With Selection Sunday a mere five weeks away, the Hotline is prepared to offer an early forecast. March 2024 is beginning to look a lot like March 2010 for the Pac-12.
That was a ghastly month: Just two teams received invitations to the NCAA Tournament. Washington claimed the automatic bid after winning the conference tournament and was awarded a No. 11 seed. Cal, which finished first in the regular season race, was the only at-large selection and assigned a No. 8 seed.
Ten teams, two measly bids, and nothing better than a No. 8 seed.
Granted, both performed well in the NCAAs, with the Bears winning once and the Huskies twice. But the bid total was an embarrassment.
The Pac-12 should fare better this March in at least one regard: Barring a collapse, Arizona will receive a high seed. But the Wildcats are the only lock. Everyone else is either eliminated from the at-large pool or squarely on the bubble.
As a result, the Hotline has set the Over/Under for total bids at 2.5.
We’re fairly confident a second team will sneak into the field through the at-large pathway – either Washington State, Colorado or Utah – or someone other than Arizona will win the conference tournament.
But the outlook for more than one team joining the Wildcats is growing bleaker by the week as the conference bloodies itself. Teams that were once in decent position (hello, Utah, Oregon and Colorado) are struggling for traction while teams that were nowhere near the at-large pool are now winning regularly (Washington State and UCLA).
For evidence, we offer the NET rankings, which provide a rough framework for at-large selections.
Teams ranked in the top 30 typically have compiled strong enough resumes to be considered safely in the field of 68. They have a plethora of good wins, a paucity of bad losses and stout non-conference schedules.
The Pac-12 has one team on that tier, Arizona. By comparison, the Mountain West has four – in addition to its 6-1 record against the Pac-12 in head-to-head matchups.