Here's Why The Pac-12 Stinks At Basketball

As the Pac-12 licks its wounds from the indignity of the NCAA Tournament selections, there are questions about how the conference grew to be so bad in basketball. Actually, there have been questions all season long, but the tournament pairings really brought those to the forefront. But here’s the truth: There’s a very, very easy answer to those questions.

How did the Pac-12 get so bad in men’s basketball? It didn’t recruit well in its own backyard. Simple. No further explanation needed. The West Coast has been producing talented players, and those players have been taking their talents elsewhere.

The most glaring example comes from the recruiting class of 2009, when there were nine players from Washington, Oregon or California, ranked among the top 45 players in the country. Of those nine, one signed with a Pac-12 school. One! The others signed with Texas, and Mississippi State, and Texas again, and Florida State, and Louisville, and North Carolina, and North Carolina again, and LSU.

How the Pac-12 loses a kid from Los Angeles to Mississippi State, I’ll never know. But it happened.

Just take a look at the conference tournaments from this past weekend. Terrence Jones is from Jefferson High School in Portland, and now he has developed into one of the best players in the country while helping Kentucky to the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAAs. Kyle Wiltjer is from Portland, and he is a key reserve as Jones’ teammate for the Wildcats. Peyton Siva is from Franklin High School in Seattle, and he was the MVP of the Big East tournament for Louisville. Brad Tinsley is from Oregon City, and he’s a starter for the Vanderbilt team that won the SEC tournament.

That’s a pretty good formula for a so-called power conference landing two teams in the NCAA Tournament and having those teams seeded 11th and 12th. One of them even has to go through a play-in game. (As an aside, it’s ridiculous for the NCAA to call Tuesday’s games the “first round” and call the Thursday and Friday games the “second round,” but that’s a rant for another time.)

A little help might be on the way, however. This year’s recruiting class has eight players from the West Coast ranked in the top 100 — all from California — and six of them have signed with Pac-12 schools.

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