With the Pac-12 regular season over, here’s a primer on the upcoming tournament in Las Vegas.
1. The seeds are set …
No. 1 Oregon
No. 2 UCLA
No. 3 Arizona State
No. 4 USC
No. 5 Arizona
No. 6 Colorado
No. 7 Stanford
No. 8 Oregon State
No. 9 Utah
No. 10 Cal
No. 11 Washington State
No. 12 Washington
Arizona State and USC tied for third and split the season series, but the Sun Devils won the seeding tiebreaker by virtue of their win over top-seed Oregon.
Arizona and Colorado tied for fifth. The Wildcats won the tiebreaker with their head-to-head victory.
Oregon State, Utah and Cal tied for eighth. The Beavers earned the No. 8 seed based on …
Honestly, we didn’t take that plunge. Just accept and move along.
Now, how does the seed list compare to the preseason media poll?
Here you go, from October …
6. Arizona State
7. Oregon State
11. Washington State
2. As are the matchups …
No. 5 Arizona vs. No. 12 Washington
Winner plays No. 4 USC
No. 6 Colorado vs. No. 11 Washington State
Winner plays No. 3 Arizona State
No. 7 Stanford vs. No. 10 Cal
Winner plays No. 2 UCLA
No. 8 Oregon State vs. No. 9 Utah
Winner plays No. 1 Oregon
The Washington-Arizona duel is a rematch of Saturday night’s affair in which the Huskies did as they pleased in Tucson.
They won’t be lacking for confidence after a sweep in the desert, which provided a fittingly unforeseen ending to an unforeseen season for what was once a conference favorite.
Meanwhile, Arizona finished league play with a 10-8 mark, which was only two games better than its Pac-12 record in 2018-19.
We’ll publish predictions for each game/round on Monday morning. But broadly speaking, any of eight teams could win the Pac-12 tournament.
The four teams that aren’t capable of hoisting the trophy: Washington State, Cal, Oregon State and Utah.
They don’t have enough playmakers, enough scorers, to win four games in four days.
3. Bid stealers
Although seven Pac-12 teams are in pursuit of NCAA at-large berths, the Hotline established — and is holding to — an over/under of 5.5 total bids for the conference.
We think five and six are equally likely, with both four and seven fairly remote.
One reason we’re skeptical of the seven-bid outcome (one automatic and six at-large) is the inevitable bid stealing in conferences across the country, which shrinks the bubble.
That process is already underway, in fact.
Utah State’s victory over San Diego State in the Mountain West championship game reduced by one the number of at-large berths available for teams currently on the bubble.
The Aggies, who probably weren’t getting an at-large bid, now own the MW’s automatic.
The Aztecs, who were assumed to be the MW’s only participant, now slide into the at-large pool — and bump one unlucky team to the wrong side of the bubble.
It could happen elsewhere.
What if someone other than Tulsa or Houston wins the American?
What if someone other than Dayton wins the Atlantic 10?
Or if East Tennessee State doesn’t win the Southern?
Or if all hell breaks loose and North Carolina — gasp! — wins the ACC?
The bubble could shrink by three or four spots.
Given the tenuous status of several Pac-12 teams, the ripple effect of so many Utah States could be significant.
4. Maxing out
What scenario gives the Pac-12 the best chance to collect seven bids, which, in our view, is the maximum number available under a reasonable set of results?
We continue to believe the conference needs UCLA to be the last team standing in Las Vegas, because the Bruins have the most harrowing path into the at-large field.
UCLA’s NET is bad: No. 77, which is lower than teams that have zero chance of making the at-large field.
Its RPI and KenPom numbers aren’t much better.
And it has zero to show for its non-conference performance.
Last year, the lowest NET ranking to receive an at-large berth was No. 73 (St. John’s), while Arizona State made it with a NET of 63.
So there is hope for the Bruins, but not much.
After UCLA, the at-large teams with the toughest paths are Arizona State and Stanford, followed by USC.
Combine an early exit in Las Vegas with a few more bubble-shrinking results elsewhere, and anxiety levels will be high on Selection Sunday for as many as four teams.
5. Last word: officiating.
We watched who-knows-how-many-hours of Pac-12 basketball today, with such a well-spaced series of games.
And I’ll be honest: The officiating was suboptimal.
In several instances, the TV commentators — including those from the Pac-12 Networks — were given no choice but to state, in the most delicate manner possible, that they disagreed with the calls.
We don’t have to be so delicate.
It was bad. Time and time again.
But the Hotline refuses to budge off our established position: The officials themselves are better than ever; the issue is the officiating.
The demands placed on officials — everything from freedom-of-movement and flopping to the relentless, endless replay reviews — in addition to all the traditional rules and calls — it’s simply too damn much for a three-man crew.
The solution is bigger than the Pac-12 and requires involvement from the NCAA and the NABC and possibly the CIA and even Bletchley Park.
But the problem is very Pac-12, at least for one more week, in its showcase event.
The conference needs to get in and out of Las Vegas — 11 games over four days — with as little attention on the officiating as possible.
And that’s a challenge akin to correctly picking the winner.