Pac-12 bubble watch for Week 16 of the season. Analyzing which teams are in the clear, almost there, need a strong push and are down to a Hail Mary.
In the clear: Arizona (22-5, 10-4), Oregon (21-6, 10-4), and Utah (21-7, 10-5)
If today were Selection Sunday, these three Pac-12 teams would have no doubts about their candidacy for the NCAA Tournament. They each have a top 30 RPI ranking and a top 25 national ranking. Barring any late-season collapses, these teams should expect to be selected to appear in the tournament.
Almost there: California (19-8, 9-5), Colorado (19-9, 8-7), and Southern California (19-8,8-6)
California – The Golden Bears are hot at the right moment, having won five straight, including a 20-point drubbing of Oregon at home. Speaking of home games, the Bears are undefeated at Haas Pavilion this season. With an RPI of 20 and a strength of schedule in the top 25, the Bears can play themselves into a berth with a strong finish to the regular season
Colorado – Although the Buffaloes have lost two straight, their RPI still remains in the top 60. Colorado is also bolstered by a victory over 13th-ranked Oregon. The final push will be an interesting one for the Buffaloes, as they face two of the Pac-12’s toughest teams in their final three games in Arizona and Utah. However, with the return of leading scorer and rebounder Josh Scott this past week, the Buffaloes are back at full force. Wins in two of their final three games this season should put them over the edge and into the tournament.
Southern California – The Trojans have hit a bit of a rough patch after nearly playing themselves into the “in the clear” category by losing three of their last four. However, with an RPI of 30 and a strength of schedule in the top 35, the Trojans certainly can make a strong case with a few more victories over some of the Pac-12’s weaker teams.
Need a strong push: Oregon State (15-10, 6-8) and Washington (16-11, 8-7)
Oregon State – Although their record is much worse than many bubble contenders, the Beavers have performed extremely well against the Pac-12’s best teams this year, and that puts them into consideration for a tournament bid. The Beavers have beaten three teams in conference with a top 20 RPI (California, Oregon, and Utah). With all of that being said, Oregon State still can’t escape its record and will likely need to win three of its last four games to put themselves into territory that would warrant a berth.
Washington – The Huskies got cold at the wrong time. With a 2-4 record in February, the Huskies have nearly played themselves out of tournament contention. At this point, winning out the regular season, picking up a marquee win against Oregon, and advancing a few rounds in the conference tournament appears to be the only way Washington can make a last-minute case.
Need a Hail Mary: UCLA (15-12, 6-8)
UCLA — The Bruins have beaten some goods teams this year, picking up wins over Arizona and Kentucky. They’ve also been competitive throughout the whole season, but they’ve been on the unlucky side of nearly every close game, with six of their 12 losses coming by a single possession. At this point, the losses have piled up too high, and the Bruins will need to win out the regular season and at least appear in the Pac-12 tournament championship game to play themselves into the conversation.