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Real Time NCAA Tournament RIP

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Live updates from the from the NCAA Tournament bubble as they relate to the Conference of Champions:

Like most fans of PAC 12 Basketball, I DESPISE Bill Walton. His nonsensical rambling takes me all the way out of basketball games. I don’t want to hear about a bike ride, or the josh dang museum you went to today, I want play-by-play, and stats. Walton completely ruins my viewing experience 100% of the time. This isn’t idle complaining, I mute the volume on any game that he’s announcing. I actively root for weird game times so that I can hear the PAC 12 Network b-squad make some sense, FOR ONCE.

I couldn’t watch CU Arizona in real time, but despite my efforts to completely remove myself from technology, I already knew the final score when I fired up the old DVR to see the Buffs heroic victory.

Bravo boys. Bravo. I wasn’t at all surprised that CU eked out a gutsy victory last night. I’ve been watching this team all year, and when the ball’s not sticking, they can compete with everyone.

What surprised me was Bill Walton, who I unmuted in a moment of weakness, lobbying furiously for the inclusion of 9 PAC 12 teams in the NCAA tournament. For the first time in my life, I found myself thinking Bill Walton’s not wrong. Nine teams from the Conference of Champions probably do deserve a ticket to the dance this spring.

Of course deserve a ticket is different from saying will get a ticket, or even could get a ticket. But, if you follow sports even a little bit, you already know that the PAC 12 NCAA Tournament bubble scenario is the most exciting storyline since the Bronco’s improbable Super Bowl victory. It’s so exciting that Real Time RPI, the holy grail of information for the intelligent basketball fan isn’t cutting it, and that’s where this blog comes in.

REAL TIME RIP will give you updates on the status of the bubble situation in relationship to the Conference of Champions. Starting tonight, teams are going to start biting the dust, and I‘ll be here to report on it. Let’s start with a recap.

Wednesday, February 24th 2016.

Washington State at Oregon: No tournament implications here. Oregon is a cut-rate event planner who just hired her boyfriend to D.J. a wedding. There’s no way to keep her thing from shaking.

Washington State is a ballroom dance instructor who got his legs blown off in Nam. All he wants to do is dance, but no one will let him. And even if they did let him, after all these years, he’s not sure he’d remember how.

RIP Cougs.

ASU’s getting knocked out of an early round of the NIT. Bring Michael Phelps!

RIP Sun Devils.

Onto the good stuff:

Washington at Oregon State: Huge tournament implications. Not just for the Beavers and the Huskies (two of the best names in college sports) but for every PAC 12 team on the outside of the bubble looking in.

Oregon State’s tournament hopes are alive and well. This is a top fifty RPI team that WILL receive an at large bid if they can get their conference record to the five hundred mark. That means they need the no brainer against Washington State, AND a split on their trip to Southern California.

We’ve seen OSU play with their backs against the wall for the last month or so, and they’ve won every game they needed to in dramatic fashion.

Gary Peyton II leads his team in points, rebounds, and assists. He’s the reigning defensive player of the year in the PAC 12, but I believe his defensive skills are underrated. There’s no way to describe what he does. He’s 6’3, and he’s had the young and often sloppy Beavers on his back all season. If I could pick one player from the entire NCAA to succeed at the next level, I’d pick GP II.

But the Beav’s aren’t dancing with a sub 500 conference record. The PAC 12’s good, but it isn’t that good. This is not to say that Oregon State needs an at large bid to make the show. If OSU gets swept in LA I’ll be laying serious money on a prop that has them winning the PAC 12 Tournament.

Washington has had their head on a guillotine for a while. Last night OSU sharpened the blade to a fine point. Oregon can play executioner Sunday at 5:30 PST. I assume Bill Walton will be blathering in a microphone during the game. I will have the sound muted.

A win from Washington Sunday will put the Huskies back in contention. Their final game is against Washington State. Best-case scenario, they finish with a 10-8 conference record, and a weird loss to UCSB at home. They COULD get an at large bid, but they’d have to make some waves in the PAC 12 tournament to get there. A trip to the semifinals and a good showing in that game.

Andrew Andrews is good, but he’s not GP II. He’s definitely not Josh Scott. A first round NCAA tournament exit is the ceiling for this team. A vaulted ceiling . Guarded by Chris Boucher…

I’m hearing a death rattle.

As I mentioned before, this game had implications for the entire PAC 12. At 17:38 Thursday, February 25, 2016 Bill Walton’s dream of the NCAA hosting nine teams from the conference of champions is alive and well. UCLA has to win out. Stanford doesn’t get as much press as UCLA, but if they finish on a four game win streak they’ll find themselves on the bubble heading into the PAC 12 Tournament.


Tournament dreams for one of those teams will be put to rest when UCLA and Stanford square off Saturday, but tonight, we can rejoice. 10 PAC 12 teams are fighting their way into the NCAA tournament. Go Bruins! Go Cardinal! Go Bill Walton.

Gag.

Next on the docket: The Impolite Arizona Wild Cats at the Now Relevant University of Colorado Buffaloes

Less implications for the tournament at large, but in terms of the NCAA bubble, this was a HUGE win for my Colorado Buffaloes. The biggest win of the season by far. We need one more win to change "should cement NCAA Tournament bid" to "cements NCAA Tournament bid" in the national media conversation. We have three chances to get that win, Sunday, against Arizona State at The Keg, Saturday, March 5th at Utah, and in the first round of the PAC 12 Tournament.

After last night’s win, Jon Rothstein tweeted that we were the type of 8/9 seed that could upset a 1 in the second round of the tournament. I don’t know how far I can go here without losing creditability, but this CU squad can compete with anyone in the country. We’re really coming into our own as a team. (USC had A LOT of help from the refs.)

Quick hypothetical, where would you seed the 27-9 Buffs? 4?

I think this is the year we do some damage in the NCAA tournament.

Arizona’s dancing. They could drop the next 4 games and enter the tournament as a 7 seed. Fans can rest easy. That goes for Utah and Oregon too. Cal could shut the door tonight with a win over UCLA. USC would be in real good shape if they can garner an illusive road win in Palo Alto.

Thursday, February 25 2015

Let’s ease into our discussion of another wild night in the PAC 12 with ASU, Utah. It was no surprise that the Sun Devils got shellacked at the Huntsman Center last night. Utah is a very good basketball team. They’ve dropped exactly two games at home this year, Miami, and Oregon.

Forgivable.

There are a couple other iffy losses on their resume, a 17-point beat down by a perplexing Wichita State team, and a squeaker in overtime at Stanford. In the context of their overall resume, these losses are also forgivable. Utah has non-conference wins over Texas Tech, Temple, San Diego State, and Duke. The loss at Stanford looks less bad after the Cardinal slaughtered USC last night.


Bottom line: Utah has an exemplary conference record, and an unnecessarily solid non-con record. They’re an NCAA tournament lock.

For Utah, there’s no advantage to playing a team from the Missouri Valley conference on the road in your non-con schedule. I believe that Utah is a better team than Arizona, and I guess we’ll find out Saturday. In the meantime, someone tell Krystkowiak that he plays in the PAC 12. There’s no need for a brutal non-conference schedule. The only thing losses against Wichita and Miami have done is hurt your team in the national rankings.

ASU embarrassing themselves last night means that they will be coming into the C.E.C. to PLAY Sunday. I hope the Buffs don’t look past them. A hypothetical worst case scenario for a Colorado team that hasn’t made things easy for themselves this year is (heaven forbid) dropping one to ASU, then having USC pull off the upset in Berkley, and Washington clenching a seemingly impossible victory in Eugene. Three PAC 12 road wins in one day would be an anomaly, but I’m not ruling anything out this year. The Conference of Champions is a bloodbath.

There’s a lot of questions about the toughness and the talent of Washington this year, but if we know one thing, we know that Andrew Andrew’s loves the taste of blood. He’ll know exactly where his team stands before the opening tip of the Oregon game.

So BUFFS, be READY TO PLAY ON SUNDAY. A home win on senior day would put an enticing cherry on top of an elaborate and delicious looking regular season sundae. An ice cream dish that the selection committee could really chow down on…

UCLA CAL looked like it might get interesting with about four minutes remaining in the second half. Then Bryce Alford forgot how to hit the front end of a 1-1. Bryce Alford the 82% free throw shooter. Bryce Alford the clutch player from last year’s NCAA tournament. It’s been that kind of year...

As of yesterday night, UCLA can sort of make out the vague outline of a bubble in the distance, but they’re WAY outside of it.

For an at large bid they’d have to win out in the regular season. That means a W at Stanford and then a victorious home stand against the Oregon teams. They’d also have to make a good showing in the conference tournament, something like beating Arizona, Utah, or Oregon on their way to the finals game, and keeping it tight in the PAC 12 Championship. Realistically, UCLA is out on their feet. They need a PAC 12 team to drop off the bubble…

Cal is in great shape. They could ice a ticket to the big show with a win at home against USC Sunday, or a win at Arizona State to close out the season. Or they could lose their three remaining games and backslide in with a Washington loss on Saturday, and a Colorado win Sunday, UCLA’s loss yesterday eliminated any realistic chance of UCLA and Oregon State making the tournament.

Believe it or not, USC Stanford is where things get really interesting. Put Stanford on the bubble. Hell, while we’re at it, put USC on the bubble too. Last nights game was a microcosm of the anything that can go wrong will go wrong nature of PAC 12 conference play down the stretch. USC got smoked.

Stanford hosts UCLA Saturday, then goes on the road to play the Arizona teams next week. They’re 7-8 in conference play, with wins over Utah and Oregon. A win over Arizona would put a beautiful bow on that package.

The Cardinal have largely been ignored by national media, but of all the teams fighting their way INTO the bubble, Stanford has the best remaining schedule. They could easily throw a wrench into an attempt at late season heroics from Washington or Oregon State. Depending how the season plays out, this is a team that could have an impact on Colorado or USC’s post season. Plus Bill Walton hasn’t given them a chance all year. DON’T SLEEP ON STANFORD.

On the other side of the game, USC is the Titanic right after it hit that iceberg. Suddenly that 8-7 record doesn’t look unsinkable. They’ve got a tough row to hoe in their three final games: At Cal, and a home stand against the Oregon teams.

Of all the hypothetical’s discussed in this blog, USC playing their way into a top NIT seed is the mostly likely. Cal’s undefeated at home. Oregon State’s virtually unbeatable with their back against a wall. If record is any indication, Oregon’s the best team in the conference. A lot of pundits have the team making their way to the final four.

Let’s call USC ending the season on a three game slide the Bill Walton Scenario, because this is one of two ways the PAC 12 get’s seven teams into the tourney. A win over the Trojans would all but pre approve Oregon State’s NCAA Tournament application. It would also open the door for a Cinderella story for Stanford, UCLA, or Washington.

There’s a more probable scenario that sends 7 teams: a Colorado win Sunday followed by USC coming out on the right side of a Southern California split by Oregon State.

Saturday, February 27 2016.

Arizona at Utah didn’t have any tournament implications. It was still unbelievably fun to watch. These are two extraordinary basketball teams. Utah came to play. Arizona came to play. One of these teams is going to win the PAC 12 tournament; I think that a lot of that will depend on seeding. Utah has one game left, at home against Colorado. Arizona plays two games, both at home, Stanford and Cal.

I think that Arizona will win both those games. I’m not so sure about Utah, but it doesn’t matter so much, they have an extra victory on their resume from a win in a turkey tournament. They have first or second placed locked up.

Colorado could play their way into a PAC 12 Tournament bye with two victories if Arizona has absolutely fallen apart. As of press time that doesn’t seem likely. For now, all we can do is speculate about seeding in the PAC 12 Tournament, but if one thing is certain, it’s that the tournament will be fun to watch. I’d like to see Utah and Arizona play at a neutral site.

UCLA Stanford was the polar opposite in terms of its NCAA tournament implications. I bet that none of you believed me yesterday when I told you to put Stanford on the bubble. Do you believe me now? Stanford is 15-13, with an incredible 8-8 record in PAC 12 play. They have two games remaining and control their own destiny in terms of the NCAA tournament.

Seriously. Stanford has wins over Utah, Arizona, and Cal. A win at Arizona would absolutely push them over they edge. I don’t think they’re going win at Arizona, but this year in the PAC 12 anything is possible.

It’s even possible that Stanford dances with a split in Arizona. That scenario is a little less straightforward. The Cardinal would need four out of these five final season situations to shake out: Colorado losing at home against ASU and away at Utah to close the season, Washington losing Sunday at Oregon, Oregon State carding at least one loss in their final three games, or USC dropping two of their final three.

So reading between the lines there, there’s the potential for five, count them FIVE PAC 12 teams to finish with a 9-9 conference record. In this case, those teams would all be fighting to distinguish themselves in the conference tournament. Again, the stage is set for an exciting conference tournament.

In terms of clarity, we can FINALLY blow the pretender whistle on UCLA.

Good Luck in the NIT Bruins

We’ll have a lot more clarity on the realistic tournament chances of Washington, USC, Colorado, Stanford, and Oregon State after today’s matches. One week. Five teams, three spots in the NCAA tournament. CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS?

God bless. Go Buffaloes.

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