The final Pac-10 regular-season basketball season, or at least as we know it before Utah and Colorado join the conference, is still two weeks away from starting.
All but one of the 10 teams are still looking for that signature non-conference win that has eluded them thus far.
The best candidate for biggest win to date is USC's upset of then-No.19 Texas on Dec. 5 -- the Longhorns are ranked No. 22 now -- but Pac-10 teams losing to seemingly lower-caliber opponents is the recurring theme of 2010-2011 to date. Montana beat UCLA 66-58 on Dec. 5. Utah Valley beat Oregon State 70-68 on Dec. 1 and the Beavers have also lost to Texas Southern and Seattle University. San Jose State knocked off Oregon last month, and Rider (Rider?) beat USC by 20 on Nov. 17.
No team is below .500 currently, but no team seems to have played a schedule difficult enough to earn a ranking, even though Washington State is 7-1 and Arizona 8-2.
"I don't know that our league is unlike any other league," Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said Tuesday. "If you put a microscope over any conference at this point, I'm sure there's some really good wins and some impressive stretches of play that teams have had, and there's also some bumps in the road.
"I think our league will be very competitive. I think it will be well-balanced," Sendek added. "It's still early."
Rival conference coaches are pulling for each other's teams in an effort to raise their team's and conference's RPIs for when it comes time for March Madness.
"Of course I'm rooting for everybody in our league," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "I was really disappointed Washington State got beat at the end of that Kansas State game [63-58 on Dec. 3], because I thought they had a great chance to win it. They [the Cougars] were up one with a couple of minutes to go and played very well. You see that they're going to be a top team to reckon with in our league."
Washington (6-3) was the overwhelming favorite in the media poll to win the Pac-10 this season. The Huskies have never been picked to do so before in recent years despite a good run of success under coach Lorenzo Romar.
"This year there are more players that are ready to go, but I think their teams are further along than they were at this time last year. More further along," Romar said, sticking up for the conference.
USC coach Kevin O'Neill pointed out the dearth of seniors in the Pac-10 this season, one in which every team but perhaps Washington and Arizona are rebuilding with younger players. The Trojans are really rebuilding after being banned from postseason play last season due to NCAA rules violations involving current NBA player O.J. Mayo and losing two scholarships for recruits.
"It takes a while to put your stamp on a program," O'Neill said. "Hopefully we can get a few more signature wins before league play."