Examining which Pac-12 basketball team is likely to surprise everyone and reach the NCAA tournament

The Pac-12’s struggled recently with getting multiple teams into the NCAA tournament over the last couple of seasons. Unfortunately the 2014 season is another year that the conference has struggled to put together a reasonable non-conference resume, the proceeded to eat its young through the first half of conference play. As a result, the conference it is unlikely that the conference can send more than three teams into the big dance in March.

Arizona, Utah, and Stanford are the three teams currently sitting the NCAA’s RPI top 45, which generally where teams that get at-large bids have to be ranked, and therefore are favored to be picked by the selection committee. Despite the conference’s awful start during non-conference play, there is still two teams that could sneak into the tournament from the confernce. Those two teams are the Oregon Ducks and the UCLA Bruins.

The Ducks are theoretically still in the hunt for a NCAA tournament berth. (Courtesy of the Daily Emerald)

The Ducks are theoretically still in the hunt for a NCAA tournament berth. (Courtesy of the Daily Emerald)

All rankings used in this post are RPI

Oregon Ducks

The Ducks are currently ranked at 67 by the NCAA’s RPI formula. As a result, Oregon is sitting in the middle of the NCAA tournament bubble. Despite an unimpressive non-conference schedule, and some resume crippling losses in conference play.

Oregon (16-7, 6-4) is sitting in fourth place in the Pac-12 conference standings, and have lost its only match-ups against one of the top three teams in the conference…that’s Arizona (twice). The Ducks have also lost a barn burner overtime game to Washington State; and a touch road loss to rival Washington.

The Ducks non-conference schedule was one of the softest in the conference, as their foes average RPI ranking was 138.8 — CS Northridge and Concordia didn’t have an RPI ranking; the highest ranked team Oregon faced is No. 9 (RPI) VCU. Virginia Commonwealth beat the Ducks by 14-points in a middling offensive performance for the Ducks. Oregon went 10-3 in its non-conference schedule, including two home overtime victories over UC Santa Barbra and UC Irvine. It wasn’t the most impressive non-conference performance by Oregon, and it’s something that the NCAA selection committee is going to look at come selection day.

UCLA Bruins

UCLA (13-9, 5-4) had the toughest non-conference schedule of any Pac-12 team still in the tournament hunt. As the Bruins faced No. 10 UNC, No. 2 Kentucky, and No. 8 Gonzaga all three of those games resulted in tough losses for UCLA. But it’s kept the team in highly ranked by RPI throughout the season.

Conference play started of rough as the Bruins lost a tough one to Colorado before being blown out by No. 11 Utah. The conference portion of UCLA’s schedule has been a struggle for the Bruins as the team has struggled to string together consistent performances and have struggled against teams they should have blown out.

The Bruins currently are sitting at 56 in the RPI rankings, and they are right on the edge of being in the tournament or not.

Pac-12 teams kind of on the fringe

The Oregon State Beavers (14-7, 5-4) are currently ranked at 85 by RPI, and had a weak non-conference schedule. In conference play, OSU has done a good job of beating the team’s it’s supposed to beat (Washington and WSU), and getting one of the bigger upsets of the college basketball season with a 57-34 victory over No. 4 Arizona.

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