In this update of Bracketology, the Arizona Wildcats are holding firm as the 4-seed in the West region after completing their season sweep of the Arizona State Sun Devils last Thursday night.
With ASU as the only other Pac-12 squad that appears to safely be in the NCAA Tournament field, a sweep over them was huge for Arizona and really sets them apart as the best team in the Pac-12 and perhaps the West itself.
The advantage to being the best team in the West is simple — favorable locations in the NCAA Tournament, despite not being a top seeded team.
However, with Arizona’s final road trip of the regular season looming, the Wildcats do need to be careful. A slip-up against one of the Oregon teams on Thursday or Saturday could hurt as the Gonzaga Bulldogs are now winners of nine in a row including a massive road win against St. Mary’s. We’ve got Gonzaga ascending to the 4-line in our bracket and if Arizona were to drop a game this week, they could lose their spot in the West Region to that Gonzaga team.
At least Arizona can feel safe about their spot in the Big Dance, though. Four other Pac-12 teams are scrambling to do everything they can to get into the field with just two weeks remaining until the Pac-12 Conference Tournament. Let’s take a look at who’s in and who’s out at this moment:
Last Four Byes: UCLA, Virginia Tech, Kansas State, Louisville
Last Four In: Baylor, NC State, Texas, St. Bonaventure
First Four Out: Syracuse, USC, Washington, Utah
Next Four Out: Boise State, Marquette, Nebraska, Penn State
That “First Four Out” section is Pac-12 heavy with the USC Trojans and Washington Huskies paying the price for other teams’ success.
The Baylor Bears have surged from barely hanging on to the bubble to now suddenly being in the field with wins over Kansas, Texas and Texas Tech consecutively.
And St. Bonaventure, who have found themselves on the outside looking in for weeks, picked up a marquee victory over Atlantic 10 conference foe, Rhode Island, putting an end to their 16-game win streak.
With those two crashing the party for the time being, it’s the Pac-12 that suffers. USC and Washington officially have work to do just as the Utah Utes climb closer to the field. Utah’s emergence comes after a road win over Washington, giving Utah a season sweep of the Huskies.
Utah meets USC on Saturday in Salt Lake City, a game with humongous tournament implications.
But first, Utah has to play the UCLA Bruins on Thursday, our third and final Pac-12 team in the field as of now. The Bruins are far from safe though, clutching on to a 10-seed with three games, all on the road, remaining in their regular season.
These next two weeks will decide if the Pac-12 ends up a six-bid conference or as a little as a two-bid conference. Even then, one could argue that Arizona is the only team that’s a lock to get in. They’ll look to build on that this Thursday night when they take on the Oregon State Beavers at 7 p.m. MST on Fox Sports 1.