The Pac-12 continues to be a dumpster fire as a whole, with zero teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 for the third week in a row. But from the ashes and fumes of that collective disaster may be rising an Arizona Wildcats team which is taking full advantage of the chaos around them.
A pair of wins at the Bay Area schools, its 13th road sweep since the Pac-12 expanded to 12 teams in 2011-12, enabled Arizona to earn eight votes in the latest AP poll. That may not seem like much, but it is the most of any Pac-12 team—tied for, actually; Washington also got eight—and the most for the Wildcats since getting 12 votes in the Dec. 3 poll.
The news is much better for the Wildcats when it comes to computer rankings and NCAA Tournament bracket projections. And with its next six games coming against tougher competition, at least compared to the first four Pac-12 opponents they’ve faced, a strong showing over the next three-plus weeks could drastically improved Arizona’s shot at an NCAA bid.
Here’s a breakdown of where Arizona sits in key computer rankings, followed by a look at the Wildcats’ projected NCAA seed according to various bracketologists:
With the NCAA introducing a new metric, the NET rankings, this becomes the most important of the computer rankings since it’s presumed to be the one the selection committee will pay most attention to. But since this is the first year of its use we aren’t completely sure how it will be factored into the decision process, which makes determining if a team’s ranking is good or bad enough hard to do at this point.
That being said, Arizona sits 51st in the latest NET rankings. The Wildcats were in the upper 50s before winning at California and Stanford.
Washington is the highest-rated Pac-12 team in NET, at 38th, followed by Arizona. Other Pac-12 teams in the top 100 include Oregon State (71), Arizona State (83), Oregon (84) and UCLA (92).
The Wildcats will face all five of those teams in their next six games, beginning with this weekend’s visit from Oregon and Oregon State.
Ironically, Arizona’s best showing among computer rankings is in the RPI, which is still being tracked on a real-time basis by WarrenNolan.com. In that metric the ‘Cats are 44th, second-best in the Pac-12 behind Washington (27).
Arizona is also a top-50 team in KenPom rankings, sitting 49th, and for what it’s worth the Wildcats are 55th in ESPN’s much-mocked BPI (which has Oregon, at 1-2 in conference play, as its highest-ranked Pac-12 team).
The selection committee is still several weeks away from descending upon a hotel conference room in Indianapolis to start picking and seeding the 68-team NCAA Tournament field. But as it stands now, it looks like Arizona would be in.
Just barely, though.
According to BracketMatrix, a site that tracks and collates dozens of projected brackets from a litany of experts, has Arizona averaging a seed of 10.65 and appearing on 55 of 65 brackets. That’s as of Jan. 11, however, which means the Wildcats’ 87-65 win at Cal on Saturday (or any of the other weekend results across Division I) haven’t been factored in.
Several bracketologists have made a post-weekend update, and the news is good for Arizona.
TeamRankings.com appears to be quite bullish on Arizona, projecting it as a No. 8 seed and giving it a 76 percent chance to make the field. That site’s format doesn’t bracket out the field, though.
CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm has Arizona as a No. 10 seed, facing No. 7 Nebraska in Tulsa as part of the South Region. The Wildcats are one of three Pac-12 teams in Palm’s latest projection along with Washington (11th) and ASU (11th, playing in the First Four).
Sports Illustrated’s Michael Beller has Arizona as a No. 11 seed, opening with No. 6 North Carolina State in the East Region, while Bleacher Report’s Kerry Miller has the Wildcats as a No. 11 seed against No. 6 Indiana in the Midwest Region. Miller has that game being played in Salt Lake City, the closest of the eight first-weekend sites to Tucson.
And Fox Sports’ Howie Schwab has the Wildcats as one of the “last four in” and thus playing a First Four game in Dayton, Ohio ahead of the main bracket.