QOTD: When Did West Coast Collegiate Basketball Officially Curl Up And Die?

Basketball, Ed The Sports Fan — By on March 28, 2013 at 12:01 am

baron davis brandon roy west coast basketball

I can honestly say that I’ve watched college basketball with an intense focus for about the last 20+ years or so. Over that time, I’ve had a chance to cultivate my sincere hatred for the Duke Blue Devils, watch the Oklahoma Sooners (all hail Eduardo Najera and Hollis Price) and Oklahoma State Cowboys (all hail Big Country Reeves and Desmond Mason) waffle between points of mediocrity and seemingly unbelievable success and also become a supporter of other programs like the Cincinnati Bearcats (all hail Nick Van Exel and Kenyon Martin) and the Arizona Wildcats (all hail Damon Stoudemire and Jason Terry). This is my fandom that has been built since 1992.

Of course, that last school, the Arizona Wildcats, expands my fan bandwidth to this region of college basketball called the West Coast. Highlighted by the Pac-10 (12) conference, along with outlier programs like UNLV, Fresno State, Utah and Gonzaga bringing up the rear, staying up late past my mama’s designated bedtime became something I looked forward to. Damn, that was some good basketball on during those late night hours.

And the players. Goodness gracious.

Off the top of my head, here are the players that were truly worth a damn when I was a kid, and that I would stop what I was doing to make sure I watched them hoop: Jason Kidd, Baron Davis, Damon Stoudemire, Harold Miner, Mike Bibby, Gilbert Arenas, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Chris Herren, Eddie House, Keith Van Horn.  

Every conference has high times and low times, but what’s happened to the West Coast as a basketball region can leave one flummoxed beyond reason. Somehow in the last 10 years or so, arguably the most prestigious college basketball program of all-time has become virtually irrelevant, regardless of whatever recruiting/coaching/scandal news comes out about UCLA. Somehow the best program out west is located in some random outpost called “Spokane” and yet they just got beat in the NCAA tournament by the third-best college team in the state of Kansas. Arizona’s still really good, but things just don’t feel quite the same like they did when Lute Olsen was patrolling the sidelines. No other Pac-12 school is worth mentioning, no matter how much folks care about the fact that Oregon shouldn’t be a 12-seed in this tourney.

Its a disappointing sight to see. Folks now hear about basketball teams from the west coast like they’re mythical beings that the nomadic scribes on our social media timelines remind us on occasion still exists, like dinosaurs or Kenny Masenda on twitter or something.

Did something specific happen that has brought us to this moment? Did I miss the memo? Should we just think of all these teams west of the Rocky Mountains as mid-majors, thusly adjusting our expectations of once relevant programs? This is my question to you the reader….When Did West Coast Collegiate Basketball Officially Curl Up And Die? 

Please feel free to discuss your thoughts in the comments section and share via social media, thanks.

E. Maisonet, III

Eddie Maisonet is an appreciator of the ultimate reality show that is sports.

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    9 Comments

  • JAG says:

    It’s all about TV, my brother.

    The East Coast and Midwest dominate ESPN. By the time the West Coast teams tip-off, ESPN and the Eastern schools have closed the church and are in the back room counting what’s in the collection plates. It’s probably a little less today but when I was coming up, a famous stat was that 80% of all TV’s were in the Eastern or Central Time Zone.

    Why are Eastern players better known? They’re on TV. It’s that simple.

  • The same thing has been said about NYC hoops… there are basketball fans that are maybe 5-10 years older than us that lived and died for the Rucker, the cage, dykeman park, Lou Carnaseca, Felipe Lopez, Chris Mullin, Mark Jackson but it seems like lately that whole area has completely fallen off; name the last player to come from the city that has had a major impact in college hoops let alone the pros. Steve Lavin is trying to breath life into the “johnnies” program but even after having those monster recruiting classes they havent been able to translate it on-court success.

    but I disagree @jag
    back in the era that Ed is talking about the west coast players/teams play made us pay attention and we did so without the technology that we have today. You would think it would be easier now to know about these programs because of the internet and the over saturation of sports thanks to “the network”, but they are still being left out of the loop. Outside of Muhammad, Nick johnson and singler little brother in oregon, I struggle naming players out that way and that was never the case before.

  • JAG says:

    Q – There’s no doubt that cable TV programming has been a huge disadvantage to the West Coast teams. It’s an indisputable fact. Back in the day Ed’s referring to with Jason Kidd, Chris Herron, Baron Davis, etc., college basketball was only on TV on the weekends. Cable brought us weeknight college basketball and the East has the time zone advantage.

    When ESPN and the Big East introduced Big Monday, it was a tremendous hit. Naturally the Big Ten and ACC got in on the action. The West Coast games start at 10:30pm Eastern Time. Kids know they’ll get more recognition and exposure playing east of St. Louis.

    Kids are aware that playing for Syracuse gets you much more TV time and name recognition than playing for Arizona or even UCLA.

  • Vance says:

    The lack of exposure for the West appears to have resulted in lower than deserved seeds.

    Sorry Jag, but I like Arizona to beat the Buckeyes tonight and go on to the Final Four.

  • true, but my thing is they were known back then even with the limited resources, so you would think it would be easier to for them to get the just due they deserve IF they were worthy of it.

    Gonzaga has had no problem getting love from the network over the past couple of years, so why cant Zona/UCLA/Oregon

    • JAG says:

      Gonzaga? Love from the network? Maybe I’m mistaken but I seriously doubt that Gonzaga or any team west of St. Louis was on prime time national TV even one quarter as much as Duke, UNC, Indiana, Georgetown, Syracuse or Michigan. Maybe Gonzaga is willing to play at 4:00 to get on TV in the east.

      You may have a point. If these schools landed a true superstar that everyone was clamoring to see, some adjustments would have to be made somehow.

      But it’s a question of the chicken or the egg? Does the superstar help TV or does TV create the superstar?

  • JT says:

    this is a real question at least the last 5 years the west coast has been slacking star power. back in the day the west coast kept teams that everyone had to respect, wanted to like and were threats to go all of the way.
    Some teams have been solid but it doesn’t feel the same. Gonzaga is damn near the king of the west coast on the low smh.

  • to answer your question JAG the superstar creates the TV, remember the brief stint when OJ Mayo went to USC there was a light shed on the west (and part of that had to do with him being a WV dude who was able to generate the east coast media love and take it with him) and many had hoped the same would be done with Muhammad going to UCLA, but it didnt happen at least not in a positve manner.

    Is it a coincidence that 3 of the four teams in the final 4 are east coast teams with their star players being from the same time zone. It may just be a matter of the best ball (prep & collegiate) is played in the east/midwest

  • Bonta Hill says:

    Television exposure before Larry Scott took over as Commissioner, one-and-done’s, and old, unable to relate to the new generation coaches. UCLA and Arizona will be fine and continue to hold the throne with Alford and Sean Milller, but the rest of the conference needs a makeover. Until that happens, the conference will continue to be mediocre. Btw, talked to Aaron Gordon’s dad this past weekend…AG is home, as well as UCLA’s Kyle Anderson. Not a shock, but another blow to a conference struggling to sell out hoop arena’s.

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