The Pac-12 schedule-maker did Arizona a favor at the expense of the league
Arizona, for no good reason, doesn't have to play at USC or UCLA this season
Let me be the first to congratulate Arizona's Sean Miller on his fifth Pac-12 regular season title. And credit the Pac-12 schedule-maker with an assist.
"How does Arizona get to skip the L.A. road trip?" one coach asked me Tuesday afternoon right after the Pac-12 released every school's schedule for this season, at which point I put my phone down and tried to make sense of it.
But I cannot make sense of it.
And before Arizona fans start clapping back like an anonymous Kevin Durant Twitter account, let me make one thing clear: The Wildcats are, on paper, the Pac-12's best team -- and perhaps the nation's best, too. So that fifth Pac-12 title was probably coming regardless of the kind of 18-game league schedule Arizona was handed Tuesday. I, frankly, would've picked Arizona to win the league regardless of how the league schedules looked. But that doesn't change the fact that the Wildcats have a massive advantage in that they only have to play USC and UCLA once each. And both games will be at McKale Center!
Arizona is No. 2 in the. USC is No. 9. UCLA is No. 20. So the Los Angeles-based Trojans and Bruins are perceived to be Arizona's strongest challengers in the Pac-12. And yet Arizona won't have to visit Los Angeles this season. Again, the Wildcats only play USC and UCLA once each. Again, both games are at home. Which means Andy Enfield and Steve Alford are probably shaking their heads and wondering why their goal of unseating Arizona atop the Pac-12 standings has senselessly been made more difficult than it otherwise would be.
And it really is senseless.
Oh, I'm sure the Pac-12 has its reasons. And I'm sure somebody will try to explain those reasons in time by citing a system that's been in place for years. But those people will be missing the point entirely. Because the point I'm making here is that there's never a good reason for a league to not have its best teams and biggest brands playing each other as often as possible on a year-to-year basis. In fact, every unbalanced league's scheduling policy should be as follows: Put the perceived best teams against each other as often as possible because it theoretically creates the maximum amount of interesting games. And, in the case of the Pac-12, Arizona and UCLA should be required to play each other twice every regular season, no matter what, because they're traditional powers and rivals. The ACC makes Duke and North Carolina play each other twice every regular season, no matter what, for that exact reason -- i.e., because they're traditional powers and rivals. So why would the Pac-12 be so foolish as to not take a similar approach with Arizona and UCLA?
The Pac-12 already has too many obstacles that prevent fans from watching it -- most notably the reality that games sometimes end after midnight on the East Coast, but also because the Pac-12 Network isn't available to DirecTV subscribers. So why not maximize the compelling matchups to maximize interest? The Pac-12, with a better approach, could've had a total of six regular-season games between preseason top-20 teams. As it is, the Pac-12 will only have four regular-season games between preseason top-20 teams.
And that's a mistake.
Yes, it's also an advantage for Arizona.
But, more than anything, it's just a mistake.
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