A weekly assessment of Pac-12 news, quasi-news and (occasional) non-news …

Rising: Utah basketball.

At this point, we won’t presume the results of Selection Sunday — specifically, of Arizona State’s tournament inclusion — are having a material impact on non-conference scheduling philosophy across the conference.

But it sure feels that way, at least in one locale, with the news that Utah has agreed to a two-game series against Kentucky.

Technically, it’s a home-and-neutral series, with one game in Lexington and one in Las Vegas.

In reality, it could be a home-and-home-away-from-home series for Kentucky. Yes, Utah fans travel well, but compared to the Big Blue faithful, every other fan base is amateur hour.

The agreement not only bolsters Utah’s schedule, it greatly assists the Pac-12 at large.

Schedules aren’t one-size-fits-all; nor are they easy to create. They must be sculpted to suit the near-term roster. But it’s hardly a stretch to suggest that eight or nine Pac-12 programs should have at least one high-level non-conference date each season.

Utah is in that group, for sure, and the 2018-19 lineup, which includes Missouri and the Wooden Classic, is beginning to take an acceptable shape.

The selection committee sends the same message each year: Challenge yourself in the non-conference, give us evidence that you belong in the tournament.

For the Utes, losing to Kentucky is far better than beating Weber State. And if they beat the Wildcats, well, that could cover up so many blemishes.

Rising: Pac-12 initiatives.

The conference on Wednesday announced the next round of research projects aimed at student-athlete welfare, with $3 million in funding to be spread across the endeavors.

Head trauma is understandably a central topic every year, but there are plenty of worthwhile projects set for 2018. (The full list is here.)

The 2018 initiative that stood out to me, for reasons that are surely obvious, is …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Sports


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