
The Pac-12 conference is not at the level of the ACC, Big Ten or Big East Conference, but it’s earning back its level of respect and also heading in the direction of some of those elite conferences in college basketball.
With the amount of talent in the conference this year, it has attracted more spectators and media attention. Players such as Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson of UCLA ranked as the best players in the 2012 recruiting class and have shown why they’ve earned this honoring.
Muhammad has made more of an impact by averaging 18 points a game and being a dynamic force down low and up top. Both players are projected as first-round NBA draft picks this year.
Other top players that chose to play in the Pac-12 conference this year are Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski of Arizona. All these players have the potential to play in the NBA next season.
WSU will also have an impact on the conference’s bright future when one of their players DeMarquise “Que” Johnson laces up his shoes next year and steps onto Friel Court.
Johnson came out as one of the top players on the West Coast last year after prep school, but cannot play this year because he is academically ineligible. Once Johnson makes his presence known next year, multiple NBA scouts will make the trip to Beasley Coliseum.
The list of talented Pac-12 basketball players will continue to grow due to the success of this year.
The college basketball season is about halfway finished and if the odds keep playing in the Pac-12’s favor, come Selection Sunday in March, that theory of the conference being a “joke” will turn more to a threat.