Michelle Smith: Pac-12 women's basketball teams jockey for postseason positions
All of a sudden, March is on the horizon, the postseason is a handful of weeks away, and Pac-12 teams are jockeying for their positions.
With two weeks left in the regular season, a few makeup games on the schedule and the Pac-12 Tournament drawing closer, there are things we know…
Stanford, Arizona and Oregon are safe bets to take their place in the field of 68, all three appearing as top 16 seeds in the NCAA’s latest bracket reveal.
Beyond that, it’s a lot of bubbling — and likely some nail-biting — for the long list of teams that are looking for teams looking to solidify their positions.
Coming off an exciting weekend of conference play — including rivalry games in Arizona and Oregon — some NCAA resumes surely got bolstered with upset wins over ranked teams.
As many as six additional Pac-12 teams still have a shot at the NCAA field with time left to prove their worthiness based on their position in the NCAA NET Rankings, the new evaluation tool used by the women’s basketball committee to select teams for the tournament field.
Let’s take a look at where they stand.
- Record: 12-9, 4-4
- NET: 39
- The Sun Devils, who missed the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time in seven years, have had a big few weeks, a run that has definitely changed their NCAA trajectory with consecutive wins over Oregon State, Oregon and Arizona before falling 62-58 to the Wildcats in Tucson on Sunday. The way ASU has been playing, behind the go-to scoring of Jade Loville, it will be a team no Pac-12 foe will want to face down the stretch. ESPN’s Bracketology has ASU as one of the “last four byes” in the field this week.
- Record: 16-7, 5-7
- NET: 34
- The Buffaloes, who haven’t made the NCAA field since 2013, still have a very good NET ranking, buoyed by their undefeated run through nonconference play and their two opening Pac-12 victories. But Colorado hasn’t been able to sustain its momentum, losing six of its last seven games and will need to pick up some wins in the stretch run or advance a couple of games into the conference tournament in order to feel secure. Bracketology also lists the Buffaloes as one of the “last four byes” this week.
- Record: 12-9, 5-6
- NET: 49
- The Pac-12 season has been a roller coaster for the Beavers, who opened the conference slate with four wins in five games, and then lost four straight games in a challenging stretch against Arizona, Arizona State, Stanford and Oregon. OSU finished off the rivalry weekend Sunday by knocking off the Ducks, and that will make a difference on its late-season resume. The Beavers will be taking on the Cardinal at home again this weekend. A difficult road trip to close the season at Utah and Colorado is an opportunity to improve their NCAA position. This week’s Bracketology has the Beavers, who have played in the last seven NCAA fields, as the “last team in.”
- Record: 11-8, 6-6
- NET: 53
- The Bruins’ injuries, short bench and COVID interruptions have taken a toll on their NCAA position over the past two months, but there is reason for optimism. UCLA has won two of its last three games after a difficult stretch of four straight losses. The Bruins have made the NCAA Tournament five years in a row (and would have made it in the COVID-cancelled year of 2020) and haven’t failed to put up a winning record in conference play since 2015.
- Record: 15-8, 6-5
- NET: 23
- Looking to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011, the Utes and the first under head coach Lynne Roberts, possess the best NET ranking outside of Stanford, Arizona and Oregon and have been playing like a team with their eyes on the tournament field, winning five of their last six games, a strong turnaround from their 1-4 start to conference play.
- Record: 16-8, 8-5
- NET: 67
- One of the conference’s hottest teams is oddly in the position of having the lowest NET ranking among the NCAA contenders. But the Cougars, who made their first NCAA appearance in 30 years last season, are building momentum with six wins in the last eight games. That run includes a tough sweep of the Los Angeles schools last weekend highlighted a game-winning basket by Krystal Leger-Walker to knock off UCLA. WSU has a tough finishing stretch that includes consecutive games against Arizona State, Arizona and Stanford. That leaves the Cougars with plenty of opportunities to build their case heading into what could be a make-or-break Pac-12 Tournament run.