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Figuring out WSU’s path to Pac-12 tournament seeding in final weekend

How high can the Cougars get?

PULLMAN, WA - FEBRUARY 23: Washington State Cougars Men’s Basketball versus the University of Washington Huskies at Beasley Coliseum - Washington State guard Michael Flowers (12) and forward Mouhamed Gueye (35) Jack Ellis/CougCenter

Happy Friday Coug fans. And Happy Craig’s Bachelor Party weekend to those who celebrate!

Currently, your Washington State Cougars men’s basketball team sits tied for sixth in the Pac-12 standings heading into their final matchup against the Oregon Ducks on Saturday afternoon. While the team is tied for sixth in the standings, they would be the seventh seed in the Pac-12 tournament due to tiebreakers. Allow me to explain.

The Pac-12 standings and seedings differ from each other. The Cougars have the edge over the rival Washington Huskies in the standings with the better overall record of 17-13 to UW’s 15-14, but sit below the in-state rivals in the Pac-12 tournament seeding with UW having the tiebreaker.

When two teams have the same conference record and have split the season series, the Pac-12 then resorts to best winning percentage vs the team occupying the highest spot in the standings, continuing down until one team has an advantage. The Huskies have the advantage with wins over Oregon and Arizona State. Putting them at .500 and 1.000 win percentages against those teams respectively. As it currently stands, WSU carries no wins against Oregon and a .500 record against ASU. So even if WSU beats Oregon tomorrow, UW still has the advantage, having the better record vs ASU.

Before we dive any further, let’s take a look at the current Pac-12 standings and everybody’s final matchup on Saturday:

  1. Arizona 17-2 | vs California
  2. USC 14-5 | at UCLA
  3. UCLA 14-5 | vs USC
  4. Colorado 11-8 | at Utah
  5. Oregon 11-8 | at WSU
  6. WSU 10-9 | vs Oregon
  7. UW 10-9 | vs Oregon State
  8. ASU 9-10 | vs Stanford
  9. Stanford 8-11 | at Arizona State
  10. California 5-14 | at Arizona
  11. Utah 4-15 | vs Colorado
  12. Oregon State 1-18 | at UW

Only two seeds have been locked up. Arizona secured the one seed and Oregon State has secured the 12 seed. Thanks to some perfect scheduling, USC and UCLA will play for the two seed with the loser claiming the third spot. The rest is up to a list of what-if scenarios. As for your WSU Cougars, they can finish anywhere from sixth to eighth. The only guarantees are that WSU will be playing in the first round and will have the first choice of what jersey they will wear in that first round game.

Let’s dive into how WSU can grab any of those seeds.

6 Seed

In order for WSU to grab the highest possible seed, the scenario is pretty simple, but doesn’t exactly look easy.

WSU beats Oregon

OSU beats UW

With UW owning that tiebreaker, WSU needs to separate themselves by a game to get ahead of the Huskies. Just like in football, WSU fans will be rooting for the Beavers to pull off a regular season finale upset to boost the Cougars seeding.

If WSU does get a six seed, they will be playing the 11 seed. The 11 seed will either be Cal or Utah. Utah currently sits in 11th and can only get out with a win over Colorado and a Cal loss to top-seed Arizona. If this happens, Cal falls to 11. Cal avoids this by simply upsetting Arizona or with a Utah loss. This would be the final game of the first round, beginning at 8:30pm on Wednesday March 9th.

A win in round one as the sixth seed will send them to the second round to play the loser of the USC vs UCLA game as they will be the three seed.

7 Seed

This is the most likely seed for WSU at a 50% chance. There are a few ways in which this happens:

WSU, UW and ASU all win

WSU, UW and ASU all lose

WSU and UW win, ASU loses

Essentially it would require WSU and UW to have the same result with ASU not doing better than either team. ASU owns the tiebreaker over WSU, having a win over a top-three seed in UCLA.

Once again, WSU would either get Cal or Utah. Cal is the more likely team but can easily be passed by Utah with a Utah win and a Cal loss to Arizona. Cal again just needs a win or a Utah loss to lock into the 10 seed. This game would tip-off at 6pm.

The seven seed will play the two seed, which would be the winner of USC vs UCLA on Saturday.

8 Seed

In the nightmare scenario, WSU would find themselves playing the nine seed for the chance to play the top-seeded Arizona Wildcats in the second round. In order for the Cougars to find themselves as they eighth seed:

WSU loses to Oregon

ASU beats Stanford

Regardless of how UW does against OSU, both UW and ASU have tiebreakers over WSU. If WSU does end up as the eighth seed, they will play the Stanford Cardinal who guarantee themselves the nine seed with a loss to ASU. That game would tipoff the Pac-12 tournament at noon.

Despite what pessimistic fans may say, there is still plenty to play for over the next week for WSU. The Cougars have already secured their highest ever seed since the Pac-10 became the Pac-12 and can grab their first six seed in the tournament since the 2011 tournament. And while an at-large bid seems unlikely, WSU can still earn an automatic bid. The road is definitely tough but is still possible. Look at what Oregon State last year. The Beavers upset UCLA, Oregon and Colorado to earn themselves an automatic bid and turned it into a magical Elite Eight run.

Even if an NCAA tournament appearance isn’t in the cards this year, an NIT appearance would still be big for the program to gain the extra games, revenue and experience.

Regardless, this has still been WSU’s best season in a long time. Even if it didn’t meet our high hopes. Let’s go out on a high note with a win over Oregon tomorrow on national television.