Pac-10 Notebook: Tournament Chances

    
February 21st, 2007

With less than three Sundays left before Selection Sunday, I’ll recap each team and their chances of securing a bid into the annual NCAA Tournament as well as possible seedings.

Power Rankings

#1 UCLA BRUINS
Record: Conference (12-2) Overall (23-3)

The Bruins are certainly a lock to secure a bid to the Tournament. Question is, whether they can get one of the four number-one seeds. The Bruins only have three losses on the season so far, one to Oregon, one to Stanford, and last week to West Virginia. The loss to West Virginia was on the road without starting point-guard Darren Collison and all three losses were narrow losses. The only way I see them not getting a number-one seed in the Tournament is if they lose one of their final four conference games (the toughest of those games will be Washington St.) or lose the first game of the PAC-10 Conference Tournament.

Tournament Status: A lock, a solid pick for a number-one seed at the moment.

#2 WASHINGTON ST COUGARS
Record: Conference (11-3) Overall (22-4)

Have the Cougars earned enough respect yet to be a lock for the Tournament? I say definitely. Their remaining four games are tough, two on the road, and three are ranked opponents (Oregon, UCLA, and USC). Take the worst case scenario, they lose all four games to finish 11-7 in PAC-10 and lose in the wildcard round of the PAC-10 Tournament, at worst you would rank them fifth in the PAC-10. Even if the selection committee gets tight, they will give the PAC-10 at least five bids and the Cougs would be that fifth team. A more likely scenario would have the Cougs go 2-2 and get to the Semifinals of the PAC-10 Conference Tournament, then I’d ranked them third in the PAC-10, and anywhere from a five to a seven seed.

Tournament Status: A lock, should get anywhere from a three to a seven seed depending on how they finish the season.

#3 STANFORD CARDINAL
Record: Conference (9-5) Overall (17-8)

Tough to come up with the third best Pac-10 team, but since USC lost to previously 0-14 Arizona St, Oregon lost to the Cardinal, and although Arizona has been playing better they still lost to UCLA, so the Cardinal sit third in the PAC-10 on my list. They’ve been playing well but like Washington St., the Cardinal have a tough four games ahead, two on the road and three against ranked opponents (USC, UCLA, and Arizona). The Cardinal have been up and down all season so it’s difficult to predict where they will end up come March. It wouldn’t surprise me if they ended up third overall in the PAC-10 (after a good PAC-10 Tournament showing), but it also wouldn’t surprise me if they lost the rest of their games and ended up sixth or seventh and on the outside looking in come selection Sunday.

Tournament Status: Must win games this week and have a good PAC-10 Tournament showing. A bubble team right now.

#4 USC TROJANS
Record: Conference (9-5) Overall (19-8)

They’ve beaten Oregon and Arizona in the past couple of weeks but they now have the dubious distinction of being the only team so far to lose to Arizona State in conference play. Still the Trojans have a favorable schedule in their final four games (the toughest against Washington St. on the road). If they win out, and get to the PAC-10 Championship game, they will be the number two team in the PAC-10 heading into Selection Sunday. The Trojans are certainly capable of that, but more likely I see them going 3-1 and getting to the Semifinals of the PAC-10 tournament, good for third overall in the PAC-10 and an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament, a six or seven seed.

Tournament Status: They are a bubble team right now. But if they go 3-1 the rest of the way, and win their first game at the PAC-10 Tournament, they’re definitely in.

#5 ARIZONA WILDCATS
Record: Conference (8-7) Overall (17-9)

The Wildcats had their chance to move up big-time in the rankings and standings but fell way short against UCLA this week. They have been playing better lately but their horrendous defense and inconsistent shooting has come back to haunt them again. Their three remaining games, although on the road, are all winnable. At best, they will finish fourth in PAC-10 heading into the PAC-10 Tournament where they will need at least a semifinal appearance to be given one of the automatic bids. Anything short of that they will be on the bubble watch. If the Wildcats end up on the bubble, I say they get in with a seeding of eight or nine.

Tournament Status: Strong possibility of finishing in the top four of PAC-10 and getting an invite.

#6 OREGON DUCKS
Record: Conference (8-7) Overall (20-7)

After a stellar start to the season, Ernie Kent and co. are seeing things falling apart right in front of their own eyes. Losses to Stanford, California, Arizona, USC, UCLA, Washington have erased everything good that they’ve done early in the season, like wins over UCLA, Georgetown, Arizona and Washington St. A massive game awaits the Ducks against Washington St. on Thursday at home. Their NCAA Tournament hopes could rest on that single game. The Ducks will need the Washington St. win and a Semifinal appearance at the PAC-10 Tournament to place fourth or fifth in the PAC-10. If they don’t win on Thu and lose in the first round of the PAC-10 Tournament, they’ll be at the NIT instead. If the Ducks get in, I see them as an eight or nine seed.

Tournament Status: They are on the bubble, closer to being out than in.

#7 WASHINGTON HUSKIES
Record: Conference (6-8) Overall (16-10)

Already below .500 in conference play, the Huskies are at the desperation stage. They must win at least three of their last four games (three are ranked opponents and two are on the road). Then they will need to most likely get to the finals of the PAC-10 Tournament to convince the Selection Committee that they are top five in the PAC-10. If they reach the Semifinals, they will be on the outer bubble. They played well this past week against Washington St. and Pittsburgh (both ranked in the top ten) but couldn’t seal the deal down the stretch, a problem all season long. Perhaps it just isn’t in the cards for the Huskies this year.

Tournament Status: They are on the outer bubble. Will require a great PAC-10 Tournament showing (finals or champions) to gain entry.

#8 CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS
Record: Conference (6-8) Overall (14-12)

A huge win over Oregon kept their NCAA Tournament hopes alive but the hope is fading fast. The Bears have a tough four-game stretch ahead where they face three ranked opponents and play twice on the road (including their next game which is at UCLA). They need all four wins to get an automatic Quarterfinal berth in the PAC-10 Tournament. From there, they will need to reach the final to gain any attention from the Selection Committee. If somehow, all of this happened, I see the Bears getting a twelve or thirteen seed at the Tournament.

Tournament Status: They can see the bubble, but have little to no chance. Thursday against UCLA is make or break.

#9 OREGON ST BEAVERS
Record: Conference (2-13) Overall (10-18)

Not much has gone well for the Beavers this season except that they’re better than the Sun Devils sweeping the season series. The Beavers only chance of making the NCAA Ttournament would be a miraculous run in the PAC-10 Tournament winning four straight games for the Championship. They have no shot at any of the at-large bids. If they magically made it, they would be a twelve or thirteen seed.

Tournament Status: Must win the PAC-10 Championship.

#10 ARIZONA ST SUN DEVILS
Record: Conference (1-14) Overall (7-19)

The Sun Devils avoided the dunce cap and managed to win at least one conference game upsetting the USC Trojans last week. It’s not like the Sun Devils haven’t played well, they’ve come oh so close many times only to find a way to lose in the final few minutes. They led the UCLA Bruins in the second half in both games they played, only to wilt down the stretch. Like the Beavers, the Sun Devils have no hope of making the NCAA Tournament short of winning the PAC-10 Championship outright.

Tournament Status: Must win the PAC-10 Championship.

Big Games next week

Thu, Feb 22 (9) Washington St. at (23) Oregon 9:00 pm

This is the biggest game of the week in all of the PAC-10 no doubt. The NCAA Tournament implications are huge. Washington St. can use the game to move up their seeding to a three or two seed. Meanwhile, Oregon can regain some momentum and erase any doubts of their Tournament status. Last time these two teams met, the Ducks squeaked out a three-point win in Pullman. This time the two teams square off at McArthur Court otherwise known as “the Pit”. Expect the crowd to be extra jacked up given the importance of this game. Look for the Ducks to feed off the energy of the crowd and jump out to an early lead. The Cougars will need their signature swarming defense to take away the perimeter shot.

Thu, Feb 22 Stanford at USC 10:30 pm

Battle for third in the PAC-10 heats up as NoCal travels to face SoCal. Winner takes sole possession of third in the PAC-10. The last time these two teams played, the Cardinal crushed the Trojans at Stanford. Brook Lopez had a monster game with a triple-double for the Cardinal. If the Cardinal can rely on the same dominating performances from the Lopez twins in the low block they are almost unstoppable. Meanwhile, the Trojans go as Nick Young goes. X-factor is Taj Gibson, if he plays well, along with Young, the Trojans are a tough team to beat.