Last week Joe Lunardi released his first edition of Bracketology.
As much heat as we like to pile on to guys like Lunardi who make NCAA projections and put themselves in the less than favorable position of getting nothing but hate from fan bases, Lunardi is pretty good at his job. He picks the field accurately and bases it on all the same NCAA selection committee criteria.
Examining his initial bracket, you’ll notice three Pac-12 teams: sixth seeded Stanford, eighth seeded Cal, and eleventh seeded Arizona. Only Cal was projected to actually play in the West region, Stanford was listed as “new to the bracket,” and Arizona’s stock was dropping.
With the important games of the OOC schedule over, this version of Bracketology is indicative of the Pac-12’s cap. The reality is that the Pac is a three team conference and is just a Stan/Cal/AZ home or bad road loss from being a two bid league.
None of the projected NCAA teams have done themselves any particular help since the season started: Cal was blown out on ESPN, Stanford hasn’t beaten anyone of particular relevance, and Arizona has had suspensions and dismissals galore. The rest of the conference hasn’t helped the overall RPI and eye test either: Utah is historically bad, ASU is brawling with mid-majors, UCLA is imploding, USC doesn’t score.
Oregon State is making an appeal to contend with Jared Cunningham flying high, a win over 9-2 Texas, and playing consistently good basketball. Alas, it’s still Oregon State who hasn’t had a winning season since 2005, lost to Idaho at home by 14, and I couldn’t even find stats going far enough back to discover their last winning conference season.
Needless to say, beyond a few teams, there hasn’t been a rich history or recent success out here.
[Deep inhale, deliberate exhale] It isn’t getting any better the rest of this year.
Back to the three projected dancers, Lunardi’s poor seeds for Pac-12 teams is about right and likely not going to change. Take last year’s Arizona team for example. They were 14-4 in a less-than-stellar Pac-10 with no marquee wins and a blowout loss to BYU (granted it was a pretty good BYU team but a spanking nonetheless). Those ‘Cats entered Selection Sunday with a 27-7 record and garnered just a five seed.
My point? The 2011-12 Pac-12 fate has been sealed.
Three teams is a gift and if you’re looking for silver lining the best you’ll find is that those three teams control their destiny into the tournament. Their remaining schedule is favorable for any team looking to make it into the dance and they each earn a little extra on their leash by playing in a major/BCS conference.
Beyond that it’s indeed a very short leash for the (generous) five teams vying for (generous) three tickets to dance.