February’s arrival marks the start of the stretch run across college basketball and a make-or-break month for a quartet of Pac-12 teams.
The mediocre conference has twice as many NCAA bubble-sitters as it does locks for at-large berths:
— UCLA and Arizona are safely in the 68-team field and are playing for seeding.
— Arizona State, USC, Utah and Oregon are playing for bids.
The selection process doesn’t take conference affiliation into account; there is no limit to the number of slots for the Pac-12. But the bubble teams will pummel each other in head-to-head meetings, thereby capping the amount of momentum available.
The conference will be fortunate to get two of the four into the NCAAs.
Some notable comparative metrics and rankings for your analysis …
*** NET rankings
No. 50: Utah
No. 55: USC
No. 58: Oregon
No. 64: ASU
*** Record in Quad I (highest level) games:
*** Pomeroy efficiency ratings
No. 42: USC
No. 47: Utah
No. 55: Oregon
No. 66: ASU
*** Pomeroy non-conference schedule strength
No. 44: Oregon
No. 145: USC
No. 173: ASU
No. 314: Utah
*** Remaining intra-bubble games
ASU: vs. Oregon, vs. Utah, at USC
Oregon: at ASU, vs. USC
USC: at Oregon, at Utah, vs. ASU
Utah: at ASU, vs. USC
Our view: USC and Oregon are best positioned to land on the right side of the bubble, while Utah has the toughest road. The selection committee won’t take kindly to the Utes’ schedule.
Then again, we have repeatedly failed to get a proper handle on the Pac-12. Inconsistent teams and wild variances in results are the marks of a mediocre conference — a conference that can claim just two NCAA Tournament locks as the stretch run arrives.
(NET rankings through Monday)
1. UCLA (17-4/8-2)
Last week: 1
Results: lost at USC 77-64
Next up: vs. Washington (Thursday)
NET ranking: 5
Comment: If a slump is unavoidable, this is the best time of year to experience it. We give the Bruins until the third week of February to recapture their groove.
2. Arizona (19-3/8-3)
Last week: 2
Results: won at WSU 63-58 and Washington 95-72
Next up: vs. Oregon (Thursday)
NET ranking: 10
Comment: The Wildcats are faring slightly better with voters than computers at the moment. They are No. 5 in the AP poll but 10th in the NET and 12th in the Pomeroy efficiency ratings.
3. USC (15-6/7-3)
Last week: 3
Results: beat UCLA 77-64
Next up: vs. Washington State (Thursday)
NET ranking: 55
Comment: Boogie Ellis has topped the 25-point mark four times this season, against BYU, Auburn, Washington and UCLA. Not surprisingly, the Trojans won all four.
4. Oregon (13-9/7-4)
Last week: 7
Results: beat Colorado 72-65 and Utah 68-56
Next up: at Arizona (Thursday)
NET ranking: 58
Comment: February has typically been Dana Altman Month in the Pac-12. We’ll see if his players know the history — and can repeat it.
5. Utah (15-8/8-4)
Last week: 4
Results: won at Oregon State 63-44, lost at Oregon 68-56
Next up: vs. Stanford (Thursday)
NET ranking: 50
Comment: We are hereby declaring Craig Smith’s second season a rip-roaring success, regardless of what happens the rest of the way.
6. Arizona State (15-7/6-5)
Last week: 5
Results: lost at Washington 69-66 (OT) and WSU 75-58
Next up: vs. Oregon State (Thursday)
NET ranking: 64
Comment: The Sun Devils have lost four in a row and finish with Arizona and the L.A. schools on the road, which makes sweeping the next six essential.
7. Colorado (12-11/4-8)
Last week: 6
Results: lost at Oregon 72-65 and Oregon State 60-52
Next up: vs. Cal (Thursday)
NET ranking: 70
Comment: On the bright side, an NIT berth would provide extra practice time and game experience for the young roster.
8. Washington State (10-13/5-7)
Last week: 9
Results: lost to Arizona 63-58, beat ASU 75-58
Next up: at USC (Thursday)
NET ranking: 69
Comment: The paucity of both bad losses and quality wins has placed the Cougars forever on the outer fringe of the NCAA bubble.
9. Washington (13-10/5-7)
Last week: 8
Results: beat ASU 69-66 (OT), lost to Arizona 95-72
Next up: at UCLA (Thursday)
NET ranking: 125
Comment: The Huskies have the misfortune of playing the Arizona and Los Angeles schools on back-to-back weekends twice. Good chance they finish 1-7 in those matchups.
10. Stanford (9-12/3-7)
Last week: 10
Results: beat Chicago State 72-65 and Cal 75-46
Next up: at Utah (Thursday)
NET ranking: 121
Comment: In a best-case scenario, the Cardinal climbs to 8-12 in conference play and equals last year’s mark, which was good enough for Jerod Haase to keep his job.
11. Oregon State (9-13/3-8)
Last week: 11
Results: lost to Utah 63-44, beat Colorado 60-52
Next up: at ASU (Thursday)
NET ranking: 215
Comment: The Beavers had the Pac-12’s best freshman on the field in the fall (tailback Damien Martinez) and might have the best rookie on the court this winter (guard Jordan Pope).
12. Cal (3-18/2-8)
Last week: 12
Results: lost at Stanford 75-46
Next up: at Colorado (Thursday)
NET ranking: 296
Comment: At this rate, the Bears will break the school record for single-season losses (24, in 2018) with at least a week remaining in the regular season.
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