Will ANYONE win it? Pac-12 Tournament preview
When & Where: Wednesday, March 7 to Saturday, March 10, Staples Center, Los Angeles, Calif.
No. 1 Washington Huskies
No. 2 California Golden Bears
No. 3 Oregon Ducks
No. 4 Arizona Wildcats
No. 5 UCLA Bruins
No. 6 Colorado Buffaloes
No. 7 Stanford Cardinal
No. 8 Washington State Cougars
No. 9 Oregon State Beavers
No. 10 Arizona State Sun Devils
No. 11 Utah Utes
No. 12 USC Trojans
Favorite: No one?
Potential Cinderella: Colorado Buffaloes
What's at stake?
Oh baby, a lot is at stake here--in the ugliest way possible. The Pac-12 is hoping to avoid becoming the first major conference to only send one team to the NCAA Tournament since the tournament expanded in 1948. It will also be a nice war of attrition seeing which team will do the best at avoiding shooting itself in the foot in a conference where all all the teams did all season was repeatedly shoot themselves, and each other, in the feet.
There are four Pac-12 teams on the bubble--Washington, Cal, Oregon and Arizona--but it is quite possible none of them gets in without winning the conference tournament. All four teams combined for a grand total of 0 non-conference wins against RPI top-50 teams. That is outrageous in and of itself, but it gets worse. Only Cal has a winning record (7-6) against RPI top-100 teams and only Oregon (7-5) has a winning record on road and neutral courts. Ugly.
And did I mention that Cal ended their season by losing two straight to Colorado and Stanford, Washington finished up losing at UCLA and Arizona closed with a crushing loss to a terrible Arizona State team.
So let's look at this one team at a time, beginning with the most likely to get an at-large bid to the least-likely.
Washington has to be considered the favorite for an at-large, given they were the regular season conference champion. But they didn't do themselves any favors. They lost at home to South Dakota State by 19 and their best non-conference win came against RPI 124 UC-Santa Barbara. That is putrid. Still, if the Huskies reach the conference tournament finals and lose to Cal there, I think they'll squeak into the field.
Cal comes next, and until the two losses at the end of the season, the Golden Bears looked to be in pretty good shape. However, if they lose again to rival Stanford in the quarterfinals they will be in a lot of trouble. They too likely need a trip to the finals to breathe easier come Sunday. After all, Cal's best non-conference win was at home against Weber State and their strength of schedule is 100th in the country.
Oregon only has a chance to get in if it gets to the finals of the conference tournament, which will likely involve beating Cal in an elimination game in the semifinals. There just isn't much that is impressive on their resume.
Arizona probably needs to win the conference tournament to get a bid. Their RPI is 76 and their strength of schedule is 130th in the country. Those aren't at-large numbers. Losing to Arizona State to close out the regular season was crushing, and it would have helped the Wildcats' case if they had a non-conference win better than New Mexico State.
With all the chaos that is the Pac-12 this season, don't be surprised if UCLA, Colorado or Stanford makes a run at the tournament title. No team is too good to dominate another in this muddled league.