Pac-12 Selection Sunday preview: Oregon awaits seeding, bubble teams feel good

Eric Evans Photography

LAS VEGAS – Selection Sunday could be historic for the Pac-12 Conference.

It's possible seven teams could reach the 2016 NCAA tournament. For the first time in Pac-12 Tournament history, every higher-seeded team came out victorious, helping the Oregon Ducks fight for a prime seed in the Big Dance and opening the door seemingly for a half dozen other conference teams to get a shot at NCAA play in March.

Here's all you need to know about the Pac-12 heading into Selection Sunday.

GOING FOR SEVEN

Consider that Oregon State's KenPom rating sits 60th, one spot ahead of a likely NIT-bound Washington squad, and there could be concern for the Beavers (19-12). Oregon State went 5-9 against top-50 teams, though three of those wins came against RPI top-25 squads.

Yet, without any bad losses to nudge the Beavers down the list of potential NCAA tournament teams, they should be safe.

ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has OSU in the tournament as a No. 9 seed as of Saturday night. So do several other NCAA Tournament bracket predictions.  Most have Oregon State as a seventh, eighth or ninth seed.

The selection committee, after all, prioritizes RPI rather than efficiency rankings, as ESPN's Eamonn Brennan points out, and since Oregon State sits 31st there with a 12th-ranked strength of schedule, Wayne Tinkle's squad should be good to break a 26-year NCAA tournament drought.

Meanwhile, USC went 1-7 against RPI top-25 teams and lost four games against RPI teams ranked 51-100.

But by efficiency standards, KenPom likes the Trojans fifth among Pac-12 seeds and at 48th ahead of Colorado (54th) and Oregon State (60th). A blowout against UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament before a hard-fought loss to Utah should be enough to overcome a 2-6 stretch to finish the regular season.

Plus, the committee tends to take the whole of the season anyhow.

“To hear that the Colorados and the USC and the Oregon State might not get in the tournament is a shame in my opinion,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said after the Utes' loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament Championship Game. “It'd be a dang shame if we didn't get those teams in the NCAA tournament.”

OREGON MAKES A CASE FOR NO. 1 SEED

The 28-6 Ducks entered the Pac-12 Tournament title game as a consideration for a No. 1 seed and left it with a statement. They're 7-1 against RPI top-25 teams and have a fifth-ranked strength of schedule, but KenPom's rankings place Oregon at just 13th.

Still, only the likely top overall seed Kansas Jayhawks have more top-50 RPI victories (14) than the Ducks (12).

“Number one, I believe that Oregon is right there to be a 1, 2 seed,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller Friday, after his team fell to Oregon in the Pac-12 semifinals. "I guess everyone has a different opinion, but they're certainly one of college basketball's best teams. I respect their team a great deal.”

North Carolina, Michigan State, Villanova and Virginia – even with the last two teams' losses in their conference titles games are all favorites but not locks to earn No. 1 seeds.

“That's for the committee to decide,” Altman said Saturday. “We just want to play. The committee puts a tremendous amount of work in. I've said a long time ago I don't politic for seeding.”

Altman also wouldn't reveal whether he'd rather take a No. 1 seed or perhaps accept a second seed with an appointment closer to home, say, in Spokane, Wash. That's where Lunardi's bracket currently spots the Ducks.

OUTSIDE INFLUENCES

The Pac-12 representation in the NCAA tournament likely comes down to outside influences.

Pac-12 coaches will be rooting for sure-fire tournament teams to secure automatic bids with conference title game wins on Sunday, while hoping bubble teams falling – or the ones that already have – don't get the same respect as the league with the second-best conference RPI in the nation.

Among things to watch:

How many SEC teams make the big dance? Only Kentucky and Texas A&M appear to be in, but South Carolina and Vanderbilt are squarely on the bubble.

Will 27-win Monmouth, which faltered in its MAC tournament final against Iona, make the big dance? Same goes for 26-win Valpo and 27-win Saint Mary's.

In the Big Ten, Michigan pushed into the bubble picture with a strong showing in the conference tournament.

Fresno State on Saturday punched a ticket in the weak Mountain West Conference by beating 25-win San Diego State, perhaps forcing two of those lower-seeded schools into the fold.

In the ACC, Pittsburgh and Syracuse are on the bubble. The Pac-12 would hope its conference RPI and strength of schedule gives teams like USC and Oregon State the nudge ahead of those squads.

The Atlantic 10 title between Saint Joe's, which is considered a lock, and bubble team VCU could dictate another spot available or not.

Arkansas-Little Rock, with 28 wins heading into Sunday, would hurt its case to make the NCAA tournament by losing in the Sun Belt title game Sunday, as would UConn in the American championship game with a loss to a less-than-stellar Memphis squad.

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