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Pac-12 tournament seeding scenarios for WSU

Let’s dive into the madness.

PULLMAN, WA - FEBRUARY 20: Washington State Cougars Women’s Basketball versus the University of Arizona Wildcats at Beasley Coliseum - Washington State guard Charlisse Leger-Walker (5) Jack Ellis/CougCenter

Happy Friday Coug fans. With the Pac-12 women’s basketball regular season coming to a close tomorrow afternoon, the Cougars currently sit in third in the Pac-12 standings behind the Stanford Cardinal and the Oregon Ducks.

The Cougs and Ducks are technically tied for second, with both teams having a conference win percentage of .625, but the Ducks own the tiebreaker with a 1-0 advantage in head-to-head matchups this season. With just one game left on the slate for all 12 teams, WSU can finish as high as the second seed, earning them a first round bye in the Pac-12 tournament next weekend, or as low as a fifth seed, forcing them to play in the first round.

Before we dive into how WSU could secure an unprecedented two seed, let’s first understand how the standings are done with teams ending the season with a different number of conference games played, ranging anywhere from 12-17. We need to also understand where everybody is currently sitting and how their winning percentage can change with a win or loss on Saturday.

Due to COVID issues that brought about a number of game cancelations and postponements, not every team is going to end the year with the same amount of games played. For example, WSU is going to end the season, barring a setback on Saturday morning, with 17 conference games played, tied for the most in conference with Oregon and USC. Cal on the other hand, will end with a conference low 12 games played. This complicates things; the teams can’t simply be arranged by wins and losses. We have to use a team’s winning percentage.

In WSU’s case, a win would put them at a .647 winning percentage. A loss sets them back to a win percentage of .588. When we look in the rear view mirror, the only teams that can catch WSU would be Arizona and Utah, each having to win and WSU having to lose to pass the Cougs. Arizona, only having 16 conference games played, can achieve a winning percentage as high as .625 and Utah with a high of .600.

Here’s a current look at where the Pac-12 sits:

  1. Stanford | 15-0 (1.000)
  2. Oregon | 10-6 (.625)
  3. WSU | 10-6 (.625)
  4. Arizona | 9-6 (.600)
  5. Utah | 8-6 (.571)
  6. Colorado | 8-7 (.533)
  7. UCLA | 7-8 (.467)
  8. OSU | 6-8 (.429)
  9. ASU | 4-8 (.333)
  10. USC | 5-11 (.313)
  11. Cal | 2-9 (.182)
  12. UW | 2-11 (.154)

The only seed that is secured is Stanford as the number one overall seed. UW has basically secured the 12 seed as the only way they have a shot to jump to 11 is if they hand Stanford their first loss of the season and Cal loses to WSU.

With the current standings and winning percentages above, let’s take a look at who can pass whom based off what the teams’ winning percentages can look like at the end of Saturday based off if they win or lose their matchups.

  1. Stanford | vs Washington | Win: 1.000, Loss: .938 |
  2. Oregon* | at Utah | Win: .647, Loss: .588 |
  3. WSU* | at California | Win: .647, Loss: .588 |
  4. Arizona* | vs USC | Win: .625, Loss: .563
  5. Utah | vs Oregon | Win: .600, Loss: .533
  6. Colorado* | vs Oregon State | Win: .563, Loss: .500
  7. UCLA* | at Arizona State | Win: .500, Loss: .438
  8. OSU | at Colorado | Win: .467, Loss: .400
  9. ASU | vs UCLA | Win: .385, Loss: .308
  10. USC | at Arizona | Win: .353, Loss: .294
  11. Cal | vs Washington State | Win: .250, Loss: .167
  12. UW | at Stanford | Win: .214, Loss: .143

*As for the tiebreakers, they’re all an easy head-to-head tiebreaker. Oregon owns the tiebreaker over WSU with a 1-0 head-to-head record. Arizona has the 1-0 tiebreaker over Colorado and Colorado has a 2-0 tiebreaker over UCLA.

Now that we have all the background information set, let’s jump into how WSU can end up with a coveted first-round bye, what it takes to get each seed and who they’re possible matchups can be.

First Round Bye

First of all, in order for WSU to secure a first-round bye, there are number of results that can happen.

WSU beats Cal OR Oregon beats Utah OR USC beats Arizona

Any of these three scenarios guarantees WSU falls no lower than fourth.

Now, onto the seedings.

2 Seed

The road for WSU to grab the highest remaining seed in the Pac-12 tournament is simple:

WSU beats Cal, Utah beats Oregon

This launches both WSU and Utah ahead of Oregon and could kick Oregon out of a bye entirely if Arizona also wins.

As the two seed, WSU would face the winner of the 7-seed vs 10-seed game. The teams they can face are the following:

7 seed: UCLA or Oregon State

10 seed: USC or ASU

UCLA gets the seven spot by beating Arizona State OR with an Oregon State loss to Colorado. Oregon State can jump ahead of UCLA with a win AND a UCLA loss.

The scenario is similar for Arizona State and USC. ASU avoids the 10 spot and grabs the 9 seed instead by winning OR with a USC loss. USC will remain locked at 10 with a loss or a Sun Devil win.

The second round will start on Thursday, March 3rd with two seed game starting around 6 p.m.

3 Seed

The three seed is the most likely scenario for the Cougs as it occurs in 37.5% of scenarios. WSU has a few roads it can take to get the third seed. The only team that can jump an 11-7 WSU team is an 11-7 Oregon. Meaning any scenario with WSU getting three, involves Oregon grabbing the two seed. So, let’s split this scenario up based on WSU’s result.

If WSU wins:

Oregon beats Utah

If WSU loses:

Oregon beats Utah, USC beats Arizona

As a three seed, WSU plays the winner of the 6-vs-11 matchup. The possible teams are:

6 seed: Colorado or Utah

11 seed: Cal or Washington

The most likely of these seeds are Colorado at six and California at 11. In order for Colorado to jump to five, they need a win AND a Utah loss. Utah falls to six with a loss AND a Colorado win. Washington has the most unlikely path to rise in the standings as they need to go to Palo Alto and beat the Stanford Cardinal AND California needs to beat WSU. Cal just simply needs to either win or for Stanford to win. Leaving Cal as the likely 11 seed.

The three seed game will be the final game of the day on March 3rd, tipping off around 8:30PM.

4 Seed

The four spot is tied with the two spot for second most likely to occur at 25%. WSU can only fall to the brink of a first round bye if they lose against Cal. Then, it would all hinder on what happens in Arizona vs USC.

If Arizona wins:

Cal beats WSU, Oregon beats Utah

If Arizona loses:

Cal beats WSU, Utah beats Oregon

While the four seed isn’t the most ideal, it still secures a huge first round bye. However, you are set up in a much tougher spot for your second round matchups. The teams WSU could see as a 4 seed is the winner of the 5 vs 12 game.

5 Seed: Arizona, Utah, Colorado

12 Seed: Washington

Because the only way for WSU to fall to four is if Cal beats them, Cal would secure the 11 seed by winning. Meaning Washington would be locked into the basement 12 seed. The 5 seed is a little more complex.

Colorado gets fifth with a win and a Utah loss.

Arizona gets fifth with a loss and a Utah win.

Utah gets fifth with a loss, an Arizona win and a Colorado loss.

The four seed game will be the first of the day, tipping off at noon.

5 Seed

This would be worst case scenario for the Cougs. Thankfully, it is the least likely of scenarios to happen at just 12.5%. However just because the chances are low, doesn’t mean they aren’t very realistic. Of course, WSU would have to lose to Cal for this to happen, but the rest of the lone scenario is still possible.

Cal beats WSU, Arizona beats USC, Utah beats Oregon

This scenario results in a tie between WSU and Oregon at a .588 win percentage and Oregon has the tiebreaker with a 1-0 head-to-head record.

With the Cougars now having the play the 12 seed in the first round, their only possible matchup as the five seed would be the 12-seeded in-state rival Washington. This game would tipoff on Wednesday, March 2nd and be the first of the tournament at noon.

WSU can still drastically improve or hurt their possible NCAA tournament seeding with the results that happen on Saturday and in Las Vegas next weekend.

As of Friday morning, Charlie Creme currently has the Cougars sitting as 10 seed facing the Nebraska Cornhuskers. A deep run in a loaded conference tournament has a chance to significantly boost that seed and give the Cougars a much more favorable route to advance further in the NCAA tournament.

The road begins Saturday. With half the games tipping off at 11 and the other at noon, it makes for some easy scoreboard watching. Coug fans may want to watch the first hour of Arizona and USC. If Arizona is cruising to a win by WSU’s tipoff in Berkely at noon, it makes a WSU win that much more vital. Oregon and Utah will be tipping off at the same time as WSU so be sure to keep a tab on that game as well.

To simply put it, just keep winning Cardiac Cougs.