Rathbone: Pac-12 baseball does not have elite contender

Brian Rathbone Sports Contributor

With the midpoint of the Pac-12 play quickly approaching, one question has surged around the conference.

Does anyone want to win the Pac-12 title?

Six teams, Oregon State, Oregon, Washington, Stanford, Cal and Utah, are all within two games in the loss column. No team has asserted itself as the alpha dog in the conference, there is no daunting weekend series, there is no favorite.

Oregon State, the runaway pre-season favorite, currently has  a 6-6 conference record with series losses to Cal (sweep) and Washington State. Utah leads the conference with only four losses, Cal dropped four of six against Oregon and Arizona State, Washington has won back-to-back series and Stanford has the best pitching in the conference.

In a way this feels like Pac-12 basketball this season, only the exact opposite.

This season marked the first time a team with less than 10 conference wins (OSU) made it to the the NCAA tournament. A large part of that had to do with each teams Rating Percentage Index (RPI), a formula that judges the strength of a team’s schedule, and how they perform against that schedule.

The computers loved Pac-12 hoops, all of the record seven teams invited to the Dance had an RPI higher than 35 entering the conference tournament. Oregon (4 RPI) Utah (8), Cal (17), Arizona (26), Colorado (30), Oregon State (33) and USC (35) all received an 8-seed or higher in the NCAA tournament.

Pac-12 baseball has been pouring a beverage on the computers and essentially downloading viruses.

Cal is the only Pac-12 team with an PRI in the top-30 nationally. Oregon State’s dropped to 44 after losing two of three against last-place Washington State over the weekend, with Washington, Stanford and Oregon settling with a score between 55 and 75.

Then there is Utah, the team that stands atop the conference with a 8-4 record. But wait their RPI is at 123, sandwiched in between Evansville of the Missouri Valley Conference, and Liberty, who has three wins in the Big South Conference. While the Utes have been impressive during conference play, outside of the Pac they are 5-15.

So Pac-12 baseball is doomed, right?

No team will likely host a regional, get a national seed, advance beyond the regionals or have a shot at a trip to Omaha, all this in the same conference that has won four of the last 10 College World Series. That may not be the case?

Remember those seven basketball teams that collectively had an average RPI of 21.8? Well all but two of those teams (Oregon and Utah) were bounced in the first round of the tournament, all losing to lower-seeded teams.

All the 1’s and 0’s aside, this should be an exciting back half of conference play. Six teams in the title chase and each weekend series providing more and more pressure. Contenders will rise, while the pretenders slowly fade away.

The conference title is there for the taking, and it starts on Thursday when Oregon State takes on the Pac-12 finest, Utah Utes.

On Twitter: @brathbone3

Was this article helpful?