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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

March 5, 2014 at 2:07 PM

Ready for a six-way tie for third in the Pac-12? And concerns for Cal, Colorado

One weekend of Pac-12 basketball remains before the conference tournament, and try to wrap your arms around this bizarre scenario: A lot of people think the league might get seven teams into the NCAA tournament, and Utah, not one of the seven unless it makes some serious noise down the stretch, could end up being the No. 3 seed in the Pac-12 tournament.

Crazy stuff (at least until Utah meets Cal Wednesday night). Dave Hirsch of the league PR office advances a scenario that’s thoroughly unlikely but yet still possible that six teams could finish at 10-8 in the league standings, including Washington, behind Arizona and UCLA. In a nutshell, here it is with current records:

Arizona State (10-7) . . . loses to Oregon State.

Stanford (9-7) . . . beats Colorado, loses to Utah.

Cal (9-7) . . . loses to Utah, beats Colorado.

Oregon (9-8) . . . beats Arizona.

Utah (8-8) . . . beats Cal and Stanford.

Washington (8-8) . . . beats UCLA and USC.

If somehow this comes to pass (I’m headed to Las Vegas this weekend, but I wouldn’t wager a lot on this “pick-six”), Utah would nab the No. 3 seed on the strength of a 4-3 record against the other tied teams, which, by percentage, nips ASU’s prospective 5-4 record.

Now for some more realistic possibilities . . .

I’m wondering whether both Cal and Colorado have some serious concerns with regard to the NCAA tournament.

First, the Bears (18-11, 9-7). They’re 4-7 since Jan. 18, with the gold-standard win against Arizona but only three other wins over Washington, WSU and USC in that stretch. They’re 3-9 against the RPI top 50 and 6-9 against the top 100 — not a deal-breaker, perhaps, but they’ve also got two losses in the 100-200 range. And their last three losses are by 20 at home to UCLA, and on the road, by 28 to Arizona and 18 to Arizona State. The committee doesn’t like that kind of trend. I think the Bears need to sweep this weekend to feel halfway safe.

Then there are the Buffs (20-9, 9-7), whose season took a bad turn Jan. 12 at Hec Ed when Spencer Dinwiddie went down with a knee injury. Basketball committee chairman Ron Wellman is on record saying that such injury situations have more to do with seeding rather than selection, but if I’m on the committee, I’m struck by the fairly glaring drop-off in Colorado’s play since the injury. And this is the unit that’s going forward into the big tournament.

Through Jan. 12, Colorado had a 12 RPI and was 3-2 against the top 50, 5-3 against the top 100. Now the RPI has sunk to 30 (it has no way of specifically tracking Dinwiddie’s injury), and the top-50 record is 3-7, and 7-9 versus the top 100. The Buffs are 6-6 without Dinwiddie (discounting the rest of that Washington game), their only win against a prospective Pac-12 NCAA entry over Arizona State.

If you were judging the Buffs merely over that 12-game span, you wouldn’t put them in the tournament. Yes, it was a rotten break for Dinwiddie and his team, and, as coach Tad Boyle said last week, he doesn’t want to see everything that squad did go up in smoke with Dinwiddie’s absence. Still, I think the Buffs are going to need at least one solid win either this weekend or in the Pac-12 tournament to feel good going into Selection Sunday. They’re leaving too much to chance otherwise.

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