Selection Sunday Coming Up Fast, Pac-12 Net Rankings

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Frequent readers of this space might have noticed we make a big deal out of the Pac-12’s annual performance in non-conference games, whether it’s good, bad or ghastly.

Our reason: It is a big deal.

There’s a direct correlation between non-conference results and Selection Sunday success.

But don’t trust us on that. Trust the conference.

The Pac-12’s weekly basketball release includes its overall winning percentage in non-conference games for every season back to 1985, when the NCAA field expanded to 64 teams, along with the number of tournament bids the Pac-12 received that year.

In the decade since expansion to 12 schools, the connection between non-conference performance and NCAA berths is clear:

When the winning percentage is below 70 percent, the bid total is below four.

Here you go (seasons with sub-70 winning percentage in italics):

2012: 61.1 percent/two bids
2013: 74.8 percent/five bids
2014: 78.3 percent/six bids
2015: 72.5 percent/four bids
2016: 78 percent/seven bids
2017: 72.2 percent/four bids
2018: 69.8 percent/three bids
2019: 61.3 percent/three bids
2020: 73.9 percent/NCAAs canceled
2021: 74 percent/five bids

The reason for the connection is clear: In the era of the RPI and now the NET rankings, non-conference success establishes the analytic guardrails for each team. Those guardrails remain in place through the league season, when all results are of the eat-your-own variety.

Essentially, November and December are for building the apartment that will house your teams until Selection Sunday. Thrive early, and your structure is high class. Struggle early, and it’s low rent.

Where do things stand for the Pac-12 this winter? Not good. Not good at all.

The Pac-12’s non-conference win rate is 66.7 percent, suggesting fewer than four bids are forthcoming.

To the Hotline’s latest NCAA projections …

— For those unfamiliar with the NET rankings system, which plays an important role in the NCAA Tournament selection process: The result of each game played falls within one of four quadrants, based on the NET ranking of the opponent and location of the game.

(The categorization changes over time as teams move up and down the NET.)

Quadrant 1: Home vs. Nos. 1-30, Neutral vs. Nos. 1-50, Away vs. Nos. 1-75
Quadrant 2: Home 31-75, Neutral 51-100, Away 76-135
Quadrant 3: Home 76-160, Neutral 101-200, Away 135-240
Quadrant 4: Home 161-353, Neutral 201-353, Away 241-353

Listed in order of NET ranking (through Tuesday) …

NET Ranking: No. 2
Record vs. Quad I and II: 10-2
Record vs. Quad III and IV: 12-0
NCAA projection: No. 1 seed
Comment: Based on the current NET rankings, Arizona has just one Quadrant I game remaining (at USC), in addition to those it might experience in the conference tournament. Any stretch-run strengthening of its resume is most likely to come from the performance of past conquests (Illinois, Michigan and Wyoming).

NET Ranking: No. 14
Record vs. Quad I and II: 7-5
Record vs. Quad III and IV: 10-0
NCAA projection: No. 5 seed
Comment: Can’t believe I’m typing this, but here goes: UCLA’s results this weekend against the Washington schools could prove consequential in determining Pac-12 tournament seeds in case of a tie for fourth place.

NET Ranking: No. 25
Record vs. Quad I and II: 7-3
Record vs. Quad III and IV: 14-1
NCAA projection: No. 7 seed
Comment: No team has a tougher finish than USC, which plays Oregon (road), Arizona (home) and UCLA (road) in succession over the final eight days.

Washington State
NET Ranking: No. 47
Record vs. Quad I and II: 3-6
Record vs. Quad III and IV: 11-4
NCAA projection: no bid
Comment: The Cougars aren’t the only top-50 team lacking a Quadrant I victory, but they aren’t making the at-large field without one. There are two chances this weekend in L.A., and that’s it (until Las Vegas).

NET Ranking: No. 58
Record vs. Quad I and II: 6-5
Record vs. Quad III and IV: 10-3
NCAA projection: no bid
Comment: Bracket Matrix, which aggregates the NCAA projections from 119 mock brackets, lists Oregon as a No. 12 seed (on average). The Ducks appear on half (59) of the brackets in the model.

NET Ranking: No. 89
Record vs. Quad I and II: 3-8
Record vs. Quad III and IV: 13-1
NCAA projection: no bid
Comment: We’ll break from the analytics to remind Hotline readers that Jabari Walker is damn good.

NET Ranking: No. 93
Record vs. Quad I and II: 5-10
Record vs. Quad III and IV: 10-0
NCAA projection: no bid
Comment: Unless the Cardinal is the last team standing in Las Vegas, it will miss the NCAAs for the 13th time in the past 14 years — this, after a run of making the NCAAs in 12 of 13 years.

NET Ranking: No. 128
Record vs. Quad I and II: 2-6
Record vs. Quad III and IV: 11-4
NCAA projection: no bid
Comment: The Huskies are still looking for their first Quadrant I win of the season. So are 29 teams positioned above them in the NET.

NET Ranking: No. 130
Record vs. Quad I and II: 1-13
Record vs. Quad III and IV: 8-3
NCAA projection: no bid
Comment: The Utes aren’t scheduled to face either of the Pac-12’s bubble teams (Oregon and WSU) down the stretch but have one huge chance to create resume havoc: when Arizona visits next week.

Arizona State
NET Ranking: No. 134
Record vs. Quad I and II: 4-12
Record vs. Quad III and IV: 4-3
NCAA projection: no bid
Comment: With seven games packed into the final 17 days, ASU will either have substantial momentum when it departs for Las Vegas or not enough gas in the tank to even reach Kingman.

NET Ranking: No. 136
Record vs. Quad I and II: 3-13
Record vs. Quad III and IV: 8-2
NCAA projection: no bid
Comment: Just as Stanford wants to face USC in the Pac-12 tournament, Cal would love to play Stanford in the opening round after eliminating the Cardinal in back-to-back seasons. And based on the current standings, it just might happen.

Oregon State
NET Ranking: No. 255
Record vs. Quad I and II: 0-11
Record vs. Quad III and IV: 3-9
NCAA projection: no bid
Comment: Not sure which is worse for the Beavers — being 197 spots below Oregon in the NET … or being 53 below Portland.

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