Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pac-10 teams on the bubble

With Championship Week under way, it is time to take a conference-by-conference look at the bubble and beyond! We start with the Pac-10 who is tipping off their opening round later tonight!

Washington: In
The surprise champion of the regular season is in of course, but their schedule won't get them a high seed. Their best OOC win is over Oklahoma State at home. In-conference however, they picked up some nice Ws, including UCLA, and a sweep of Arizona State, and USC.

The Bruins are guaranteed to be in, although they do not really have any impressive wins out of conference. As usual with Ben Howlin' Wolf there are no bad losses, something very few teams can say.

Their biggest in-conference wins are at home over Washington, and a sweep over California and in-town rival USC. Their best out of conference win is probably Notre Dame.

California: In
No stranger to piling up Pac-10 wins and then flaming out in March, The Full Monty surprised everyone with a very successful debut at bitter in-town-rival at Bezerkeley. They scored two nice MWC road wins at UNLV and at Utah, while in-conference they swept both Washington schools, Stanford and Arizona, and they split games with ASU and USC. They did get swept by UCLA however.

Arizona State: In
The mad scientist is appreciated at ASU, a place longing for any victories, as opposed to NC State longing for catching up with Duke and UNC, an unrealistic expectation in our times. ASU's out of conference schedule has some mildly nice wins, such as a road win at SDSU, a controversial Phoenix victory over BYU, and a beating of UTEP at neutral. In-conference, they managed to sweep UCLA, and that alone is probably enough to get them in the at-large field. They also swept in-state rival Arizona, something that rarely happened in the Lute Olson era. They split games with California, Stanford and USC, but they got swept by the Washington schools.

Arizona: On the bubble (Our opinion: IN)
The definition of the bubble. Coaching drama, injuries, controversies, the team had just about everything happen to them this year. On the negative side, there is no Lute Olson any more to tilt the scales when the committee is confused and undecided.

Arizona has managed to pile up a dozen losses, but none of them are really bad. A thrashing of Kansas at McKale will certainly get them a long way, along with a W over the Zags. In-conference, they have another big scalp, UCLA, with wins over the Washington schools, Stanford and USC as well. They were swept by California and Arizona State however. Losing four out of the last five is something else that will loom over them as well, so there is pressure to pick up a couple of wins at the conference tourney.

However, considering the talent level, and their post-Budinger-foot-face incident performance, they are playing like an at-large team.

USC: Bubble (Our opinion: NIT)
USC's biggest problem is a six-pack of losses in their last eight games and the lack of a signature OOC win, and only two road wins overall. They did pick up some nice conference wins (Arizona, Arizona St, Cal, Stanford) and a sweep of Washington State, but went 0-4 against Washington and USC.

So it's really hard to make a case for USC, especially since the pool of available at-large bids is going to continue shrinking this week.

Washington State: Bubble (Our opinion: CBI/NIT)
Gone were the big names of the "Tony Bennett Glory Days", but the young team managed to beat UCLA on the road, and sweep Arizona State, both guaranteed at-large teams. Wins over Arizona and Stanford should probably be enough to get them to the CBI, but maybe not the NIT because their OOC has a neutral "W" over Mississippi State as their own notable OOC win.

Stanford: NIT/CBI bubble (our opinion: CBI)
Stanford's in-conference record is a not so pleasant 6-12, but the "Dookie magic" will likely get them a CBI invite. They have a couple of CBI-decent home wins and some good in-conference wins as well, over California, Arizona State, Arizona, USC and Washington State.

Oregon State and Oregon: Stay at home
Oregon State certainly exceeded expectations however, their overall losing record of 13-16 will likely preclude them from consideration, unless of course the CBI gets smart and wants to arrange a DC-area game for them to bring out the curious politicos out of their sport-shells to watch some presidential-in-law hoops.

Oregon's record looks like the record of a team getting ready to fire its coach despite his 10+ year tenure there. Ernie Kent will likely follow on the footsteps of Cal's Ben Braun who got fired by the arugula collective, and "downgrade" his next coaching stop.

PS: Please note that a .500 record is no longer required for NIT consideration, freeing the NIT selection committee to pick up teams that had a strong finished or played a very tough out of conference record. We applaud them for this, as long as they don't fill up the whole bracket with "BCS" teams. We strongly believe that teams should be penalized for filling up a 12-0 out of conference record by playing a dozen of 150+ RPI teams at home and coasting to a cozy 20-win season.

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