The QUINTESSENTIAL, mostly hypothetical, likely flawed, definitive, but mostly guess-work, unedited but lexiconically brilliant, leading source for the status, seeding potential and outook all teams in contention for an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament as we head into #champweek for the major conferences (and, of course, the SWAC). (Not really the SWAC)
As a refresher: Pac 12 Locks: Oregon, Utah, Arizona, California
Pac 12 Waiting Line: Colorado, Southern California, Oregon State, Washington
Oregon. Call it a meteoric rise, call it one of only two teams to be competent in the Pac12 – but Oregon went from 3-2 in conference, to a forgettable Bay area trip away from running off 13 straight wins. The RPI loves them (4), KenPom/BPI like them (17 average), and they’ve been great versus the top 100 19-5 overall (4-1 v top25; 5-2 v25-50; 10-2vs51-100). A nice non-conference win against Baylor, in what was the 22nd ranked non-conf schedule (and 5th ranked overall). This is a 2-seed with a shot at a #1, if the pull the Pac12 double. A loss to Washington could push them to 3, pending other outcomes, but I don’t see it. I also don’t see a #1 (given the extreme competition for them this year) without winning the P12 tournament. At a minimum they need to reach the final.
Utah – The Utes scheduled equally tough. #17 non-conference that rose to 11 in conference. 17 top 100 wins, with zero bad losses. Including non-conference wins over Duke, Texas Tech, San Diego St and American champ Temple. .500 on the road, and 8-6 in R/N games. This profile views as a 3. Below them in s-curve are Duke, West Virginia, A&M, Indiana, Iowa State and Kentucky. So threats to their 3 seed loom – losing to USC/UCLA (especially if its UCLA) might imperil them a line. But, running through USC, Cal, and then the Oregon/Arizona winner for P12 title – a 2, while unlikely, is not out of the question.
Arizona – To Trier or not to Trier. That was Arizona dilemma. Not whether they needed him, but how differently they looked with/without him. Yes, they survived his absence, mostly because they played the Washington schools twice in that span, but they looked off. Arizona’s non-conference is relatively weak – a loss to Providence, a win over Gonzaga (without Karnowski, this isn’t a top 20 team), But otherwise? Boise State twice, Fresno St, NAU, and a super down UNLV. So, Pac12 play is when they’ll tell you who they are. And they said some good things – but enough? A 238 ranked schedule only became 81 after P12 play. Top two road wins are Gonzaga and Stanford. They lost to the top of the conference: Oregon & Utah, and split with California and USC, beat Oregon St and lost their matchup with Colorado. With 0 bad losses, and 15 top 100 wins (although 6 of those are above 85). They seem like a 5-seed teetering closer to 6 than 4. Losing to Colorado early, could bump them down. But beating Oregon would cement the 5. Could they get to 4 with a P12 tournament win? Perhaps, but that non-conference scarcity makes it feel unlikely. We’ll check back.
California – There was a time when Cal was the grand champions of home court heroes, with a strong overall record, and decent appearing resume, until you noticed they were 1-6 on the road. Cal is also super young – so when they went to Washington State and swept the schools, it was big for their tournament selection chances and performance outlook. Confidence built as the LA schools regretted visiting Berkley, and they took Arizona to a last second shot in Tucson. And finished the season 8-2. IF ONLY they had finished that game versus Virginia (63-62) or Oregon (68-65) on the road, Cal’s seed outlook would be infinite. As it stands, with 1 non-conference win of note (St. Mary’s) and nothing on the road + a loss to Richmond, the 14 top 100 wins gain a grain of salt. For all teams who had excellent conference seasons, tournaments are tough places to really ascend in seeding, because you’ve already proven you can beat the other teams in your conference. This is a bit different for Cal because they are away from home – nonetheless, currently a 6-seed, they could hold the tournament prospects in their hands versus Oregon State in the quarters, win or lose, it feels like the 6 is secure. Beat Utah and then Oregon (or even UofA) to win the P12 – a 5 seed is a possibility.
Colorado – We’ve officially reached the home court hero phase of the analysis – it’s a P12 theme. Colorado doesn’t have the volume of wins as their conference brethren above – wins over Oregon, Arizona, and California in conference. Just like their brethren, however, there is not a bad loss to be found. Just not much of a non-conference win to hang a hat on. Brigham Young at home is the best, Penn St on a neutral court and Auburn in Alabama, is their best non-conference work on the outside of the marijuana state (5-9 overall on R/N). Good RPI, questionable BPI/KenPom, but they are about as safe as you can be and not be a lock. However, they face Washington State today. Who is bad. As an 8-seed, a miserable loss right now is poor timing, and the only reason they’re in Waiting Line status still. I see only a 7 as their upside.
Southern California – Well look what we have here, 4/9 road/neutral, 11 top 100 wins, strong SOS, middling computer numbers, no signature non-conference win, and no bad losses – must be a Pac-12 team. USC beat Arizona at home (in a 4-OT thriller where Alonzo Trier had a coming out party AND a broken hand), beat Colorado at home, beat Oregon St & Yale (good computer number teams), you guessed it, at home. Neutral court wins over waiting liners Monmouth & Wichita State as well. But then UCSB stands as their best true road win. USC is pretty safe, and currently on the 8-line. With UCLA in the P12 tourney, it’d be hard to bounce them out – but 8-11 leaves you subject to bid thieves or hot runs from Waiting Liners. If they win the tournament? 7 is possible.
Oregon State – It doesn’t get more divisive than Oregon State. Some have them relatively safe – 9 seed. Some have them toeing the line – 10 seed (that’s where the Buffet sees them). Some see Dayton as among the last four in. Joe Lunardi, who has been killing in TV appearances this week – especially with his blistering hot takes on Seth Greenberg, has them as among the first four out. So let’s take it from the most extreme and walk back. Their in the P12, so 6-8 R/N, 7th ranked SOS (54 in the non-conference), good RPI but weaker KenPom/BPI. Good top wins, but all in conference and all at home: Oregon, Utah, California, Colorado, USC, they did beat Tulsa on a neutral court in a Waiting Line H2H comparison, but best win away from home, like USC, is UCSB (who RPI might just be a function of losing to all these Pac12 teams). State did stop some bleeding from a mid-to-late February pair of losses with a 3 of 4 to finish the season, including a key road win (UCLA isn’t a big win, but when you’re classified as a home court hero, showing road muster is key). They open with Arizona State – they must put down the Curtain of Distraction and the lesser Coach Hurley, or else its curtains for them. Then comes California. A win there, and it would be impossible to keep them out. A close loss and I still feel Dayton is their floor. A blowout loss? Thin line between waiting and eating…