Evaluating the Pac’s Postseason Prospects: Mid-January EditionPosted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on January 15th, 2014
Periodically throughout the next two months, the Pac-12 microsite will be taking a look at the league’s postseason outlook. We start today.
- Arizona (#1 Seed): Arizona has been atop the national rankings for five consecutive weeks now, and while some dispute whether it should be the top overall seed, no one has the Wildcats below the one seed line right now. They currently boast quality wins against San Diego State, Duke, Michigan, Washington and UCLA, with four of those coming away from home. The Cats remain one of three unbeatens across the land and have another chance at a good win on Thursday against Arizona State.
- Colorado (#4-#6 Seed): The Buffaloes have a pair of top 10 victories going for themselves, but that’s about the only positive they have to look at right now. Head coach Tad Boyle lost his leading scorer for the remainder of the season and another member of his typical nine-deep rotation until mid-March all in 40 minutes at Washington on Sunday, so while the Buffs’ résumé currently looks in the #4-#6 seed range, anything better than a #7 come Selection Sunday would make Colorado fans very happy. Staying on that line instead of the #8 or #9 would be crucial if it hopes to advance through the opening weekend, as that’s the difference between say, Virginia and North Carolina in the opening round as well as avoiding a #1 seed in the second game.
- Oregon (#5-#7 Seed): Sure, Oregon is sliding hard and fast right now, but the Ducks will be fine so long as this three-game losing streak doesn’t go beyond that. The Ducks need to keep these losses in a vacuum, and while it will definitely be a black mark the rest of the way, wins at Washington and against UCLA back in Eugene could make this skid a distant memory by the first of February. They will need to shore up their defense some in order to remain in the upper half of the NCAA field. Oregon ranks 306th in the nation in points allowed per game, and finding a way to keep their opponents below 80 will be key.
- UCLA (#8-#10 Seed): The jury is largely still out on the Bruins, who have won 13 games but only one of which can be classified as a “quality victory.” With four of their final five games this month either against teams that are locked into the NCAAs or on the bubble, that can change in a hurry but they’ll need to be ready to take advantage of those opportunities every night out.
- California (Bubble IN): Going into conference play, California was typically a middle-of-the-road NIT team according to bracketologists around the country, and that was with some slack being cut since it had lost Ricky Kreklow and Jabari Bird for an extended period of time. Boy, what a difference two weeks can make. The Golden Bears have worked their way into the NCAA field, possibly as high as a #10 seed, thanks to three road wins to start Pac-12 play. With the three-game road trip now out of the way, and the fact they don’t leave the state of California again until February 12, things are definitely looking up for the Bears.
- Arizona State (Bubble OUT): The Sun Devils, like UCLA, have been tough to figure out so far. They only have one quality win, and while there is only one bad loss to their name, performances like the ones they put up against Creighton and Washington won’t be convincing anyone that they’re ready for the field of 68.
- Stanford (Bubble OUT): The curious case of the Stanford Cardinal. One day Johnny Dawkins’ team will look like the one that beat Connecticut and Oregon on the road, and the next they could drop a game to Oregon State. That’s not a recipe for long-term success, but it is one that can keep them hanging around the bubble for a while.
- Washington (Bubble OUT): As crazy as it might sound, the Huskies aren’t that far out of the NCAA picture. They’ve won seven of their last nine contests, with the only losses coming against a pair of top 10 teams. Regardless, the 11- and 14-point losses to UC Irvine and Boston College aren’t doing any favors to their résumé, and they’ll need a couple more big upsets down the stretch to make up for those bad defeats.
- USC (#4-#6 Seed): USC is currently locked into the NIT, but it desperately needs to break the current three-game losing streak before it grows any more. The Pac-12 is going to get some respect from the second string tournament because of how deep it is, but the Trojans need to make sure to stay above .500. They currently sit at 9-7 with two quality wins against Xavier and Dayton.
- Utah: The Utes’ 12 wins are enough to keep them in the postseason conversation right now, but when your non-conference schedule includes teams like Evergreen State, Lamar, and St. Katherine, that conversation is going to be limited to the CBI. What they do have going for them is a 17-point victory against a NCAA bubble team in BYU, and they’ve lost to Boise State, Oregon and Washington by a combined six points. As long as Utah continues to stay competitive, it will remain an attractive option for a tournament like the CBI.
- Oregon State: Oregon State is a bit of a CBI darling, so as long as it remains around the .500 mark, the Beavers will have a postseason option. They have wins against Maryland and George Mason that looked a lot better at the time than they do at the moment, and the win against Stanford is a good one, especially if the Cardinal continue to hang around the NCAA bubble. Craig Robinson’s team has a relatively easy finish to the month of January compared with some others around the league, so a strong finish here is key.
Out of the Picture
- Washington State: The Cougars currently sit at 8-8, and that record looks even worse when you examine their non-conference strength of schedule. Who knows, maybe they’ll string a few wins together and jump into the CBI picture, but that just seems unlikely at this point. Not helping Washington State out is the extended loss of its only double digit scorer, DaVonte Lacy, who will miss up to another month of play with a rib injury.