There’s no denying it: Arizona’s loss at Stanford on Saturday was damaging in many ways.
Now two games back of UCLA for first place in the Pac-12, the chances of the Wildcats (22-4, 10-4) repeating as regular-season champs have gotten very slim. It would require someone else beating the Bruins (21-4, 12-2) before the UA gets them in the regular-season finale on March 4 in Los Angeles.
The No. 2 seed for the Pac-12 Tournament isn’t a lock, either. Utah (17-9, 10-5) is only a game back of Arizona and currently holds the tiebreaker by virtue of its 81-66 win in Salt Lake City on Dec. 1, but the rematch is next up for both teams on Thursday night at McKale Center. USC (17-8, 9-5) is a half-game behind the Utes, followed by ASU (18-8, 9-6) and Oregon (15-11, 9-6) also still in the hunt for second.
Arizona’s NCAA Tournament resume also took a hit with the loss to Stanford, even though it only counts as a Quad 2 setback. It was the Wildcats’ first this season, against five wins, along with a 6-2 mark in Quad 1 games.
That home loss to Washington State from last month: still a Quad 3 loss, as the Cougars sit at No. 81 in the NET rankings and would need to climb to 75th or better for that result to move to Quad 2.
The UA currently sits 10th in the NET after getting up to 8th prior to falling to the Cardinal.
All five of the Wildcats’ remaining games currently are Quad 1 or 2 contests, so there’s room to beef up their body of work. The Utah, Colorado and ASU home games the next two weeks are all Quad 2, then the season-ending trip to USC and UCLA provide back-to-back Quad 1 resume boosters.
For now, though, a No. 2 seed looks to be Arizona’s ceiling, and below it is a rickety floor that could result in dropping to the 3 seed line come Selection Sunday.
As of Monday night BracketMatrix.com has Arizona as the second-best No. 2, with a 1.98 seed average over 100 tourney projections. Right ahead of it is Texas, at 1.85, but that could change once brackets are updated to reflect the Longhorns’ loss at Texas Tech, and UCLA (2.07) isn’t far behind.
There are still some projections with the Wildcats at No. 1, but those are all ones that were last updated on Saturday (likely before the Stanford loss) or earlier. Of the ones updated since then, most have Arizona as a No. 2, though CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm has it as the No. 3 seed in East Region, playing the opening weekend in Denver and potentially facing TCU in the second round.
The East Regional is at Madison Square Garden in New York City, where Arizona has never played in the postseason and hasn’t in any game since beating Duke to win the NIT Season Tip-Off tourney in 2014.
More brackets will get updated on Tuesday morning, and it’s likely most will have the UA no better than a No. 2 seed.
A real indicator of Arizona’s seed outlook will come Saturday when the NCAA Selection Committee is set to unveil its “as of now” top 16 seeds. Last year the committee had the UA projected as the No. 1 seed in the South, exactly where it ended up when the actual 68-team field came out a few weeks later.