Schu Strings: Can the Pac land five?

At the onset of the basketball campaign, folks wondered just how well represented the Pac-10 would be come NCAA tournament time. As Selection Sunday looms, there's the possibility five teams could make the cut.

I remember this column Cat Tracks Editor Brad Allis penned a while back. He thought the Pac-10 was so balanced from positions three through nine that he let his dogs select the league's order of finish. Brad figured Arizona and Oregon would occupy the top-two spots while Washington State would finish last. Brad got the bookends right, so all told, two for three ain't too bad.

I mention this partially to bag on Brad (because that endeavor never gets tired) and to provide a little background on what many (me included) felt in regards to this conference. As a number of the Pac-10 teams limped through non-conference play, it looked as though that prophecy would come to fruition.

However, what we might not have anticipated is that every other conference outside of the SEC and Big 12 did pretty much the same thing. The Pac-10 doesn't appear all that bad after all, which might bode well come Selection Sunday.

That said, five teams remains far from a clear-cut occurrence. Here's what has to happen for the conference to get its utmost representation from here on out.

1. Arizona: Status: In. Overall Record: 21-2: RPI: 4. The Wildcats could fall flat on their face from this point out and still land an at-large bid with a favorable seed. They're the frontrunner for the No. 1 seed in the West, and could probably lose two more and still land that slot.

2. Stanford: Status: In. Overall Record: 21-6: RPI: 20. The Cardinal has been the story of the conference this season. Big non-conference wins highlighted by Xavier, Florida and Gonzaga. Losses to Montana and Richmond were little more than a bump in the road. Stanford has put itself in position to occupy a top-four seed come tournament time, a remarkable accomplishment considering the losses this program took.

3. California: Status: Almost Certainty: Overall Record: 19-5. RPI: 33. A less-than-stellar non-conference slate highlighted by an overtime loss to Georgia hurt the Golden Bears. That's the reason for the low RPI. But they've played so well in conference that a berth in the tournament seems a near given.

4. Arizona State: Status: Bubble: Overall Record: 17-8: RPI: 29. Against upper-echelon competition, the Sun Devils have prevailed on only two occasions: Utah and California at home. Other than that, ASU's place has a lot to do with not stumbling against teams it should beat. But with two games left in the Bay Area, plus a matchup against a hungry Oregon team during the last week of the regular season, limping down the stretch would not be a good thing. Stat to keep in mind. Only two teams with 11-7 records in the Pac-10 haven't made the NCAA tournament. Both of those teams were ASU. The Devils are 9-5.

5. Oregon: Status: Bubble: Overall Record: 18-7: RPI: 49. Without a doubt the conference's major disappointment. After getting shellacked late by Arizona at home, the Ducks have never been the same. A loss to Washington last week didn't help, nor would a setback to either of the LA schools this week. Oregon may need a win or two in the Pac-10 tourney to solidify a spot, at which point it could be as dangerous as any lower-seed at-large in the tournament. The early-season win over Kansas might be pivotal.

Moving on…

…I'm sort of disappointed that NBC's February sweeps run of Kingpin has concluded because now I'm going to have to go three months without hearing some special interest group whine and moan about a television program's portrayal of their culture. Certain vocal members of the Hispanic community, predictably, got bent out of shape over the Kingpin "portrayal" that somehow suggested everybody in Mexico was a macho, gun-toting drug dealer. At least that was their read. Hmm, it's a show about drug dealers. I wonder what will be included in the subject matter. Maybe they're really great people who just use their illegal drug trade in a Robin Hood-like spread-the-wealth sort of way. In all honesty, the thing that bugs me is the Plastic Surgeons Association of America wasn't more vitriolic. I mean, here's Kingpin, with Brian Benben in a leading role as a plastic surgeon with a failed marriage who's helping transport powder over the border. Has there ever been a time when plastic surgeons were viewed in a positive light? I'm very disappointed with that image. I mean, plastic surgeons are people making a living, just like you and me. Why should they always be so chastised? I truly feel for their plight. And the plight of the corporate owner, who is consistently viewed as a greedy, money-grubber with broken family ties. The Corporate Owners of America For Better Television Representation really need to get out there and hit the pavement to move that all-important message forth.

…and moving on some more…

…So I managed to procure some tickets to the ASU/Arizona basketball game Saturday night. A very tough ticket to come by, and I'm very appreciative for the individual who assisted me in this quest. Well except for the part where the tickets were duplicated. Seems two of the four seats were double sold. The individual next to me got his tickets from the ASU box office in December. Now I understand there's a budget crunch and all, but dear Arizona State, stacking UA fans two-for-one seems a little extreme. No wonder it was the fourth largest crowd in the history of Wells Fargo Arena.

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