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Is West Coast Conference Better Than Pac-12?

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The Pac-12 has started off slowly in 2011-12 and doesn’t appear to have the depth it once had in the past. The league’s geographical neighbor, the West Coast Conference, has been heading in the other direction into the national consciousness - especially with the addition of BYU.

That begs the question: Is the West Coast Conference now better than the Pac-12? We debate, starting with ...

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Yes, the West Coast Has Taken Over: The Pac-12 is an abomination of a basketball conference right now.

Yes, the same the league that saw John Wooden win 10 national titles in 12 years, Lute Olson turn Arizona into an empire and Washington, Oregon and Stanford all be powers at some point in the last decade is now currently in shambles. What further proof do I need that the West Coast Conference is now even a better league than the Pac-12 than this: The WCC is 6-3 vs. the Pac-12 if you take out the three victories the Pac-12 has over woeful Portland.

Long gone are the days that the West Coast Conference is just Gonzaga and a bunch of doormats. Saint Mary’s has proven itself to be an annual Big Dance threat and with BYU now in the mix, you are looking at three teams that could make a real run in March. Ask Baylor how tough BYU is even without Jimmer Fredette after the Bears barely escaped Provo with a three-point win over the weekend. The Bulldogs dropped two to Big Ten teams but are always ready to compete in March and Saint Mary’s might just have another Omar Samhan on their hands in San Diego transfer Rob Jones.

How many teams can you see making noise in March from the Pac-12?

Arizona lost to a Division II team (Seattle Pacific) in an exhibition, Washington was just blown out at home by South Dakota State (South Dakota State!), UCLA is in the Twilight Zone and it doesn’t look like it will get any better without Reeves Nelson. Then there’s USC and Utah. The Trojans scored 36 points in an entire game earlier this year and the Utes lost by 31 to Cal State Fullerton at home.

There are also some bottom feeders in the WCC but let me point out that at just 6-5, Loyola Marymount crushed UCLA in Los Angeles last month.

Stanford and Oregon State? Come on, they are pretenders as they proved by gagging down the stretch last season. That means the only legit team from the conference is Cal.

On that note, how many teams can you even see making the Big Dance from the Pac-12?

Joe Lunardi currently has three teams from both conferences reaching the NCAA tournament but might want to double check his bracketology after Gonzaga pummeled Arizona on Saturday. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pac-12 only got one team in this season’s Big Dance because they scheduled easy non-conference opponents in preparation for the “grind” of the Pac-12. What a joke.

It might sound like a Sign of the Apocalypse, but the West Coast Conference has indeed surpassed the Pac-12 if only for one season. - Jim Weber

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No, the Pac-12 Still Reigns Supreme: Let’s not bury the Pac-12 quite yet.

For the purposes of this argument, let’s directly compare it to the burgeoning West Coast Conference, which offered BYU a home to form a considerable trio with St. Mary’s and Gonzaga.

But the top of the Pac-12 still is superior to the WCC both in the short and long term.

Stanford and Cal are two surprise teams this season. Under coach Johnny Dawkins, the Cardinal have won nine of their first 10 games - with the lone setback coming against now top-ranked Syracuse.

For its part, Cal has started out at 9-2 and promises to be a tough out all season.  The Bears return their top four scorers from an 18-win team and have a stud in Allen Crabbe.

If Stanford and California hold steady into January and February, one could make an argument that the Pac-12 has the two best teams when the league is compared with the WCC. Yes, better than the Zags, Gaels and Cougars, who will try to get along without super-scorer Jimmer Fredette.

And watch out for Washington, which no doubt has struggled without star guard Isaiah Thomas but has shown some potential so far this season behind freshman Tony Wroten and junior Abdul Gaddy. The Huskies lost by six to Duke and by two to Marquette during a trip to New York earlier this month.

Yes, I know that U-Dub has split its 10 games this season and even lost to South Dakota State, but let’s remember that the identities of teams - and thereby, conferences - are not made in November and December.

And that’s an important point to remember.

Last season, the Huskies made a late run through the Pac-12 Tournament - as mostly an afterthought from a national perspective - and gave North Carolina a run for its money in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Arizona was counted out before making a run to the Elite Eight and nearly winning it all.

From a long-term perspective, I believe Cal and Stanford will - at the very least - be every bit as good as the aforementioned top-tier teams in the WCC. One of those clubs could keep its head above water during the regular season before hitting a stride in March just like Washington did last year - a definite boost for the league.

It’s likely, though, that Arizona will not be included in that group because Sean Miller’s team will have to regroup after losing forward Derrick Williams - the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA draft - and point guard MoMo Jones, who transferred.

But with Arizona and UCLA - which dismissed star forward Reeves Nelson to add to its rotten start - unlikely to be national contenders this year, it allows for an overreaction from the public at large.

The Pac-12’s traditional powers might not have their best teams this year, but that doesn’t mean that the WCC has the right to claim superiority.

As good as the top of the WCC will be, Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount, San Diego and Portland don’t exactly make the Pac-12 envious. And that’s the crux of the argument.

Could the WCC be comparable to the Pac-12 in 2011-12? It’s possible.

But does the league house better programs? Not a chance. - Anthony Olivieri

 
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