A Look at the Pacific-12 Bubble Mess

I’m unsure how bad the Pacific 12 is in historical proportion, but I do know they are pretty darn bad this season. A ‘BCS’ conference might be a 1-bid league come Selection Sunday or may have 3 or 4 bids. Here is my attempt to make some sense of this mess.

Washington is currently in first place of the Pac-12 with a 13-3 record while California is in second with a 13-4 record. Both teams have similar resumes, lets break them down:



– California has a better record against the Top-50 (2-3) than Washington (1-5) but has two bad losses to Washington’s zero.

– Washington was 7-5 in their non-conference schedule with their best win over UC Santa Barbara (#115) while California went 10-2 with wins over Weber State (#74)  and Denver (#88).

– Neither team has a strong resume and neither team did too much outside of the Pac-12.

Beyond these two teams, Arizona and Oregon are also in the mix for at-large bids. Lets take a look at their resumes.



– Arizona has very poor RPI/SOS numbers while Oregon’s are a bit better.

– Both teams had similar non-conference records but Arizona beat two Top-100 teams (@#69 New Mexico State, #89 Valparaiso) while Oregon did not.

– Arizona is 1-4 vs Top 50 and 4-8 vs Top 100. Oregon is 0-5 vs Top 50 and 2-7 vs Top 100.

Its clear that Arizona has a better resume than Oregon and one very similar to Washington’s. However, Arizona has worse RPI/SOS numbers & and one bad loss compared to Washington’s zero.

If today were Selection Sunday: California has the best resume in the Pac-12, if only by a hair. Washington has the next best and would receive the hypothetical ‘auto-bid’ right now due to conference standings. Arizona and Oregon would be on the outside looking in.

Looking forward: It would benefit these four teams if they stayed in the Top 4 of the Pac-12 standings in order to receive a first round bye in the Pac-12 tournament. Their first game would likely be a must win (especially for Washington, Arizona & Oregon). Optimally, all four teams would want to meet in the semi-finals of the conference tournament where the games could potentially be bubble elimination.

What California needs to do to be considered: Beat Stanford, at least reach Pac-12 semi-finals.

What Washington needs to do to be considered: Beat USC & UCLA, at least reach Pac-12 semi-finals

What Arizona needs to do to be considered: Beat Arizona State, at least reach Pac-12 finals

What Oregon needs to do to be considered: Beat Colorado & Utah, at least reach Pac-12 finals

With so many mediocre teams in the Pac-12, none of these teams outside of California (and even then…) can really afford more than one loss. Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah & Arizona State would all count as bad losses. That means that these teams are in a neutral-lose situation until the Pac-12 semifinals. A loss would be bad and a win just keeps them afloat.

Whatever the case, I’m sure some of these teams will slip up and make the entire scenario that much muddier since they are that mediocre. Who knows, maybe Stanford or UCLA will make an improbable Pac-12 conference tournament run like USC in 2009 just for headache’s sake. We might have to revisit this situation in a week’s time.

Breaking Down the 1-Bid Leagues

Every bubble team’s worst nightmare: A team that is surely going to receive an NCAA Tournament bid no matter what and the rest of their conference has no chance at an at-large. The team winds up losing in their conference tournament and some sub .500 team receives the tournament auto-bid, suddenly turning a 1-bid league into a 2-bid league, subsequently “stealing” an at-large bid.

If you’re a fan of a bubble team, you want the following teams to win their conference tournaments so that the above scenario is avoided. The percentage attached to each team is assuming the team wins every remaining game EXCEPT the conference tournament final. Some of the projected Top 100 win/bad loss counts & RPI numbers are subject to change. (Ex: ‘Team Bad Loss’ has RPI of 101 but improves that to 93 by Selection Sunday)

Ohio Valley Conference: Murray State

The Racers are pretty much a lock for an at-large if they falter in the OVC tournament. They would have a 3-0 record vs the Top 50, 2 bad losses with an RPI in the 30s.

Chance of receiving at-large: 100%

Ivy League: Harvard

If Harvard wins out (@Columbia, @Cornell) they will receive the Ivy League auto-bid. If, however, they drop a game and Penn wins out, the two teams would be tied and would play a play-in game as they split the season series 1-1. Harvard would very likely.

Harvard would have an RPI somewhere around 45-50, 1 maybe 2 (St. Joes is 51) Top 50 wins, 7~ Top 100 wins (7-3 record), 2 bad losses and poor SOS. They would have a shot at an at-large.

Chance of receiving at-large: 60%

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference: Iona

Poor late officiating might cost Iona an at-large bid if they happen to lose in the MAAC final. A Robbie Hummel trey produced by an illegal screen downed the Gaels in their first game of the season. A win would have had Iona at 1-0 vs the Top 50 & 7-2 against the Top 100 with an RPI in the low 30s.

Iona’s resume reminds me of Harvard’s and would be arguably better save their loss to Purdue and their three bad losses. The Gaels likely need to win the MAAC and anything less than that would be a huge disappointment.

Chance of receiving at-large: 15%

Big West: Long Beach State

The 49ers have an outside shot of receiving an at-large bid if they lose in the Big West conference final. If that were to happen, they’d have an estimated RPI of 28, the toughest OOC SOS in the country, one or two bad losses (Montana is currently No. 101), 0 Top 50 wins and 2 neutral/road Top 100 wins (vs. Xavier, @Pittsburgh)

Chance of receiving at-large: 10%

Summit League: Oral Roberts

Another team with an outside shot at a bid if they lose in the Summit League final. They would have an RPI in the high 30s, 0-1 vs Top 50, 3-3 vs Top 100 (win @Xavier) and a poor SOS.

The Golden Eagles’ main threat in the conference tournament is South Dakota State, who they split the season series with 1-1.

Chance of receiving at-large: 5%

Other conferences (team) considered:

CAA (Drexel/VCU) – Both teams have a lot of wins but poor SOS/RPI numbers and bad losses will ultimately leave the CAA at a 1-bid league.

Sun Belt (Middle Tenn St) – A gaudy record but 0 Top-50 wins, 2+ bad losses and a poor SOS means the Blue Raiders need to win the Sun Belt title.

**Pacific 12 (Arizona, California, Washington) – All three teams are squarely on the bubble right now so this situation is changing by the game. As of right now the Pac-12 is not a 1-bid league but can be in the future.