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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Pac-12 tournament will help to determine Arizona’s NCAA chances

Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

If the Pac-12 Tournament goes as planned, either Washington, California or Arizona will cut down the nets after Saturday’s championship game, and those three teams will make the NCAA Tournament field of 68.

But counting on Pac-12 basketball to go as planned is like expecting the NBA Dunk Contest to actually entertain, assuming Tim Tebow won’t throw at least one duck per game or thinking SportsCenter won’t go one show without mentioning Jeremy Lin — it’s simply not going to happen.

Pac-12 basketball has been filled with parity from start to finish this season, and don’t expect that to change when the conference tournament rolls around.

While that unpredictable play hasn’t hurt the Wildcats up until now — they sit third in the conference and are an expected 11th or 12th seed in the NCAA Tournament — it could potentially keep them out of the madness this March.

As it stands now, Arizona should be able to further secure an at-large bid by defeating ASU on Sunday in Tempe and winning at least one game in the conference tournament.

But if any team not named Washington, California or Arizona wins the Pac-12 Tournament and earns an automatic bid to the big dance, all of that changes.

Take Oregon. According to ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi, the Ducks are among the first eight teams out of the tournament picture as they compete with the Wildcats for the third and most likely final conference bid.

But if Oregon wins the conference tournament and earns an automatic bid, does the Pac-12 really deserve four teams? If Oregon were to replace Arizona, wouldn’t a team like Miami, Xavier, Texas or Northwestern be more deserving than adding a fourth team in a conference that’s been under scrutiny all season long?

Even if Oregon wins two games and Arizona gets bounced in the first round, why wouldn’t the selection committee admit the Ducks, who defeated Arizona in McKale Center and hold a considerably better RPI than the Wildcats, into the field of 68?

The same goes for a team like Colorado. Sure, the Buffs lost to Arizona by 14 in their last meeting, but they also edged the Wildcats by one in Boulder, Colo., and just knocked off Cal at home by 13.

If CU can outlast Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament and even win the entire thing, Sean Miller and company will be on pins and needles come Selection Sunday — and that’s if teams competing for an at-large bid win the Pac-12 Tournament.

Imagine if a squad like Oregon State, UCLA or Stanford runs through the competition to earn an automatic bid. Then where does Arizona stand? That would further prove the mediocrity of the Pac-12 conference, causing committee members to scoff at adding three at-large bids from such a league.

Most conference tournaments are a time for poor teams to put their season of misery behind them and sneak into the big dance, or for powerhouses to further prove their dominance and land that No. 1 seed.

But not in the Pac-12.

Even though it seems like all Arizona has to do was beat a lowly ASU team to march into the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats are far from safe. Washington and Cal are virtual locks even if they get bounced early in the tournament, but the Wildcats need to either outlast the Ducks and Buffs, hope UW or Cal win the tournament, or win the whole thing themselves.

Nothing’s come easily for Arizona this season, and that trend will most certainly continue until all 68 teams are announced on Selection Sunday.

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