Pac-12 Hoop Power Rankings – Oregon in Position for Tournament Bid

(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Pay no attention to the number of losses, the size of the losses or even the rat-a-tat nature of the losses. Oregon is headed for the NCAA Tournament, folks.

The Ducks (11-6) haven’t clinched a bid just yet; they aren’t a lock the way Arizona, USC and UCLA are locks.

But coach Dana Altman’s crew is well-positioned for an at-large berth after sweeping the Los Angeles schools and soaring up the NET rankings, which shape the March Madness selection process.

Oregon is No. 62 in the latest NET, which constitutes a jump of 28 spots from last week and a bubble-level placement.

If our optimism seems odd (or laughable) given Oregon’s 32-point face plant against Brigham Young … and the 29-point face plant against Houston … and the brutal home loss to Arizona State … and the road loss to Stanford … and the six total losses … the Hotline would like to remind readers of the realities of the NCAA selection process:

— The number of losses doesn’t matter. Nor does a team’s placement in the conference standings or ranking in the top-25 polls. And margin of defeat carries limited importance.

— The three components that matter most are the number of good wins (particularly away from home), the number of bad losses and the quality of the schedule, especially the non-conference portion.

Of Oregon’s six losses, only one qualifies as a bad result: the home loss to Arizona State.

But the Ducks now have two Quadrant I victories, the most valuable type in the NET system, after the road wins over USC and UCLA.

And they possess a stout non-conference schedule, having faced four opponents (Brigham Young, Saint Mary’s, Houston and Baylor) that would earn at-large bids if the field were selected today.

Oregon is better situated for an at-large berth, for example, than Washington State, which is four spots higher in the NET rankings. The Ducks have more quality wins, fewer bad losses and a tougher schedule.

And they are better situated than Colorado, which has a better record (12-4) but cannot match the Ducks for quality wins or schedule strength.

Bottom line: The more you know about what truly matters in the selection process, the better Oregon’s resume looks.

If the Ducks hold their current trajectory and avoid losses to teams on the bottom tier of the Pac-12 standings, they should be in solid shape when Selection Sunday arrives.

To the power ratings …

1. Arizona (14-1/4-0)
Last week: 2
Results: beat Colorado 76-55 and Utah 82-64
Next up: at Stanford (Thursday)
NET ranking: 2 (last week: 2)
Comment: For all the attention on their tempo, ball movement and scoring prowess, the Wildcats are actually better on defense than offense, according to the Pomeroy efficiency ratings.

2. UCLA (11-2/3-1)
Last week: 1
Results: lost to Oregon 84-81, beat OSU 81-65
Next up: at Utah (Thursday)
NET ranking: 21 (last week: 20)
Comment: Here come five games in 10 days with a trip to the Mountain schools followed by the early-week date with Arizona and then the Bay Area schools. We’ll set the bar at four wins.

3. USC (14-2/4-2)
Last week: 3
Results: Lost at Stanford 75-69, beat OSU 81-71, lost to Oregon 79-69
Next up: at Colorado (Thursday)
NET ranking: 28 (last week: 12)
Comment: The Trojans didn’t lose all three, but their performance against Oregon State wasn’t good enough to beat most teams in the conference. They need to re-charge.

4. Oregon (11-6/4-2)
Last week: 5
Results: won at UCLA 84-81 and USC 79-69
Next up: vs. Washington State (Thursday)
NET ranking: 62 (last week: 90)
Comment: The Ducks have three chances remaining to add to their collection of premium wins. The opportunities come in the form of back-to-back-to-back dates with Arizona (road) and the L.A. schools (home) in the middle of February.

5. Colorado (12-4/4-2)
Last week: 4
Results: lost at Arizona 76-55, won at ASU 75-57
Next up: vs. USC (Thursday)
NET ranking: 89 (last week: 97)
Comment: Home weekend against USC and UCLA will provide significant clarity on CU, which is 4-0 against the middle and bottom tiers but 0-2 against the best in the league.

6. Stanford (10-5/3-2)
Last week: 8
Results: Beat USC 75-69, won at WSU 62-57, lost at Washington 67-64
Next up: vs. Arizona (Thursday)
NET ranking: 91 (last week: 101)
Comment: The Cardinal already has beaten Oregon and USC at home and could very well take down another top-tier team in two days. Of note: Stanford hasn’t beaten Arizona in Maples Pavilion since 2009.

7. Washington State (10-7/3-3)
Last week: 6
Results: lost to Stanford 62-57, beat Cal 65-57
Next up: at Oregon (Thursday)
NET ranking: 58 (last week: 49)
Comment: If the Cougars hope to remain in contention for an NCAA bid, they cannot lose additional home games to middle-of-the-Pac opponents. And they need a high-level, Quadrant I win somewhere, against someone.

8. Washington (8-7/3-2)
Last week: 10
Results: beat Cal 64-55 and Stanford 67-64
Next up: at Oregon State (Thursday)
NET ranking: 140 (last week: 182)
Comment: “I like the progress we’ve made and wish the season would end right now, while we’re above .500,” Huskies coach Mike Hopkins never said (but would be forgiven for thinking).

9. Cal (9-9/2-5)
Last week: 7
Results: lost at Washington 64-55 and WSU 65-57
Next up: vs. Arizona (Saturday)
NET ranking: 129 (last week: 119)
Comment: No game against ASU this week because the teams met earlier in the month in a hastily-arranged matchup. With extra time to prepare for Arizona, the Bears undoubtedly are rooting for the Wildcats to play triple-overtime in Maples on Thursday.

10. Arizona State (5-9/1-3)
Last week: 9
Results: lost to Colorado 75-57, beat Utah 64-62
Next up: at Stanford (Saturday)
NET ranking: 156 (last week: 147)
Comment: Curious to see whether the Sun Devils develop any rhythm offensively once they start playing consistently after two long breaks. Or if their struggles are a fixed existence.

11. Utah (8-9/1-6)
Last week: 11
Results: lost at Arizona 82-64 and Arizona State 64-62
Next up: vs. UCLA (Thursday)
NET ranking: 122 (last week: 121)
Comment: Yes, the Utes are worse than we expected. Much worse. And they’re staring at a winless January with the L.A. schools in town and then a trip to Washington.

12. Oregon State (3-13/1-5)
Last week: 12
Results: lost at USC 81-71 and UCLA 81-65
Next up: vs. Washington (Thursday)
NET ranking: 206 (last week: 209)
Comment: First time in weeks that we considered anyone else for the 12-hole. That’s progress, right?

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