Pac-10 March Madness: How Many Teams Will Get NCAA Tournament Bids?
With a little less than 12 days before Selection Sunday, the 2010-11 college basketball season is winding down.
Each Pac-10 team (except Cal and Stanford, who play each other this week) plays two more games before the conference tournament begins with first-round action on March 9 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Technically, all 10 teams still have a chance of making the NCAA Tournament, but realistically a smaller number of teams will actually get invited.
In the 2009-10 season, only Cal and Washington represented the conference at the Dance.
While that decision is still "to be determined," the Pac-10 will most likely get more in this year than last.
The following is a quick look at the chances each of the Pac-10 schools have of making it into this year's field of 68.
Arizona State (10th Place: 10-18, 2-14 in the Pac)
This picture of ASU sophomore guard Trent Lockett depicts how the Sun Devils' season has gone this year: off-balance and falling.
If it were not for a relatively easy non-conference schedule, Herb Sendek and his Sun Devils would be looking at a single-digit win season.
The only way that Arizona State has a chance to make it to the NCAA Tournament is by running the table in the conference tournament and by doing so securing the Pac-10's automatic bid.
Not likely to happen.
Oregon State (Ninth Place: 10-17, 5-11 in the Pac)
If the season could have ended on January 3, Craig Robinson's Oregon State squad would have won the Pac-10.
They opened with two home wins against ASU and Arizona.
Since then the Beavers are 3-11.
While Oregon State has a few more conference wins than ASU, the story is identical for the Beavers: The only way that OSU has a chance to make it to the NCAA Tournament is by running the table in the conference tournament to secure the Pac-10's automatic bid.
I don't think so.
Stanford (Eighth Place, 14-14, 7-10 in the Pac)
Stanford's conference season started on a promising note when the Cardinal handily beat both Cal and ASU.
Things changed quickly, as they dropped five of their next six games.
While teams make it into the NCAA Tournament through at-large bids with less than 20 wins every year, it's hard to imagine Stanford getting to 18 or 19 wins.
Even if they did, their RPI (139 on CBSSports.com) would exclude them.
Stanford has a better record than either ASU or OSU, but it too would have to win the Pac-10 tourney and get the conference's automatic bid.
Oregon (Seventh Place, 14-14, 7-9 in the Pac)
The Oregon Ducks opened this season with very few people giving them any hope of winning more than a handful of games.
New head coach Dana Altman knew that he had an uphill battle because of having to replace so many spots on his roster due to of a variety of departures.
To his credit, when he arrived in Eugene Altman got to work and assembled a patchwork roster that seemed destined for the Pac-10 basement.
The Ducks have surprised some of their conference foes, beating USC twice as well as Washington and Washington State.
In spite of this, the Ducks are like the other teams previously mentioned here: Unless they win out, including the Pac-10 Tournament, they will be on the outside looking in on Selection Sunday.
Washington State (Sixth Place, 18-10, 8-8 in the Pac)
The Washington State 2010-11 basketball season has had more ups and downs than the Palouse prairie.
During the Pac-10 season, the Cougars have never been able to put more than two consecutive wins together and now find themselves having won only half of their conference games.
While Ken Bone's Cougars have 18 wins, they will have to win both of their regular season games and at least make it to the middle rounds of the Pac-10 Tournament to have a chance.
Their record would be decent at that point, but their RPI (currently 74) might still knock them out.
Slim chance for WSU.
Cal (Fifth Place, 16-13, 9-8 in the Pac)
Cal started off the 2010-11 season leading the conference in question marks.
Between players who graduated or those who were coming back from serious injuries, Mike Montgomery didn't know for sure what he was going to have this year.
But the Bears have, at times, played some very good basketball, beating Temple, Washington State and UCLA.
One of the factors that helps their record is a strong strength-of-schedule rating (19).
The Bears will still need to finish off the regular season and the Pac-10 Tournament strongly to even have a hope of making the NCAA Tournament.
They don't have to win the Pac-10 tourney, but if they don't, they will be sweating it out on Selection Sunday.
USC (Fourth Place, 17-12, 9-7 in the Pac)
If the Trojans don't make it to the tournament, they will look back on a handful of games (Rider, Bradley, TCU and Oregon State) and think: "How in the world did we lose to them?"
USC has some high-quality wins (Texas, Tennessee, UCLA and Arizona) on this season's résumé.
Another factor in USC's favor is the fact that it is finishing strong, having won five of its last six games.
The Trojans play the Washington schools this week to finish conference play. If they could possibly pull off a two-game road sweep, they will probably clinch a place in the tournament on Selection Sunday.
Washington (Third Place, 19-9, 10-6 in the Pac)
For better than half of the 2010-11 season, Washington was the only Pac-10 team ranked in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, since late January they are a tepid 5-4.
They have a decent RPI (43 on CBSSports.com). Their strength of schedule is okay (64).
Going into the last week of the regular season, Washington is in good shape but would certainly help its cause by beating both UCLA and USC at home.
UCLA (Tied for First Place, 21-8, 12-4 in the Pac)
UCLA may not be there yet but the Bruins are one step closer to being back as an elite college-basketball program.
If you would have asked me about this around the first week of December, I would definitely not have said so.
After winning their first three games, the Bruins went on to lose their next four.
Since then, though, UCLA has gone 18-4 and, after beating Arizona on Saturday, the Bruins are tied for first in the conference.
Whatever Ben Howland's squad does from here on out will impact how the Bruins will be seeded. They are already in the NCAA Tournament.
Arizona (Tied for First Place, 23-6, 12-4)
Sean Miller, Arizona head coach, recently said: “If I would have told you the very first time we got together in October that we’d be playing Oregon State and Oregon for the Pac-10 title and our 24th and 25th wins were possible—you’d say, 'Wow, a lot would have to go right for you guys.' And a lot has gone right for us.”
The Cats have played beyond most people's expectations and are ready to start a new consecutive tournament-appearance string for Arizona.
With last year's 16-15 record, the 'Cats were out of the Dance for the first time in over a quarter of a century.
This year's Top 25-ranked team is playing the rest of the season and the Pac-10 Tournament for its seeding. If they win both of their remaining games, plus win the conference tournament, the Cats could be seeded as high as a three or a four.