It's February and that means college basketball will take center stage for the next eight weeks. Already, there are mock tournament brackets printed in local newspapers, and the word "bubble" no longer pertains to taking a bath. Yes, March Madness is right around the corner, and the Arizona women's basketball team is not a "bubble" team. They are in good shape for an NCAA Tournament bid and here is why:
1. Arizona is 7-4 in the Pac-10 and has just two away games left on its schedule. It is not inconceivable that Arizona could run the table, or at the very least, win six of its last seven games. A 14-4 or 13-5 Pac-10 record will land the Cats in the Big Dance.
2. The Wildcats' R.P.I. (Mike Greenfield's Ratings Percentage Index) is comfortably in the top 30, at 22nd. Stanford is 8th, Washington is 17th and UCLA is 47th. So, the top three teams in the Pac-10 are obvious. The Cats' 37th-ranked schedule is also the most difficult in the conference, with Stanford next at 46th. If Arizona's numbers stay there, an NCAA bid is forthcoming.
3. Because Arizona's schedule has been one of the most difficult in the Pac-10, if Joan Bonvicini's team wins 20 games, that would be just six more wins with the Pac-10 Tournament still ahead. Their strength of schedule would earn them a bid to the tournament.
4. Shawntinice Polk appears ready to dominate. Yes, the freshman star is already second in the Pac-10 in scoring and leads the conference in rebounding, but her performance against Oregon last Saturday (23 points, 15 rebounds) gave Arizona fans much hope. If she plays anywhere near that level down the stretch, the Wildcats are in the field of 64.
No, Arizona has not yet solidified a bid to the NCAA Tournament. However, they are coming home, and they have been devastating this season at McKale Center. They have lost just once (to then-#3 LSU in overtime) at home and have blown out everyone except USC and Illinois. They have a huge game coming up on Thursday against Washington, and Stanford still has yet to visit McKale. If the Wildcats continue their dominance on their home floor, they will finish no worse than third in the conference standings, and this season, that is not a "bubble" position.
So, at least for now, enjoy "bubbles" in the bathtub and for use at weddings. Leave the "bubbles" to teams like UCLA that have played easy schedules and have nothing to show for a decent overall record. The Wildcats are not a "bubble" team. They are solid Pac-10 Tournament contenders, and they will earn an NCAA berth. Come to McKale on Thursday and see what I mean!
See you on the radio!
February broadcasts on KJLL 1330 AM:
Monday, Feb. 4 = The Joan Bonvicini Coach's Show, 6-7 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 6 = Washington at Arizona, 6:30 p.m. for Wildcat Warm up
Saturday, Feb. 8 = Washington State at Arizona, 1:30 p.m. for Wildcat Warm up
Monday, Feb. 10 = The Joan Bonvicini Coach's Show, 6-7 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 14 = Arizona at UCLA, 7:30 p.m. for Wildcat Warm up
Sunday, Feb. 16 = Arizona at USC, 2:30 p.m. for Wildcat Warm up
Monday, February 17th=The Joan Bonvicini Coaches Show 6:00-7:00p.m.
Saturday, February 22nd=ASU at Arizona 12:30p.m. for Wildcat Warm up.
Monday, February 24th=The Joan Bonvicini Coaches Show 6:00-7:00p.m.
Thursday, February 27th=Stanford at Arizona 6:30p.m. for Wildcat Warm up.
Saturday, March 1st=California at Arizona 12:30p.m. for Wildcat Warm up.
Monday, March 3rd=Final Joan Bonvicini Coaches Show 6:00-7:00p.m.
Friday-Monday, March 7-10 at Pac Ten Tournament TBA