I just had a random thought in my head while typing up the baseball weekend preview, and I believe it is a great topic for discussion this morning after the Sports Illustrated article exposing UCLA was published. The article was disapointing in relation to the hype it recieved before release, causing the media to blow it up like we didn't know that was happening in the world today. It was this media reaction and the way they talked about the conference that got me going.
Based in L.A., Fox Sports Radio has been going off all night/morning about the article pointlessly. While some great points and calls regarding parenting and the 'blame' generation were discussed, it was the offhand way they talked about the rest of the PAC-12 that irked me. According to a lot of people apparently, UCLA is the only basketball team in the PAC-12, and if the Bruins don't win, we don't exist.
The national perception of the PAC-12 is that we suck/are having a "down" year whenever UCLA is not at the top of the conference and/or has a top-25 team. Even more so since Arizona lost Lute Olson to retirement. How is this possible? And, heaven forbid, might they be right? When was the last time a PAC-10/12 team made the Final 4, heck the Elite 8, besides UCLA?
Arizona made the Elite 8 last year, '05, '03 and '98; the Final 4 and Championship Game in '01, 11 years ago. OK, who besides UCLA and Zona? 2001 Stanford & USC. I'm sure I might have missed one or two, but the point is, besides a random appearance has any PAC-12 basketball program consistently done what UCLA and Zona have done? Nope, not in the national eye, which only remembers the last 4-8 teams over time. And after Olson, they seem to have dropped Zona back to a notch below UCLA. Sean Miller will correct the error in their ways, unfortunately.
If Washington and the rest of the conference want to change national perceptions, then they need to do it (read: win, no excuses) pure and simple. Don't get me wrong, I love my Huskies with all my heart and believe fully in the east coast bias. But perceptions will never change until we actually, you know, win with another program besides UCLA. Wait, didn't we just go over Zona? Poor Arizona, the nation can only remember you long enough to retire....
When will Romar lead a team over his "big hump", the Sweet Sixteen, to an Elite 8? Will it be this year? If not, when or could/will he?
My answer is he will, but only when we can get past the image of being a "guard school" that runs sprinting marathons. What big man wants to really play our style, honestly? Not many. When Romar has 2-3 legit big men to help us defeat the West Virginia's of the world, with their length and ability to slow the game down, control possession and the boards, we will break through. We could do it this year; any year with Romar theoretically, he's a great coach. It's the body-type match-ups that ruin him every time. We have some length and big bodies, but will that translate into what we need in the round of 16? I'm banking on the fact we will face a long, tall opponent again this year, the tournament just seems to whittle itself down that way. It's time to break the streak and shut some east coasties up.