The Pac-12 is a lot stronger than it was last year, but only a few teams need not worry about missing the NCAA Tournament.
Oregon, UCLA and California should all punch their ticket regardless of conference tournament performance, but the same can’t be said for several teams on the bubble wavering between a postseason bid and an entry to the NIT Tournament.
The regular season is nearly in the books, and for those teams on the bubble, only a quality performance in the Pac-12 tournament will give them the possibility to advance.
Winning the tournament would obviously ensure a bid to the Big Dance, but the following teams may also be able to sneak in with a few quality wins in the conference tourney.
Arizona State (20-10, 9-8 Pac-12)
With a lot of inexperience on the Sun Devils’ roster, just making it to the NCAA Tournament looks like a monumental task at this point. Losses to Washington, USC and UCLA in the last week have all but crippled Arizona State.
The Sun Devils started the season as one of the best teams in the conference, posting a 14-2 record through their first 16 games. It was all uphill from there, though, and a 6-8 mark since January 13 simply won’t cut it in an attempt for an at-large bid.
With an RPI rank of 92 and one game remaining on the regular-season schedule (Arizona), only a deep run in the conference tournament will give Arizona State a chance at the Big Dance.
Were the season to end today, the Sun Devils would have the seventh seed in the tournament with a first-round matchup against either Oregon State or Utah. Their second-round matchup would then be either Oregon or UCLA, and beating one of those two teams would potentially be enough to get them back in the discussion for a low-seed NCAA Tournament position.
Colorado (19-9, 9-7 Pac-12)
Thursday’s game against Oregon could be the deciding factor in how likely the Buffaloes are to earn a tournament bid. They pulled off a 48-47 upset victory against the Ducks on February 7, and doing the same this week would give them a little extra ammunition with the selection committee.
If Colorado doesn’t manage to come out ahead of the Ducks, the conference tournament is its only shot of playing more meaningful basketball in March.
Colorado does have a favorable RPI ranking (No. 29), and there’s reason to believe it can make the NCAA Tournament without storming through the conference showdown. An early exit won’t make things any easier, though.
The Buffaloes aren’t yet a team on the outside looking in, but their tournament hopes may well rest on a couple wins in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Stanford (17-13, 8-9 Pac-12)
Inconsistency has plagued the Cardinal this season, and Stanford has to make a splash in the conference tournament in order to punch its ticket to the Big Dance.
Recent losses to Oregon and Colorado didn’t help matters. A showdown with California is its last big opportunity to make a push before the Pac-12 tournament.
With an RPI rating of 69 and a couple quality conference wins on the schedule, Stanford looks like the quintessential bubble team. It just hasn’t been able to gain much momentum during the regular season.
Because of Stanford’s inconsistent play, it’s hard to imagine the Cardinal making much of a run in the conference tournament, but it’s always possible. With a few wins in postseason play, it may be able to do enough to impress selectors enough for a low seed in the NCAA Tournament.