NCAA Tournament projections: 3 Pac-12 teams are locks while nine have steep climbs



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

Arizona's narrow loss at Tennessee on Wednesday evening was the last high-profile, non-conference matchup for the Pac-12 before round-robin league play ramps up next week.

The numbers, for your consumption:

— Against AP top-25 opponents, the Pac-12 is 2-11.

— Against Power Six opponents, it's 7-15.

— Against the West Coast Conference, it's 6-6.

By any measure, the past six weeks have been underwhelming for all but three teams.

As the data below suggests, Arizona, USC and UCLA are locks for the NCAA Tournament.

Everyone else is either on the outskirts of the bubble or nowhere near the bubble.

For those unfamiliar with the NET rankings cited below (or in need of a reminder):

The result of each game played falls within one of four quadrants, based on the NET ranking of the opponent and location of the game. The categorization changes over time as teams move up and down the NET.

Quadrant 1: Home vs. Nos. 1-30, Neutral vs. Nos. 1-50, Away vs. Nos. 1-75
Quadrant 2: Home 31-75, Neutral 51-100, Away 76-135
Quadrant 3: Home 76-160, Neutral 101-200, Away 135-240
Quadrant 4: Home 161-353, Neutral 201-353, Away 241-353

For example: UCLA's victory at home over No. 12 Villanova counts as a Quadrant I win for the Bruins.

Essentially, teams want to load up on Quad I and II wins and avoid Quad III and IV losses.

Listed in order of NET ranking …

Arizona

NET Ranking: No. 2

Record vs. Quad I and II: 4-1

Record vs. Quad III and IV: 7-0

NCAA projection: No. 2 seed

Comment: The loss at No. 8 (NET) Tennessee will have no material impact on the Wildcats' trajectory. If anything, it removes the pressure of being undefeated entering conference play.

USC

NET Ranking: No.13

Record vs. Quad I and II: 2-0

Record vs. Quad III and IV: 10-0

NCAA projection: No. 5 seed

Comment: The Trojans are one of five undefeated teams left, along with Baylor, LSU, Iowa State and Colorado State. But their non-conference strength of schedule (No. 247 in the Pomeroy efficiency ratings) leaves much to be desired.

UCLA

NET Ranking: No. 21

Record vs. Quad I and II: 2-1

Record vs. Quad III and IV: 6-0

NCAA projection: No. 3 seed

Comment: The Bruins have played one game since Dec. 1, so expect significant rust once they return to competition. It might take weeks to regain top form.

Washington State

NET Ranking: No. 63

Record vs. Quad I and II: 1-3

Record vs. Quad III and IV: 7-2

NCAA projection: no bid

Comment: The Cougars have dropped three of their last four and finished a cupcake-filled non-conference schedule with four defeats. The climb into the NCAAs will be arduous, even from their perch in the 60s.

Utah

NET Ranking: No. 76

Record vs. Quad I and II: 1-3

Record vs. Quad III and IV: 7-1

NCAA projection: no bid

Comment: One issue for Utah, and for others in the middle of the pack, is the limited number of opportunities to collect Quad I wins within conference play.

Oregon

NET Ranking: No. 97

Record vs. Quad I and II: 0-5

Record vs. Quad III and IV: 6-1

NCAA projection: no bid

Comment: The Ducks don't have any bad losses. Had they managed to secure one victory in the Quad I realm, their NET would be within NCAA bubble territory.

Colorado

NET Ranking: No. 107

Record vs. Quad I and II: 0-2

Record vs. Quad III and IV: 9-1

NCAA projection: no bid

Comment: Eliminate the big three, and the rest of the conference has a 2-18 record in Quad I games. Granted, a few of those are intra-league results. But still.

Stanford

NET Ranking: No. 110

Record vs. Quad I and II: 1-4

Record vs. Quad III and IV: 6-0

NCAA projection: no bid

Comment: The Cardinal is ideally suited to play the role of spoiler, except there really isn't much to spoil. Three teams are set for the NCAAs; the rest are long shots.

Cal

NET Ranking: No. 121

Record vs. Quad I and II: 1-3

Record vs. Quad III and IV: 7-2

NCAA projection: no bid

Comment: Had you told us months ago that the Bears would be closer to No. 100 than No. 200 at the Christmas break, we'd have wondered about your offseason eggnog intake.

Arizona State

NET Ranking: No. 126

Record vs. Quad I and II: 2-5

Record vs. Quad III and IV: 3-2

NCAA projection: no bid

Comment: With the same number of Quad I and II wins as Quad III and IV losses, the Sun Devils have been the model of inconsistency.

Washington

NET Ranking: No. 229

Record vs. Quad I and II: 1-2

Record vs. Quad III and IV: 4-3

NCAA projection: no bid

Comment: Not just beaten by Utah Valley, which would be acceptable, but blown out at home by Utah Valley, which is not.

Oregon State

NET Ranking: No. 246

Record vs. Quad I and II: 0-5

Record vs. Quad III and IV: 2-5

NCAA projection: no bid

Comment: The five teams just ahead of the Beavers in the NET rankings: UC Santa Barbara, The Citadel, Hawaii, Old Dominion and Portland. None of them were in the Elite Eight nine months ago.


Jon Wilner's Pac-12 Hotline is brought to KSL.com through a partnership with the Bay Area News Group.


Jon Wilner has been covering college sports for decades and is an AP Top 25 football and basketball voter as well as a Heisman Trophy voter. He was named Beat Writer of the Year in 2013 by the Football Writers Association of America for his coverage of the Pac-12, won first place for feature writing in 2016 in the Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest and is a five-time APSE honoree. You can follow him on Twitter @WilnerHotline or send an email at jwilner@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Pac-12 Hotline: Subscribe to the Pac-12 Hotline Newsletter. Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.

Jon Wilner

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