Pac-12 Burning Questions: A One-Bid League?Posted by AMurawa on January 12th, 2012
Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12. This week:
“Is the Pac-12 a One-Bid League?”
Connor Pelton: With stats like “0-20 in road games against the RPI Top 100” and the conference’s best road win coming at New Mexico State, a good argument can be made that the Pac-12 is a one-bid league. The way I see it, however, the conference will get a minimum of two bids, and possibly a third depending on the conference tournament. At most, the selection committee will have two at-large bids set aside for the Pac-12 going into championship week. The teams most likely in the conversation for those two are California, Stanford, Colorado, and Arizona, while Oregon and Oregon State will have to win the Pac-12 tourney to get in.
Out of those four, I see Cal and Arizona stealing the bids. But if the ultra-soft bubble that we are hearing about now remains through the next two months, Stanford could pull a third at-large spot by making the championship of the tournament. Colorado doesn’t have a true “bad loss” on their schedule at the moment, but I can only see them winning 19-20 games going into championship week. With a poor RPI, they are going to have to get an automatic bid.
Of course this is pure speculation at this point, but we are coming to the point in the season where games like Colorado-Arizona (January 21 and February 9) and California-Stanford (January 29 and March 4) not only matter for the conference race, but also have a huge impact on the national bubble. I think the Pac-12 will get more than one bid, but it is crucial for all four of these teams to prove they belong night in and night out down this stretch run.
Andrew Murawa: The idea that it is a one-bid league has been all the rage this past week, with people ranging from college basketball experts to casual fans claiming that only the winner of the conference tournament should earn an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. And, really, a good translation of that statement at this point is: “the teams at the top of the Pac-12 have been really disappointing.” And, I’ll agree with that statement wholeheartedly.
That said, barring the weirdest conference championship week ever, it is a dead solid lock that the Pac-12 will at least earn two bids, if not three. Why? It’s simple. You’ve got to put 68 teams in the tournament somehow, and right now teams like Minnesota – a team that has lost its first four conference games and whose best win is over an average Virginia Tech team – are in the tournament according to CBS bracketologist Jerry Palm. Palm has North Carolina State as a 12-seed, apparently based mostly on a win over Texas. Andy Glockner’s most recent bracket projection has NC State in as well, along with BYU (who has beaten nobody worth mentioning), Northwestern (they’re 1-3 in the Big Ten, although their win over Seton Hall is looking ever better) and the ever-bubblicious Hokies, who again have no wins of consequence.
Now, you can quibble with any of those above selections or omissions, but the point remains: there just aren’t 37 at-large candidates out there with better resumes than even the rather poor resumes of California (a win over Denver – who Palm has in the tourney – their best asset) or Stanford (a win over NC State, who both of the above have in the tourney). As it is, Palm has Colorado in the tourney as the conference winner and Cal as an at-large, with Arizona and Stanford the first and third teams out, respectively, while Glockner has Stanford and Cal (as a #10 seed) as at-large teams, with Arizona the fourth team out.
In short, yes, the Pac-12 is historically bad. And yes, they are chock-full of disappointing teams. But there’s no chance they only send their tournament champ dancing.