I’m not sure anyone in college basketball is more upset about timing these days than Sean Miller.
If he had his 2014 team or his 2015 team this season, he would sitting pretty, listening to pundits fawn over just how good his team is compared to the rest of the country and how he would be staring at a cakewalk to the first Final Four of his career.
But that’s not the case.
Instead, Miller is in the process of trying to coach up a team that doesn’t play typical Sean Miller defense, that has some real flaws on the offensive end of the floor and that can’t seem to manage to stay healthy. The result is a team that is currently sitting at 17-5 overall with a 5-4 record in Pac-12 play.
And at this point, it’s fair to point this out: Arizona isn’t a lock to reach the NCAA tournament by any stretch of the imagination. They’re one sloppy performance against, say, Washington State on the road away from fans having a real reason to worry, and the biggest issue is the lack of quality wins.
We all hate the RPI, but the RPI still matters in the room where the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee puts together the bracket. And as of today, the best win that Arizona has on their résumé is either Oregon State at home or, more likely, Stanford on the road. They’re 8-5 against the RPI top 100, but only two of those wins came against RPI top 50 teams: No. 49 Oregon State and No. 50 Washington.
The killer here is that the conferences out west, where Arizona loaded up their non-conference schedule, has fallen flat on their face. That win at Gonzaga back in December currently looks less impressive than when Arizona won at Arizona State. The two wins over Boise State don’t hold much weight, and UNLV’s fallen far enough that they are roughly equivalent to a decent mid-major team that could finish in the top half of their league.
Compare that to a team like Michigan or Notre Dame, who are currently sitting in similar bubble position because some of their early season wins — Michigan over Texas and Notre Dame over Iowa — suddenly look like marquee, profile-saving victories.
This is a long-winded way of saying that, while Arizona is safe as of today, their margin of error is far slimmer than many in Tucson may realize.
Anyway, here are tonight’s bubble games:
Arkansas at Florida (KenPom: 21, RPI: 20), 7:00 p.m.
Notre Dame (KenPom: 31, RPI: 33) at No. 17 Miami, 7:00 p.m.
Davidson at George Washington (KenPom: 81, RPI: 52), 7:00 p.m.
VCU (KenPom: 27, RPI: 31)) at La Salle, 7:00 p.m.
St. Bonaventure at Saint Joseph’s (KenPom: 42, RPI: 30). 7:00 p.m.
Creighton (KenPom: 45, RPI: 103) at No. 3 Villanova, 8:00 p.m.
Marquette at Seton Hall (KenPom: 32, RPI: 45), 8:30 p.m.
Kansas State (KenPom: 41, RPI: 47) at No. 7 Kansas, 9:00 p.m.
No. 23 Arizona (KenPom: 19, RPI: 35) at Washington State, 10:00 p.m.
Arizona State at Washington (KenPom: 75, RPI: 50), 11:00 p.m.