by Jimmy Boegle
OK, we all know the UA men's basketball team has been blowing chunks lately. They've lost two in a row, four of their last seven and are 5-8 since starting 12-1 and being ranked No. 7 in the country. They're now tied for fifth in the Pac-10 with an 8-7 conference record. They're as close to eighth place as they are to third place.
So ... what do the alleged media "experts" have to say about their tourney chances? Here are several opinions.
Joe Lunardi of ESPN.com's Bracketology has the UA as a No. 9 seed. Andy Glockner, ESPN.com's "Bubble Watch" writer, says:
Let me start off by saying there's no way Arizona would miss the NCAAs if selections were made today. That said, after getting swept at home by the L.A. schools, Arizona's now 1-7 against the four highest-rated Pac-10 schools (UCLA, USC, Wazzu and Oregon) and 5-8 in its last 13 games, including the disaster against North Carolina. The SOS is tops in the country, which is a huge part of their No. 10 RPI, but the final three are on the road. Arizona State is 0-14 in league play, but its last five losses are by a total of 20 points. Then 'Zona goes to the Bay Area. 9-9 probably is more than enough, but what happens if that also includes a quarterfinal loss in the Pac-10 tourney as a 5- or 6-seed, meaning the Cats would have lost 11 of their last 17? This has been an ugly ride for a team that beat UNLV, Louisville, Memphis, San Diego State and New Mexico State in nonconference play. Again, they deserve to get in, but what's the limit on benefit of the doubt?
Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel also has them as a No. 9. He has this to say about the Pac-10:
What a bizarre week it was for USC (19-8, 9-5 in the Pac-10), which last Thursday scored its first win at Arizona in 21 years, then followed it up three nights later by falling at No. 230 Arizona State, which had entered the game on a 15-game losing streak. That one loss dropped the Trojans 13 spots in the RPI rankings, to No. 60, and from a five seed on my bracket to a No. 7. The Pac-10 isn't looking quite as imposing as it did earlier this season. While UCLA and Washington State remain solid top-three seeds, both USC and Stanford figure to fall somewhere between five and eight on the bracket, while Arizona and Oregon are in danger of falling into the bottom half.
What does this all mean? The UA, as of now, appears solid for making the NCAA tournament—but a collapse over their final three games (none of which will be easy: a road game at ASU—which beat USC three days after the Trojans throttled the Wildcats—followed by road games with Stanford and California) could doom them. Losing two of three would leave the Cats with a .500 conference record, and a sweep would have them 8-10. Then comes the Pac-10 tournament (something which I hate, by the way), which could save—or doom—Arizona's NCAA hopes.
Keep your fingers crossed, Wildcat fans.