From the Big East, I bounce four time zones all the way over to the Pac 12. The Pac 12 is the hardest of the Power Six Conferences to try and project. The conference currently has no teams ranked in the Top 25. The highest RPI of any Pac 12 team is California at 48. The current conference leader, Washington, has an RPI of 76 putting them in between Wagner and Bucknell. They placed four teams last season and three of the teams (UCLA, Arizona, and Washington) won at least one game with Arizona making the Elite Eight. They might be a lot of 20 win teams in the Pac 12, but will they place another four teams in the NCAA Tournament?
IN: Washington (16-7, 9-2), California (18-6, 8-3). Even the grip that the Huskies and Golden Bears have on a tournament birth is tenuous. I touched on Washington’s low RPI of 76. The Huskies do, though, have a one game conference lead with seven to play. If they take the regular season Pac 12 title, they’ll punch their ticket for the tournament. Cal won at Washington in their only regular season meeting, and the Golden Bears are currently one game back of the Huskies.
OUT: USC (6-18, 1-10), Utah (5-18, 2-9), Arizona St. (7-16, 3-8), Washington St. (12-11, 4-7), Oregon St. (15-8, 5-6), UCLA (13-10, 6-5). If Oregon St. or UCLA gets red-hot, they could slide onto the bubble but it looks like an uphill climb to achieve a birth. The Beavers are currently under .500 in the Pac 12, and they lost at home to Idaho. UCLA had some bad non-conference losses to Middle Tennessee and Loyola Marymount, and the Bruins still have Pac 12 leader Washington twice.
BUBBLE: Colorado (16-7, 8-3, RPI: 73). KEY WINS: Washington. KEY LOSSES: at UCLA, at Stanford. The Buffaloes find themselves back on the bubble for the second straight season. A lot of experts thought the Buffaloes were worthy of a bid last season, including me, but they went to the NIT instead losing to Alabama in the semifinals. Colorado might be penalized by what other Pac 12 teams face; they lost to good Mountain West teams in non-conference (Colorado St., Wyoming) but how many teams are the Mountain West sending to the tournament? Colorado can earn a split with Cal if they beat them in Boulder on February 26th.
Oregon (16-7, 7-4, RPI: 83). KEY WINS: at Arizona. KEY LOSSES: Oregon St., at Colorado. I had the Ducks pegged for a possible return to the tournament in January, but the quality of teams in the Pac 12 aren’t doing the Ducks any favors. An RPI of 83 might be killer come March. It’s hard to achieve an at-large with a ranking that low. The Ducks will need to beat everyone ahead of them to improve their RPI. They still host Washington and Colorado, and they travel to Cal.
Arizona (16-8, 7-4, RPI: 62). KEY WINS: at Cal. KEY LOSSES: at UCLA, Oregon. The Wildcats might be in the best shape of any of the Pac 12 bubble teams. Arizona needs to string together some wins and hope that their RPI rises. Four of their last seven games will be at home with only one road game against a team with a winning record (Washington). Washington defeated Arizona by 2 when the two teams played in Arizona on Jan. 28.
Stanford (16-7, 6-5, RPI: 96). KEY WINS: N.C. St., Colorado. KEY LOSSES: Butler, at Washington St. Stanford has the best non-conference win of any of the bubble teams that I looked at with a 76-72 win over N.C. St. in early December. The Cardinal also have a terrible home loss to a Butler team who will probably miss the NCAA Tournament. Stanford was riding high, but have lost four of their last five games with all the losses being in double digits. They still have a chance to improve their resume with home games against Cal and Oregon, and a road game against Colorado.
The Pac 12 has a lot of good teams who are probably going to achieve 20 win seasons. But, they are also weak the bottom with the struggles of Arizona St., USC, and Utah. The Pac 12 may only get one bid, the conference tournament champion. I think that’s unlikely, though, as being a power conference I see the regular season champion getting a birth if it’s different than the conference tournament champion. Right now, I am going to put the Pac 12 at three bids: Washington, Cal, and Arizona. But, it’s going to be a roller coaster to the finish with their conference tournament perhaps having the most at stake of the Power Six and being the most interesting.