Post-Season Perspective

Even though we're only through the first weekend of Pac-10 play, UCLA finds itself without a lot of wiggle room if it hopes to make the NCAA tournament this season. Here's the rundown...

When you widdle it down, there are really two huge factors in determining the outcome of the season.  One that is already done, can't be erased and can potentially hurt the team's chances of getting an NCAA tournament bid: The three losses to San Diego, Northern Arizona and Michigan. With UCLA only playing 27 regular season games, it needed wins in its non-conference schedule to get to, say, 18 for the season. Having lost those games, it makes attaining a NCAA tourney bid an uphill battle for the rest of the season. If perhaps they would have won two of those games it would have been key. Or, like in recent years, if  the losses would have been offset with a win either over Kansas or Duke, a win that would have also been critical in boosting UCLA's RPI, a factor taken into consideration when determining NCAA bids.


But because of the whole those losses have put UCLA in, so much will probably ride on another big factor, one that could potentially be the season-saver: The Pac-10 tournament. It will enable UCLA, a team you would think might be playing better basketball by then, at least the opportunity to compile enough wins to get the nod from the NCAA tournament committee.


Shouldering the burden of those non-conference losses, for UCLA to make the NCAA tournament, this is what UCLA will have to do:


It will have to hold serve in the games it should.  Those critical games will be USC and St. John's at home, Oregon State at home and on the road, and Arizona State at home.


It will have to win the majority of the games you think could go either way (at USC, at Arizona State, at home and on the road against Stanford, and at home and on the road against Cal). 


And you would think it will have to pull out at least one win against a highly-ranked opponent to boost its RPI (at home or on the road against Arizona, at home or on the road against Oregon, and on the road against Georgetown). 


With its poor non-conference record, if it did this, it finishes the regular season at 16-11.  


That would mean:


7-0 in these games: USC at home, St. John's at home, Oregon State at home and on the road, Arizona State at home, and the Washington schools at home.


4-2 in these games: at USC, at Arizona State, at home and on the road against Stanford, and at home and on the road against Cal.


1-4 in these games: at home and on the road against Oregon, at home and on the road against Arizona, and on the road against Georgetown.


Again, the Pac-10 tournament looms as such a big factor in the season and the biggest determining factor in whether UCLA makes the NCAA tournament.  If UCLA has just 14 regular season wins, it more than likely would need a championship run through the Pac-10 tournament to get a tournament bid. If it finishes with 15 or 16 wins, it probably needs two wins and an advance to the Pac-10 tourney finals.  Probably only if it gets 17 wins would it possibly be able to sneak into the NCAA tournament with just one win in the Pac-10 tournament. And in all of these scenarios, it would probably need a big upset win for the RPI boost, too. 


So, UCLA fans, those early non-conference losses make it a perpetual uphill battle for the team to receive an NCAA bid.  But, with the Pac-10 tournament, anything is possible.

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