Why Pac-12 teams face uphill climbs to at-large NCAA berths

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The Pac-12 Conference is on a familiar path: There’s trouble brewing as we move toward Selection Sunday.

The Pac-12 currently ranks 9th in Conference RPI at CollegeRPI.com (through January 12 games). That’s behind the Mountain West (6), Atlantic 10 (7), and Missouri Valley (8).  Curious enough, as a conference, Pac-12 teams have records of 3-11 vs. the Mountain West, 3-2 vs. the Atlantic 10, and 0-1 vs. the MVC.  Against BCS leagues, the Pac-12 is 10-19.  The best of those efforts is a 3-3 mark against the ACC (4th in Conference RPI).

For all those numbers, the more important reality remains individual team performances.  Stanford, California, and Arizona are the best at-large hopefuls right now. Of those three, Stanford has the top at-large profile with non-conference wins over Colorado State, Oklahoma State, and NC State.  How confident should the Cardinal be about those wins pushing them into the NCAA field?  Hard to say.  Colorado State and NC State are potential at-large contenders, but we can’t say those are definite NCAA level wins.  Meanwhile, Stanford’s non-conference strength-of-schedule ranks No. 267.

California’s best win is at home to Denver, one of the two best teams in the Sun Belt.  The Bears have lost to the other potential non-conference NCAA teams on its schedule: Missouri (neutral), at San Diego State, and at UNLV.  Only the SDSU game was close.

Arizona has non-league wins over St. John’s and at WAC leader New Mexico State.  The Wildcats finished 0-4 vs. other NCAA-level teams on their non-conference schedule (Mississippi State, San Diego State, Florida, Gonzaga).

For those wondering about Washington, Oregon, and UCLA … Washington’s best non-conference win is UC-Santa Barbara; Oregon’s is at Nebraska, and UCLA’s is Richmond.  Could Pac-12 teams win games in the NCAA Tournament? Sure.  But it looks unlikely that more than 2 or 3 teams will make it.  And those teams need to separate and put together strong conference records.  Either that, or win the Pac-12 tournament.

Dave Ommen is a college basketball bracketologist. You can read more of his work at Bracketville or follow him on Twitter @BracketguyDave.