Pac-12 Team-By-Team Non-Conference Wrap-Up

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 2nd, 2014

It’s the unofficial (and un-mathematically correct) halfway point of the college basketball regular season. Non-conference play is, for the most part, in the past, and we’re getting ready to jump right into conference play with a full slate of Pac-12 games beginning today. So, as we look back at what we’ve learned so far and look ahead at what we think might happen from here until we all head to Las Vegas in early March, today we’re going to take a look at what each team has done and pin some rough odds on their chances of making the NCAA Tournament. Teams are ranked below in order of how impressive their resume is to this point.

Following A Successful Non-Conference Slate, The Wildcats Have Put Themselves In A Good Position To Earn A Good NCAA Seed (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

Following A Successful Non-Conference Slate, The Wildcats Have Put Themselves In A Good Position To Earn A Good NCAA Seed (Casey Sapio/USA Today Sports)

  • Arizona (13-0, RPI: 11, Best Wins: at Michigan, neutral site vs. Duke, at San Diego State) – The Wildcats may be third in the Pac-12 in RPI at this point, but they’re #1 in the polls and deservedly so. They’ve challenged themselves with a tough non-conference slate featuring a pair of tough true road games, a pair of good neutral-site NIT Tip-Off wins, and some solid visitors to the McKale Center. But even more important than these accomplishments is how good they’ve looked doing it — displaying one of the nation’s best defenses and an offense that still has plenty of upside for a young team that should be much improved by March. At this point, it is hard to imagine a scenario where the Wildcats are left on the outside looking in come Selection Sunday. Odds of Making NCAA Tournament: 99.9%

  • Oregon (12-0, RPI: 7, Best Wins: neutral site vs. Georgetown, at Ole Miss, home vs. BYU) – While the Wildcats have played their best without the ball, the Ducks have made their hay as one of the nation’s most prolific offensive teams. Transfers like Joseph Young, Mike Moser and Jason Calliste have been folded seamlessly into the mix and Dana Altman is just now getting the services of Dominic Artis and Ben Carter back. Their additions should help this team defensively, but until and unless the Ducks can get better defensive production along the front line – especially on the glass – this team has a ceiling significantly lower than its gaudy rankings in the national polls. Odds of Making NCAA Tournament: 98%
The West Coast's Transfer U Has Quickly Adapted To Its Talented Newcomers (credit: Lee Jim-man)

The West Coast’s Transfer U Has Quickly Adapted To Its Talented Newcomers (Lee Jim-man/AP)

  • Colorado (11-2, RPI: 9, Best Wins: home vs. Kansas and Harvard, Bad Losses: None) – There are a lot of halfway decent wins on the schedule – Wyoming, UC Santa Barbara, Elon, at Colorado State – but the Buffaloes are on the national radar for one big reason: their RTC-inducing win over Kansas. They looked bad enough in their opening night loss to Baylor that we sort of wrote them off a little bit after that, but despite their veteran backcourt of Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker, this is still a team that is in the bottom 10 percent nationally in terms of experience. In other words, this was always going to be a team that would need to improve slowly but surely as the season went on, and that they’ve done. Expect them to be a load in conference play, especially at home. Odds of Making NCAA Tournament: 95%
  • Stanford (9-3, RPI: 64, Best Win: at Connecticut, Bad Losses: None) – A pair of highly unattractive losses to BYU (in their second game of the year) and Pitt renewed a lot of rightful distrust of this historically underachieving group. But just before Christmas break, Johnny Dawkins took his team on an East Coast swing in which they earned that big win at UConn and then showed some fight in giving Michigan all it could handle. Still, one solid win alone doesn’t do enough to inspire confidence in this team. They’re on the radar, at least, but the Cardinal have a lot left to prove. Odds of Making NCAA Tournament: 45%
  • Arizona State (11-2, RPI: 71, Best Wins: home vs. Marquette, at UNLV, Bad Losses: vs. Miami) – Were it not for a fateful weekend in Orange County in which the Sun Devils played their worst basketball of the season, they would have succeeded in spinning a sow’s ear of a schedule into a silken purse of a resume. Their non-conference schedule is in the bottom half of Division I and there are zero wins over teams that are strong bets to make the NCAA Tournament, but they did enough to put themselves in a position to make a run at it. Still, that Miami loss isn’t going to do them any favors come Selection Sunday. Odds of Making NCAA Tournament: 45%
  • UCLA (11-2, RPI: 80, Best Wins: home vs. Drexel and Alabama, Bad Losses: None) – The Bruins have a peculiar resume. There ain’t much good on there and they’ve struck out in their two “up” games. But losses at Missouri and at Cameron Square Garden to Duke can hardly be construed as bad, and the talent on this team is undeniable. But, there are plenty of areas where UCLA needs to get better in order to live up to its potential (defense, frontcourt play, offensive consistency). And given that their resume is so paper-thin to this point, a pathway to the NIT certainly exists as well. In short: These Bruins are probably pretty darn good, but they’ve got a lot left to prove. Thankfully, this is a conference schedule that gives them plenty of opportunities to do so. Odds of Making NCAA Tournament: 65%
  • Utah (11-1, RPI: 145, Best Win: home vs. BYU, Bad Losses: None). Utah takes the conference cake for the worst non-conference schedule, ranked in the bottom two percent of the weakest schedules in Division I. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the Utes crushed BYU, avoided any bad losses, and built up a bunch of confidence for such an inexperienced team. Still, we’re not quite sure what to make of these guys. They might actually be pretty good. We knew about Jordan Loveridge coming into the year, but JuCo transfer Delon Wright has been spectacularly good and, while there isn’t amazing talent beyond those two, there is some solid depth here. But like UCLA, we’ll have to wait until conference play to really find out about this team. Odds of Making NCAA Tournament: 20%
Delon Wright Has Been A Revelation, Albeit Against A Week Non-Conference Schedule (Rick Egan, The Salt Lake Tribune)

Delon Wright Has Been A Revelation, Albeit Against A Week Non-Conference Schedule. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune)

  • California (9-4, RPI: 73, Best Win: neutral-site vs. Arkansas, Bad Losses: at UC Santa Barbara) – Let’s get this out of the way right quick: That loss at UCSB really ain’t all that bad. And the Golden Bears have had some bad luck in the non-conference slate, namely the injury to Richard Solomon in the waning moments of that opening round Maui Invitational win over Arkansas, leaving him sidelined for the final two games of that tournament – both losses. Worse yet, a rash of recent injuries has decimated the team’s backcourt depth. All that being said, there isn’t a whole lot of meat on those non-conference bones. More pressingly, head coach Mike Montgomery is struggling with getting consistent defensive effort out of his young talents such as Jabari Bird and Tyrone Wallace. It’s never wise to count out Mongomery, but early indications are that this vintage of the Golden Bears isn’t going to be particularly remarkable. Odds of Making NCAA Tournament: 20%
  • USC (9-4, RPI: 69, Best Wins: at Dayton, neutral-site vs. Xavier, Bad Losses: at Long Beach State, neutral-site vs. Wake Forest) – Without a doubt, these Trojans have exceeded expectations to this point; imagining this team with a 6-7 record and no quality wins was a particularly difficult exercise a month ago. So, give credit to Andy Enfield for beginning to establish his preferred style of play by making this team worthwhile. Still, just ahead of this team is where we draw the line between teams with possible NCAA Tournament futures and teams we can safely ignore. But, who knows, maybe this team can sneak into the NIT or, more likely, one of those other postseason tournaments with acronyms we purposefully choose to forget. Odds of Making NCAA Tournament: 2%
  • Oregon State (8-4, RPI: 148, Best Win: at Maryland, Bad Losses: home to Coppin State, at DePaul, at Hawaii, neutral-site to Akron) – Things will get better when Eric Moreland returns tonight, but the only question now is whether these Beavers can do enough to save Craig Robinson’s job. Odds on that are somewhere well south of 50 percent. Odds of Making NCAA Tournament: 0.2%
  • Washington State (7-5, RPI: 138, Best Win: neutral-site vs. Purdue, Bad Losses: home vs. TCU) – The Cougars have had their share of quality opponents on their non-conference schedule, but the bad news is that those all (with the exception of Purdue, which barely qualifies as quality) went down as losses. Round about their participation in the Old Spice Classic during Thanksgiving week, we were starting to get the idea that the Cougs were turning a corner towards respectability. Those notions have since been dissuaded. Odds of Making NCAA Tournament: 0.1%
  • Washington (8-5, RPI: 178, Best Win: Um. Hmmmm… I guess a four-point home win against Montana? Bad Losses: Home to UC Irvine, neutral-site vs. Boston College) – Very few people outside of the most die-hard Husky homers envisioned a great season. But who expected them to be the worst team in the conference? Things may change, but for now, that’s where Lorenzo Romar‘s team is. Small solace: They’re actually pretty fun to watch, if only due to their complete aversion of anything approaching defense. Odds of Making NCAA Tournament: 0.00000000000000001%
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