Doomsday scenario for Pac-12?

March 9, 2012, 9:11 pm
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Programming note: Watch the Pac-12 Conference Tournament semifinals tonight on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Oregon State faces Arizona at 6 followed by Cal vs. Colorado at 8:30 p.m.

LOS ANGELES -- Clearly the Mayans were college hoop fans. Who knew that when they predicted Armageddon in 2012 they were referring to the Pac-12 conference?

All season, pundits have spouted off about the "Doomsday scenario," in which only one team from this downtrodden conference would get in to the NCAA Tournament.

As recently as five days ago, that permutation seemed silly. No fewer than four squads had legitimate at-large chances. Then Arizona lost to ASU, Cal lost to Stanford, Washington lost to Oregon State and Oregon lost to Colorado.

Dogs and cats, living together, mass hysteria.

Now we have a situation in which Cal -- by virtue of Thursday night's revenge win over Stanford -- is comfortably in the field of 68. Oh sure, Nervous-Nelly Bear fans will be sweating it out on Sunday but with 24 wins and an RPI of 35, Cal is locked in.

The rest of them however ...

Let's take them one at a time.

Arizona: The loss to ASU (RPI 250) was an absolute killer. It lowered the Wildcats' number to 78. For reference sake, the lowest RPI team ever to receive an at-large bid was USC last year at 67. And it's not like the 'Cats have any good non-conference wins on which to hang their collective hat. Wait, that's redundant. The entire Pac-12 has no good non-conference wins (except, believe it or not, Stanford over Colorado State), which is why we are in this predicament. Good news for Arizona is, it's still alive at the Staples Center.

Oregon: The Ducks were the hot team heading into the conference tournament, but they could ill afford last night's one-point loss to Colorado. Oregon's RPI is 63. The NCAA Tournament is not out of the question, but not likely.

Washington: Here's where it gets tricky. The Huskies were in good shape, having won the regular season title. And that will still carry some weight with the selection committee. But the opening round Pac-12 loss to Oregon State dropped Washington's RPI to 68. Below the unofficial Mendoza Line.

Bottom line: I still believe somehow, some way, the Pac gets two teams. Sadly, the best case for the conference is Cal not winning the tournament, forcing somebody else in. But it does remain a very real possibility that this "power conference" is a one-bid league. So prepare for Armageddon. As if that will do any good.

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