Okay everyone, take a deep breath and digest all that has happened to the UA women’s basketball team in the last week. After splitting a road trip at Oregon, the Wildcats came home for two winnable home games against the Washington schools. It appeared that these wins would assure the Cats another NCAA Tournament berth and a No. 2 or No. 3 seed in this weekend’s Pac-10 Tournament in San Jose, Calif. However, by Saturday afternoon at 6:05 p.m., the entire atmosphere and situation had changed. Washington had done the impossible ?- beaten Arizona on its home court. How does this loss affect Arizona’s postseason chances? Are they dead in the water? The answer is “hardly” and here is why:
First and foremost, Arizona is capable of beating anyone at the Pac-10 Tournament, including Stanford. Yes, the Cardinal is very good but not unbeatable and a healthy Polkey and Jessica Arnold probably would have led to an Arizona victory here earlier this season. If Arizona can beat USC, a team they split with this season, and then give Stanford a run, good things could still happen.
Secondly, on today’s ESPN.com bracket forecast, the Wildcats are in the NCAA Tournament as a seventh seed. This comes even after Saturday’s breakdown. Interestingly enough, there were five Pac-10 teams included in this projected bracket and second-place finisher Oregon was not in the field. USC, which finished ahead of Arizona, was a ninth seed and only ASU was higher, earning a fifth seed along with Stanford’s No. 2 seed. Even UCLA got in and the Bruins struggled and earned eight conference losses. So, what gives?
Many teams in the NCAA field are chosen by their RPI (Ratings Percentage Index), which is a computer mix of scheduling, bad wins, good wins, uniform colors, hair styles, and a million other things that are thrown in. Strength of schedule is also an important factor and that is where some of these Pac-10 teams are being sorted out by projected “bracketeers.” For example, in today’s WBCA/Summerville RPI the Wildcats are at No. 38. That spot is definitely a bubble-spot on Selection Sunday. The Wildcats boast a strength of schedule of 34th, which is respectable. USC is at No. 41 RPI and No. 41 strength of schedule, which hurts them. Then, there is Oregon. Here is a team that is carrying the second seed into the Pac-10 Tournament, but probably has to win at least one game to get into the Big Dance. They are limping along with a No. 47 RPI rating and a miserable 92nd strength of schedule. So, in my opinion here is how it breaks down.
Stanford and ASU are in the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens in San Jose. The Wildcats have to beat USC and play Stanford close to get in. If USC beats Arizona they are in. Oregon needs one win to get in and everyone else has to win the whole thing. It all starts on Saturday at 7:45 p.m. on 1330 AM, KJLL Radio. That’s the only place you can find out what will happen. Take a deep breath, because there is a lot more basketball to be played!
See you on the radio!
* All postseason games can be heard on AM 1330 KJLL