By Matt Schmidt
Yesterday I broke down the Pac-12’s performance so far this year, and unless something turns around fairly quickly, the conference looks pretty bleak. What, however, does this mean for the Arizona Wildcats’ chances for an invitation to the Madness?
Looking at each Pac-12 teams’ performance, I would give five teams a chance to be playing in March (UCLA could make a turnaround, but I doubt it; with the departure of Reeves Nelson, their chances are slim). Currently, I rank them as follows:
1. Stanford (8-1)
2. Arizona (7-3)
3. California (8-2)
4. Washington (4-4)
5. Oregon (5-2)
As for the rest of the Pac, it is of no matter how they are ranked—they will all make valuable contributions to weakening the Pac-12’s overall Strength of Schedule and decreasing the chances for the better teams to strengthen their RPI with quality wins. What does this mean for Arizona? Glad you asked.
The Bad News
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. It looks like Stanford, Cal, Washington and Oregon are the only teams that Arizona can add to their resume as a quality “W.” Out of these four teams, Washington is the only team that Arizona will face twice; this means that the Wildcats will only have five chances (though the Pac-12 tournament could add some more) in the Pac-12 to strengthen their standings, and numerous chances against bad teams to lose and make their position poorer. To make matters worse, both Stanford and Cal are away games, throwing Arizona into hostile environments in 2 out of their 5 opportunities.
Translation: Wins over New Mexico State and Clemson are looking more and more important every week; a close lose in overtime to the Florida Gators in their own backyard should not be overlooked by those in charge of the Tournament. Wins over either Gonzaga or Oakland will help substantially, and Arizona needs to make use of the limited opportunities they have this year to make a statement.
The Good News
Simply put, with a weaker schedule in Pac-12 play than most, Arizona will have plenty of opportunities to win the games they are supposed to and rack up enough wins to make the Committee notice. This does leave small room for error, but in a way gives Arizona control of their own destiny if they play hard and disciplined basketball. With Sean Miller at the helm, this is a high possibility.