ESPN's Joe Lunardi has Pac-12 creeping toward five bids in new Bracketology
Following back-to-back wins over ranked conference opponents at home this week, Arizona moved up onto the top line of Joe Lunardi’s bracketology to earn one of four No. 1 seeds in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, replacing Baylor.
Arizona, ranked No. 7 in the polls but expected to rise on Monday, beat No. 3 UCLA on Thursday and then beat No. 19 USC on Saturday. Both wins were impressive for the Wildcats as both games featured a March-like intensity throughout. The Cats moved into sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 standings and now sit at 19-2 on the season.
On the other end, ESPN’s Lunardi has the 15-7 Oregon Ducks in as one of the last four byes in the tournament field and the surging Washington State Cougars up into his first four out category.
— Joe Lunardi (@ESPNLunardi) February 6, 2022
Despite the 0-2 week, UCLA is still projected to be a 3-seed in the field by Lunardi. The Bruins have road games against Stanford and USC this upcoming week.
USC still sits at No. 26 in the NET rankings. The Trojans are firmly in the field with a 2-1 record in Quad 1 games and a 14-1 record against Q3 and Q4 opponents. They’ll play Pacific in non-conference action on Tuesday and then welcome UCLA to Galen Center next Saturday.
Early in the season, the Pac-12 was viewed as a three-bid league and nothing more. But both the Ducks and Cougars have been red-hot since the turn of the calendar year, with Oregon winners in nine of their last 10 games and Washington State 6-2 since Jan. 1.
The Ducks have two Quad 1 wins so far this season, and are 12-3 in all other games. They’re 5-1 in true road games, including back-to-back wins over ranked UCLA and USC in Los Angeles. An overtime loss to Arizona State on Dec. 5 was also helped a bit Saturday by a Sun Devil win over the Bruins. With that result and the Ducks’ win over Utah, Oregon moved a little further away from the bubble Saturday and out of the “last four in” category.
On the Cougars’ side, there aren’t any marque wins on the résumé yet, but they’ve been buoyed by the fact no one has really been able to blow them out. All seven losses have come by six points or less. They’ve risen up to 36th in the NET ranking despite three losses against Quad 3 or 4 teams.
Wazzu has everything in front of it, though. Over its last eight games of the regular season, WSU will play Arizona at home, UCLA and USC on the road, and Oregon twice. Pull out a couple of wins, stay competitive in the rest, and Washington State has a real chance to go dancing.