Cats inching closer to bid

The Wildcats did themselves a favor when they split at the Bay Area this weekend. It is still a few weeks until selection Sunday, but the Wildcats have given themselves some margin for error. They are still on the proverbial bubble, but they seem to be on the right side.

The first thing we have to look at is the Wildcats' Tournament Resume.

TOURNAMENT RESUME
Record:16-10 (9-6/5th in the Pac-10)
RPI: 18
Strength of Schedule: 4
Record vs. RPI Top-100: 10-6
Vs. Top 25: 0-5
Vs. Top 26-50: 3-0
Vs. Top 51-100: 5-3
Last 10: 6-4
Quality Wins: Washington (35), Western Kentucky (42), Kansas (41) Quality Losses: UConn (3), Michigan State (8), UCLA (14), North Carolina (20)
Bad Losses: Oregon (170), Oregon State (178), USC (95)
Games Remaining: Arizona State (162), Washington (35), Washington State (118)

History is in the Wildcats side. Since the current criteria was implemented, no major conference team with an RPI in the top 20 has missed the Tournament, no matter what the record. In recent years a 16-14 Georgia team went dancing because of a top-20 RPI and a No. 1 strength of schedule. If the Wildcats were to go 0-4 down the stretch, they would have the same 16-14 record. It must be noted that if the Cats went 0-4 to finish their RPI would probably drop out of the Top-20 and their strength of schedule should drop with games against ASU and WSU. Plus that Georgia team was in the No. 1 rated conference, not the seventh rated league as the Pac-10 is ranked.

The other piece of history on the Cats' side is that they are just one-win from going 10-8 in the Pac-10. On only two occasions has a Pac-10 team won 10 games and not gotten in the Tournament. Both of those were ASU squads, not quite a team with the basketball tradition of Arizona.

Although this Wildcat team is capable of anything, the Wildcats should be no worse than 2-1 the rest of the way. That would put them at 18-11 heading into the Pac-10 Tournament. Let's assume the Cats go 1-1 in the Pac-10 Tournament. They would finish 19-12, with an RPI that should be around 20 or so. They would also be 6-4 down the stretch.

In that scenario the Cats would likely get in and be in the range of a 8-10 seed.

The best case scenario would be for the Wildcats to win out. That would include a win over Washington and likely two quality wins in the Pac-10 Tournament. Of course, a Pac-10 Tournament win would automatically place the Cats in the NCAA's, but now it becomes a seeding issue. With a 6-0 finish, the Cats would be 22-10, and 9-1 in their last 10. That finish would probably put them as a 4-6 seed, much nicer than a tough 10 seed.

Sadly, this is a team that is too tough to read. They looked great against Stanford but seemed disinterested against Cal. Although they should beat ASU, WSU and their first round opponent in the Pac-10 Tourney, they could just as easily lose any of those games. ASU is coming off a win over Cal, the team that crushed the Cats on Thursday. WSU swept Washington and has given other teams fits. Both of those teams are rated higher than the Oregon schools, both of whom beat the Cats. The good news the Cats get their final three at home, a place they have lost just once.

In the end I think the Cats will get in. The numbers are solid and unless the selection committee bucks a 10-year trend, the Cats have a good enough resume to get in if they get a few more wins.

However, if any team will get shafted, it would be a team from the west. I am not claiming an East Coast bias against the selection committee, but it is easier to shaft a conference that plays late at night and is harder to see because of their television contract.

My prediction, the Cats will make their 22nd consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. The seed may not be pretty, but the legacy would remain.


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