With the first half of conference play concluded, I wanted to take a look around the league and start looking seriously at prospective outcomes, including but not limited to NCAA appearances. First, here are the current standings:
Tiebreakers in the table are head-to-head, so at this point we're in 5th despite the better overall record than Cal. Let's first look at who's in the mix for postseason tournaments. I'd say all of the top 5 teams have a chance for the NCAA tourney and USC and Stanford could still make the NIT. This broad statement is based off of nothing more than win-loss record. The top 5 except Cal are widely recognized as having a shot at the NCAAs, but Cal has just enough of a non-con record to justify making it as an at-large if they go bonkers the rest of the season. USC certainly has the marquee wins but has already lost too many games to mediocre competition, so I'd say their only real hope is winning the conference tournament, which they certainly could do. Oregon or Oregon State could probably host a CBI game if they wanted to put up the money, but I don't see them having much of a shot at anything better. ASU is just, well... looking forward to next year? Now for the remaining schedule, not counting the conference tournaments:
Remaining Schedule: at Oregon schools, hosting Bay Area schools, at Arizona schools, WSU @ UW, and hosting the LA schools.
Both schools are looking to go on five game winning streaks, with UW playing ASU before Arizona. Neither team had huge amounts of trouble with the Oregon schools at home, and while it's never easy to win on the road both schools should be favored to sweep. By contrast, both teams had trouble in the Bay Area but should get a favorable home court advantage to see them over the top this time around. You'd have to figure Washington only has two real tests left, @ Arizona and hosting Wazzu. Arizona State is a team both schools should look out for. They were only swept this last weekend by a combined 3 points! Could be dangerous at home. The LA schools probably present more of a challenge to us, seeing as how we got swept down there to open conference play. However, we should expect to at least split at home.
My Outlook: UW 8-1, WSU 7-2. KenPom says: UW 8-1, WSU 6-3. The Arizona game is a toss-up for us, and I'm not sure if we will win at UW, so I'll mark us for two losses. UCLA is a little scary too but we really should win at home.
Remaining Schedule: at Bay Area schools, Arizona @ ASU, hosting Washington schools, at the LA schools, and hosting Oregon schools.
Arizona sure has a difficult back end of the schedule. They'd love a sweep this week because they have a really tough four game stretch after their rivalry game. At least they end the season with what should be two very winnable games. ASU might get their only remaining wins of the season against the Oregon schools too.
My Outlook: Arizona 6-3, ASU 2-7. KenPom says: Arizona 6-3, ASU 3-6. I see Arizona splitting their 3 tough weeks and sweeping the bottom 3 teams in the conference. ASU is probably just playing to defend home court, which I hope they do unsuccessfully against us.
Remaining Schedule: UCLA @ USC, hosting Oregon schools, at the Bay Area schools, hosting Arizona schools, at the Washington schools. UCLA also hosts St. Johns on Saturday, a game which suddenly has more importance thanks to their upset of Duke the other day.
These schools have a relatively easy home schedule remaining but a very difficult road schedule. UCLA has all its obstacles to the NCAA's in front of it, and they really need to beat Arizona, USC, and split their road trips. Beating St. Johns would be helpful too. They could turn a marginal resume into a very impressive one with a strong finish to the season. But they could just as easily lose the important ones and drop to the NIT. Edge of your seat stuff, here. USC could make a late play for the NCAA's if they win out but short of that I'm not seeing it for them.
My Outlook: UCLA 4-5 (5-5 overall), USC 6-3. KenPom says: UCLA 4-5 (5-5 overall), USC 5-4. I think USC wins the rematch with Arizona and beats UCLA, but otherwise the two teams are pretty similar.
Bay Area schools
Remaining Schedule: Hosting Arizona schools, at Washington schools, hosting LA schools, at Oregon schools, Seattle @ Stanford, Stanford @ Cal.
If they can hold home court, both these schools could finish in the top half of the Pac-10. Cal could even make a fairly impressive case as a bubble squad. Cal has about as favorable a schedule as anyone in the league, though I don't see them winning either game in Washington. Stanford has the opportunity but probably not the ability to make a late run, but they are a tough out at home and could mess with the top of the standings by pulling off an upset or two.
My Outlook: Cal 5-4, Stanford 3-6 (4-6 overall). KenPom says: Cal 5-4 , Stanford 3-6 (4-6 overall). The LA schools and Arizona are the tossups here, as I don't see either team winning in Washington or doing better than a split in Oregon. Ultimately I think they have too many weaknesses to make a run despite their favorable schedule.
Remaining Schedule: Hosting Washington schools, at LA schools, OSU @ Oregon, hosting Bay Area schools, at Arizona schools.
Boy, it just gets better and better for these guys. An unfavorable home slate next week with two tough road trips after that. Probably both teams have a shot at sweeping the Bay Area schools at home, but the real difference in the standings will likely come from the rivalry game. How soon does football season start?
My Outlook: Oregon 2-7, OSU 1-8. KenPom says: Oregon 3-6 , OSU 2-7. Ken actually has OSU blanking out the rest of the season game-by-game but apparently figures they'll nick two games somewhere.
So overall, I think you'd have to say UW has the most favorable remaining schedule. WSU and Cal have pretty good remaining schedules, while Arizona's is a little tougher. UCLA has the best chance to make a statement over the last nine games but by no means will it be easy. Here's how I think the final standings will look, more or less.
This ends up looking to me like the top 3 teams making the NCAA's, UCLA and USC and Cal all having reasonable shots at the NIT, and everyone else doing their own thing. If this holds up, we should have a good bubble resume with wins over (at least) Washington, UCLA, USC, Gonzaga, Cal, Baylor, Portland, and Miss. State (they've finally got their act together). Throw in a win at Arizona and we're really in business. Having read all this, or more likely having skipped to the end, what do you guys think?
As always, Go Cougs!