Citizen Staff Writer
Arizona not making the NCAA tournament? Why, that would be like . . . well, it would be like . . . ah, let’s have ex-Cat Eugene Edgerson take it from here.
“Arizona not in the NCAAs? That would be like eating Easter Bunny stew,” Edgerson said.
“It’s just not right. It’s just not supposed to happen.”
With admiration for Edgerson’s aptitude with an analogy, it’s that last part that sums it up as well as anything.
It’s. Just. Not. Supposed. To. Happen.
Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood chose his words carefully Tuesday when asked what it would mean for the Wildcats to make the NCAA Tournament, extending their streak of consecutive appearances to 24.
“I don’t want to overstate this, but I sure as heck don’t want to understate it,” said Livengood, on the eve of UA’s Pac-10 tournament play-in game Wednesday against Oregon State in Los Angeles. “I think it would be miraculous in terms of what we’ve gone through.”
He quickly offered clarification. He didn’t mean miraculous in the sense of it could never happen, but “it would be an incredible, incredible feat. I still believe that it not only can but will happen.”
Will it really?
Let’s just say it better.
I’m clearly on record as being empathetic to this season’s unique challenges, but that doesn’t mean failing to reach the NCAA Tournament is an acceptable option.
Again, I’ll let Edgerson, an all-hustle reserve forward from 1997 to 2001, take it from here.
“I have wanted to go down and talk to the guys and let them know that, hey, this is Arizona basketball,” said Edgerson, disappointed that his treks with the Harlem Globetrotters have prevented him from delivering a pep talk.
“It’s about going to the tournament every year, about scoring, defending, making your opponent shoot a low percentage, about guys stepping up to help the team when other guys go down.
“I don’t make excuses and I don’t accept excuses from anyone else. If the guys do not make it to the tournament, they simply underachieved. And if they can sleep at night knowing they underachieved, I feel sorry for them.”
Arizona is 17-13 in the eyes of the selection committee (the victory over lower-division Adams State doesn’t count) and finished in seventh place in the Pac-10 with an 8-10 record.
As you know by now, if you have been following along at all, no Pac-10 team has ever been invited to the NCAA tournament with a 9-9 conference record, let alone a lesser mark.
The selection committee has picked at-large teams with sub-.500 conference records plenty of times, so that could be good news. But precedence, either way, is unconvincing.
It’s useless to compare Arizona to teams of the past because Arizona isn’t competing with teams from the past.
The Wildcats aren’t even competing, necessarily, with the other Pac-10 bubble teams – Arizona State and Oregon. Those teams each were 9-9 in league play and swept UA.
UA just needs to be one of 34 teams to get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
There are 31 automatic bids that go to conference winners. I’d say there are 21 or 22 teams ahead of Arizona in the at-large pool.
That leaves about a dozen spots available for the Wildcats, whose full résumé is better than the majority of teams – about 25 or so – still somewhere on the bubble.
Those who dabble in the art of bracketology – “in fact, it’s probably not a bad field to look at getting into it,” Livengood said with a chuckle – figure that the Cats have done just enough to be in.
But things change.
Upsets in conference tournaments, such as San Diego earning an automatic bid by beating Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference title game on Monday, eat up at-large spots.
Little is known, but this we hold self-evident:
Arizona won’t make the NCAA Tournament if it loses to Oregon State on Wednesday night in the Pac-10 tournament.
Arizona will make the NCAA Tournament if it beats Oregon State and then Stanford on Thursday.
Arizona is probably in if it beats Oregon State and loses a close game to Stanford.
If it comes down to that final scenario, I think the Wildcats are more safe than not because they have done exactly what the 10-member selection committee wants to see.
They played a tough nonconference schedule – credit to coach Lute Olson for always being willing to do so – and have 10 victories against teams ranked in the top 100 of the Ratings Percentage Index. Those 10 wins compare favorably to other bubble teams.
No doubt, the committee also will take into account injuries to vital players Jerryd Bayless and Nic Wise.
But there are no guarantees if Arizona doesn’t beat Stanford.
In fact, we might all be eating a big helping of Easter Bunny stew.
Anthony Gimino’s e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
PAC 10 TOURNAMENT
Arizona (18-13) vs. Oregon State (6-24)
• When: 8:30 p.m. Wednesday Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles
• TV: FSNA Radio: 1290 AM Line: UA by 19
FULL PAGE OF COLLEGE HOOPS: 4C
• Beating Oregon State a third time might not be as easy, Cats say.
• Check out Rivera’s game analysis, rosters, starters, UA season stats.
• Butler, W. Kentucky, Oral Roberts earn bids; Huskies’ Brockman hurt?
PAC-10 TEAMS ON THE BUBBLE
ARIZONA: Record: 18-13 (win over Division II Adams St. won’t count in RPI) Pac-10: 8-10 Strength of schedule: 2 RPI: 29 Record vs. Top 100: 10-11 Last 12 games: 5-7 The skinny: The high RPI ranking is insurance against a poor Pac-10 mark. Quarterfinal losses by ASU and Oregon in the Pac-10 tourney would help UA.
OREGON: Record: 18-12 Pac-10: 9-9 Strength of schedule: 30 RPI: 53 Wins vs. top 100: 7-10 Last 12 games: 6-6 The skinny: The Ducks ended the regular season with three consecutive victories to get back into the discussion. A victory over Washington State on Thursday likely would provide them with the boost they need.
ASU: Record: 19-11 Pac-10: 9-9 Strength of schedule: 77 RPI: 76 Wins vs. Top 100: 7-9 Last 12 games: 5-7 The skinny: The Sun Devils have good victories in the league (USC, Stanford, Arizona twice), but a poor nonconference schedule will be justification to keep them out of the NCAAs if they lose to USC on Thursday.