ESPN’s bracket guru Joe Lunardi released his latest NCAA tournament projections this week and he included seven teams from the Pac-12, which is more than any other conference.
That’s good news for the Pac-12.
However, Washington, which is in a three-way tie for third in the league, still hasn’t hit Lunardi’s radar. He doesn’t project them to make the tourney and he doesn’t even consider the Huskies (13-8, 5-3) a bubble team.
Here’s the Pac-12 teams in Lunardi’s bracket: Arizona (No. 1 seed, west), UCLA (7, midwest), Colorado (10, east), California (11, south), Arizona State (11, west), Stanford (12, midwest), Oregon (12, west).
Here’s a look at the NCAA tournament projections from Jerry Palm at CBSSports.com. He includes six Pac-12 teams: Arizona (1, west), UCLA (8, midwest), Stanford (10, west), Colorado (10, east), California (10, south), ASU (12 play-in game, east).
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar admittedly is watching the Pac-12 race more closely this year than ever before. And he’s encouraging the Huskies to pay attention as well.
“That’s something I don’t really talk about – the standings – but this year, we’ve talked about it more,” Romar said. “The reason we have is we started out the way we did. We were so poor defensively. Our record wasn’t the best. We didn’t play great basketball.
“I think it’s important now for us to see the big picture and see where we’re at, because it’d be easy to still think about how we were, and not realize what we accomplished. We’ve talked to our team about, we had the injuries, we had this happen, we had the adversity, and this is where we are.
“Look at the standings. Do we want to go back to poverty? Do we want to go back there? Or do we like the way this feels? And in order for us to stay here, these are some of the things we’re going to have to do, and that’s one of the reasons we’ve brought it up and made them more aware of it this year.”
Unlike two years ago when Washington won the 2011-12 Pac-12 regular-season title and didn’t make the NCAA tournament, Romar believes the conference is much stronger in the computer rankings, due largely to its nonconference performance. The Pac-12 is ranked third in the nation in the RPI and by basketball statistician Jeff Sagarin.
Romar is rooting for Arizona to remain undefeated. He said: “As long as they’re No. 1, that Pac-12 still looks good.”
Roma also believes a top four finish in the regular-season standings should guarantee a NCAA tournament at-large berth.
FRIDAY MORNING LINKS:
— In a rematch of last year’s Pac-12 Tournament title game, Travis Wear sank a putback with 5.3 seconds left to give UCLA a 70-68 victory over slumping Oregon. Jordan Adams finished with 19 points for the Bruins (17-4, 6-2 Pac-12), which have won five of its last six games to sit at second in the league’s standings behind top-ranked Arizona.
— With 5.3 seconds left, Johnathan Loyd dashed to the other end of the court on the ensuing possession. However, the 5-8 point guard had his shot blocked by 6-8 guard Kyle Anderson at the buzzer. “That’s not what we had planned. Johnny just made a bad read,” coach Dana Altman told the Oregonian. The plan was to get the ball to Joseph Young, who had 25 points.
— January was awful for Oregon. Just brutal. Maybe the worst month in the history of the program. The Ducks started the year with an overtime win at Utah for their 13th straight win and was ranked 10th in the AP poll. Since then, it’s been a free fall to the bottom of the Pac-12 standings. Oregon (14-6, 2-6) has lost six of the last seven games. The Ducks are 10th in the conference.
— Roberto Nelson scored four of his 24 points in overtime, including the go-ahead basket with 25 seconds remaining, to lift give Oregon State 76-75 win over USC. Tied at 74-74, the Beavers ran an isolation play for Nelson, who started near the top of the lane and then weaved his way through three defenders before laying the ball in off the glass for the game-winning basket.
— Angus Brandt finished with 14 points and Eric Moreland grabbed 10 rebounds and four blocked shots for the Beavers (12-8, 4-4). It’s the first time OSU has been .500 this late into the Pac-12 season under six-year coach Craig Robinson.
— Trailing by two points with 0.9 seconds left, Pe’Shon Howard, a 73 percent free throw shooter, went to the line with a chance to tie the game. He sank the first attempt, but his second shot was a little strong and hit the back of the rim before bouncing out. Byron Wesley led USC (10-11, 1-7) with 23 points as the Trojans lost for the seventh time in eight games.
— Arizona visited Alcatraz on its off day in the Bay Area.
— Colorado is preparing for an improved Utah team that will visit Coors Events Center on Saturday.