Predicting a team's potential performance in the Big Dance from the most recent past performance numbers in the "Little Dance"—which is the single-elimination conference tournament—is an uncertain business at best, and nothing like using the Daily Racing Form to pick the horses at the track.
The astute college basketball fan has seen too many examples of a mediocre team getting hot in its conference tournament, winning the league's automatic bid only to flame out over the first weekend of the NCAA tournament to put any real faith in the outcomes.
While, on the other side, there is a robust case history of conference champions or top-three teams being felled by the jump shots of unassuming assassins in the early rounds of their league tournament, only to make the run everyone thought they were capable of making when the eyes of a nation fell upon them in the maddest weeks of March.
This era of UCLA basketball under head coach Ben Howland has a good example of this in its own recent history. The top-seeded Bruins went down to Cal in the first round of the 2007 Pac-12 tournament after sweeping the Golden Bears during the regular season. It was a stunning, 76-69 overtime loss at the Staples Center in Los Angeles that seemed to foreshadow an evil March for a team that was 26-5 during the regular season.
But those Bruins won four in a row in the NCAA tournament and reached the Final Four in Atlanta before falling to eventual back-to-back national champion Florida.
Every season and every team has to be evaluated on different criteria, and this year's UCLA squad—being young and new to one another—has been exceptionally unpredictable. From that protean nature, though, plausible best- and worst-case scenarios in the Pac-12 tournament can be drawn.
The best scenarios are the ones that prepare UCLA to make a run in the NCAA tournament. The worst cases are the opposite; those that put the Bruins in a place where their confidence in themselves has been shaken and the prospects for advancement in the Big Dance have become perilous at best.