Friday, June 7, 2013

Huskies will get “Oregon Lite” this fall

Unbalanced Pac-12 schedule cuts Northwest rivalry in half for 2013

For the first time in 36 seasons, the Washington Huskies will not play home-and-home matches against Oregon and Oregon State.

The 2013 Pac-12 schedule won’t be released until mid June, but Volleyblog Seattle has learned Washington will only play each of its neighboring rivals once this season, one in Seattle and one in either Eugene or Corvallis. Washington will play all other Pac-12 teams twice, home-and-home.

Oregon's Jim Moore (L) and Jim McLaughlin will meet just once in conference play this season
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
Volleyblog Seattle has also learned that the Bay Area schools (Stanford and Cal) will play just one match each against the Arizona schools (Arizona and Arizona State), and that the Southern California schools (UCLA and USC) will play just once against the Rocky Mountain schools (Utah and Colorado).

It's also a sure bet that each team will start and end the season against its rival (UCLA/USC, Stanford/Cal, etc.), and will play one of its limited partners each of those rivalry weeks. Washington, for example, will open either home or away against Washington State, then either home or away against Oregon or Oregon State.

Why does the Pac-12 schedule just 20 matches instead of 22? The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee relies heavily on RPI to determine which 16 teams will earn seeds in each season’s 64-team championship tournament. Starting last season, the Pac-12 wanted teams to have an extra week of preseason matches, in an effort to schedule more potential RPI-building nonconference victories. The cost of that decision: an unbalanced schedule.

In 2012, the limited pairings were Washingtons/Arizonas, Southern Californias/Oregons and Northern Californias/Rockies. The biggest impact was felt by UCLA fans not able to see the Ducks, and by Oregon fans deprived of hosting USC.

And this season? The Huskies have won 22 in a row against the Beavers, so Washington might have missed a probable 2013 conference victory against OSU.

The Ducks, by contrast, have become a bitter rival. In 2009, Oregon broke a long losing streak against UW by handing the Huskies a brutal home loss the last weekend of the season, costing Washington the Pac-10 title. The past three seasons, the teams have each won at home, including last season’s stunning UW comeback in Alaska Airlines Arena. The Ducks went on to reach the NCAA Finals before being swept by Texas.

Most major conferences have already released their 2013 schedules. The Pac-12 delay is rooted in the Pac-12 Network schedule. The conference needs weeknight matches, including some that start as late as 8PM. While conference coaches appreciate the exposure, many are unhappy about increased time and travel. Crowds were also disturbingly lower on weeknights compared to weekends.

We should note that five Pac-12 teams last season earned NCAA Tournament seeds: Stanford, Oregon, USC, UCLA and Washington. That, however, is about average for the conference. Which leads us to ask: what's your take on the extra week of preseason? Is it worth the cost of an unbalanced schedule?

1 comment:

  1. I think it's worth it only if they play teams that could boost their RPI. But as we see with Washington especially and other Pac 12 teams, their preseason schedule isn't one that really challenges them. They had Purdue last year but Purdue really lacked in the power and presence that they did the year before that. Even this year, the heavy hitter for UW is Illinois who failed to keep the success from their previous year alive. They may have been able to turn that around this year but not enough to show that UW is really worth their own hype. There's a reason their preseason record is so good, they don't play high RPI teams, at least not recently.


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