Pac-12 MBB power ratings: As parity dominates, the NCAA Tournament outlook deteriorates

With Selection Sunday a mere five weeks away, the Hotline is prepared to offer an early forecast. March 2024 is beginning to look a lot like March 2010 for the Pac-12.

That was a ghastly month: Just two teams received invitations to the NCAA Tournament. Washington claimed the automatic bid after winning the conference tournament and was awarded a No. 11 seed. Cal, which finished first in the regular season race, was the only at-large selection and assigned a No. 8 seed.

Ten teams, two measly bids, and nothing better than a No. 8 seed.

Granted, both performed well in the NCAAs, with the Bears winning once and the Huskies twice. But the bid total was an embarrassment.

The Pac-12 should fare better this March in at least one regard: Barring a collapse, Arizona will receive a high seed. But the Wildcats are the only lock. Everyone else is either eliminated from the at-large pool or squarely on the bubble.

As a result, the Hotline has set the Over/Under for total bids at 2.5.

We’re fairly confident a second team will sneak into the field through the at-large pathway — either Washington State, Colorado or Utah — or someone other than Arizona will win the conference tournament.

But the outlook for more than one team joining the Wildcats is growing bleaker by the week as the conference bloodies itself. Teams that were once in decent position (hello, Utah, Oregon and Colorado) are struggling for traction while teams that were nowhere near the at-large pool are now winning regularly (Washington State and UCLA).

For evidence, we offer the NET rankings, which provide a rough framework for at-large selections.

Teams ranked in the top 30 typically have compiled strong enough resumes to be considered safely in the field of 68. They have a plethora of good wins, a paucity of bad losses and stout non-conference schedules.

The Pac-12 has one team on that tier, Arizona. By comparison, the Mountain West has four — in addition to its 6-1 record against the Pac-12 in head-to-head matchups.

To the power ratings …

1. Arizona (19-5/10-3)

Last week: 1
Results: won at Utah 105-99 (3OT) and Colorado 99-79
NET ranking: No. 3
Next up: vs. Arizona State (Saturday)
Comment: We outlined Arizona’s predicament last week in the Best of the West rankings, explaining the Wildcats have fewer opportunities than top teams in other leagues to collect Quadrant I wins down the stretch. Full credit to Tommy Lloyd and Co. for making the most of the opportunities on the Mountain swing.

2. Washington State (18-6/9-4)

Last week: 3
Results: won at Oregon State 64-58 and Oregon 62-56
NET ranking: No. 40
Next up: vs. Cal (Thursday)
Comment: The Cougars would be far better positioned for an at-large berth but for seven reasons: Idaho, Prairie View, Utah Tech, Eastern Washington, Portland State, UC Riverside and Grambling. The selection committee cares deeply that teams challenge themselves in the portion of the schedule they control (i.e., non-conference games). WSU did not.

3. Oregon (16-8/8-5)

Last week: 2
Results: beat Washington 85-80, lost to WSU 62-56
NET ranking: No. 61
Next up: at Oregon State (Saturday)
Comment: The Ducks swept the season series from Washington, 85-80 and 76-74. But UW will always have 36-33 and 34-31.

4. UCLA (13-11/8-5)

Last week: 7
Results: won at Stanford 82-74 and Cal 61-60
NET ranking: No. 112
Next up: vs. Colorado (Thursday)
Comment: More evidence of the Pac-12’s utter and complete mediocrity: A team ranked 112th in the NET is tied for third place. Michigan, which is one spot above UCLA in the rankings, occupies the cellar in the Big Ten.

5. Colorado (16-8/7-6)

Last week: 5
Results: beat Arizona State 82-70, lost to Arizona 99-79
NET ranking: No. 39
Next up: at UCLA (Thursday)
Comment: The Buffaloes could very well finish with a flourish and win the Pac-12 tournament. But to this point, they have underachieved. The personnel is better than the record.

6. Utah (15-9/6-7)

Last week: 4
Results: lost to Arizona 105-99 (3OT) and Arizona State 85-77
NET ranking: No. 48
Next up: at USC (Thursday)
Comment: The loss to ASU, categorized as a Quad III result, not only craters the Utes’ NET ranking but effectively strips them of any margin for error just when they need it most, with five of their last seven on the road.

7. Cal (10-14/6-7)

Last week: 6
Results: beat USC 83-77 (OT), lost to UCLA 61-60
NET ranking: No. 124
Next up: at WSU (Thursday)
Comment: Six conference victories stands as a supreme achievement given preseason expectations, but consider: The Bears have two losses by two points (ASU and Washington) and a third by one point (UCLA). With a few better bounces, they are 8-5, if not 9-4.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button