It seems like just yesterday that I was excited about the beginning of the college basketball season. Now, the pre-conference schedule is complete and we are ready for Pac 12 basketball once again. The conference has a lot of questions that will be answered, but here is what you need to know before conference play begins:
5 Teams from the Pac 12 will make the NCAA tournament
Arizona: The Wildcats are currently ranked #3 in the nation and are a virtual lock for a high seed when the NCAA tournament begins. With an RPI of 6 and a 3-0 mark vs top 50 RPI, Arizona has set itself up nicely heading into Pac 12 play. The Wildcats are led by guards Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson and forward Solomon Hill. The frontcourt is still learning how to play, but they are set as the heavy favorite for the Pac 12 titile.
UCLA: The Bruins ( # 43 RPI, and 2-2 vs top 50 RPI) are finally playing the way that everyone expected them to this season. With the big win they needed vs. a top 10 team(Missouri) the Bruins are now looked at once again as a team that could contend for the Pac 12 titile. UCLA is led by 3 fantastic freshmen in Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams, and Kyle Anderson. The Bruins no longer have the depth in the frontcourt that was expected, but they have enough talent to hang in a game with any team in the country….and they are getting better each day.
Colorado: The Buffaloes really helped themselves by setting up a hard schedule in pre-conference play. Colorado actually has the best RPI in the Pac 12, they are ranked #4 RPI (3-2 vs. top 50) and the team has the 7th hardest strength of schedule in the nation. Led by 2 guards,(Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie) and 2 big men (Josh Scott and Andre Roberson), they are a formidable team that could finish anywhere from 2nd-6th in the Pac 12.
Oregon: The Ducks have set themselves up for an NCAA tournament run, with a record of 11-2 and an RPI of 52 the Ducks are looking like a team that will be playing in March. Oregon will go 9 deep into their roster and have 4 players scoring in double figures, with 2 on the verge of double figures as well. This team is playing very well at the moment and will be tough to beat, especially in Eugene.
Stanford: The Cardinal may not have the most flashy record at 9-4, but they have a very respectable RPI of 64. Although they are 0-4 vs. top 50 RPI opponents, they have been a shot or two away from beating some very good opponents. That means that they are ready for conference play, the team has been playing together for a while and the inside-outside punch of Dwight Powell and Chasson Randle is very potent. Add that to a stingy defense and you have an NCAA tournament team.
2 teams will be on the bubble, and will not make the tournament
Arizona State has impressed to a certain degree so far this basketball season, but with their strength of schedule at # 209 and RPI at # 75 (0-1 vs top 50 RPI) they just do not have enough quality wins to make the NCAA tournament. The same can be said for California, the difference is they are a bubble team that had the schedule needed to go to the NCAA tournament. With a strength of schedule at #57 but an RPI of 73 and 0-2 record vs. top 50 teams (add in a blow out loss to Wisconsin) the Bears will need a LOT of Pac 12 wins to make the tourney.
The other teams can dream for next season but will be very competitive
Oregon State, Washington State, Washington, Utah, and USC are all not going to make the NCAA tourney, but they could win a game on any given night. These teams are not pushovers, and in a league where every game counts, the teams listed in the upper echelon of the Pac 12 had better not take any of these teams lightly.
Pac-12 First Team All Conference:
Solomon Hill (Arizona)
Mark Lyons (Arizona)
Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA)
Jordan Adams (UCLA)
Andre Roberson (Colorado) (Defensive player of the year)
Spencer Dinwiddie (Colorado)
Dwight Powell (Stanford) (Conference Player of the Year)
Allen Crabbe (California)
Jahii Carson (Arizona State)
Brock Motum (Washington State)