Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

UA’s tourney position tenuous

Citizen Staff Writer
The Bounce



Is Arizona in? That’s the No. 1 question with regard to Russ Pennell & Co. as they try to secure the Wildcats’ 25th straight NCAA Tournament bid.

Watching UA in the postseason is seemingly a local fan’s birthright, and five consecutive wins have made the Arizona faithful giddy as the Cats prepare for their final seven Pac-10 regular-season games.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi of Bracketology predicts Arizona will be one of the last at-large teams in the NCAA Tournament, getting a No. 12 seed in the West.

But the Wildcats know their position is tenuous heading into Thursday’s 8:30 p.m. game at McKale Center against USC – another NCAA bubble team, according to Lunardi.

“The loser of this game will definitely not be listed in the bracket on Friday,” Lunardi said on his Web site.

Translation – and not that UA players needed one – every game and bounce counts when it comes to grabbing a NCAA berth.

“It’s brought before them every day,” said Pennell, UA’s interim coach, “so I’m sure they are aware of it.”

USC coach Tim Floyd isn’t viewing this weekend as “do or die,” but he knows victories at UA and Arizona State “can help you in securing spots.”

The fact is, it’s way too early to tell.

My guess is that Arizona won’t know if it’s in for sure until about 5 p.m. March 15, when CBS’ Jim Nantz helps announce the 65-team bracket.

To qualify, the Wildcats probably need to win at least four of their final seven regular season games to reach 20 victories, and then play respectably in the Pac-10 Tournament. Lunardi has six Pac-10 teams making the tourney, but that might be too high.

Arizona might not get the benefit of the doubt as it did under Lute Olson and interim coach Kevin O’Neill the past two years, when fans had to sweat out a low seed. The Wildcats were better than a 70 percent shot in 2007 and 2008, but there still was some doubt.

The key again for Arizona this season is its Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).

UA (16-8, 6-5 Pac-10) has a lower RPI rating (53) than USC (41), which is 15-7 overall and 6-4 in league play. But the Wildcats’ RPI has improved from the mid-60s last week.

The ranking has fueled talk on the Internet again of a UA tournament bid – just weeks after most bloggers thought the Wildcats were dead when they started Pac-10 play 2-5.

Pennell is trying to keep the Wildcats grounded – he remembers the letdowns after UA beat Gonzaga and Kansas – and he knows there’s a lot of work to do to gain separation from other NCAA teams on the bubble:

• UNLV is 17-6 with a 54 RPI. Texas A&M is 16-7 with a 47 RPI. Both beat UA this season.

• Texas is 15-7 (44 RPI), San Diego State, leader of the Mountain West is 15-5 (RPI 46). Utah, second in the MVC, is 16-7 with 11 RPI; Boston College is 18-8 (49 RPI); Oklahoma State is 14-8 (33 RPI); Syracuse is 17-6 (RPI 23); and Michigan is 14-10 (RPI 48).

So many teams, so many better RPIs than Arizona’s. And that’s just a start.

Just this week, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim told ESPN.com anywhere from 10 to 15 teams will have an argument of being in the tournament compared with a handful in previous seasons.

Boeheim also brought up the point that Arizona State had a better record than UA last season and didn’t make the tournament. Who’s to think that couldn’t happen again?

“You can get in as a sub-.500 team in a league as tough as ours,” Boeheim said, referring to the Big East. “It’s been proven in the past. It’s not how many games you win, but who you beat and where you play them.”

And how you close out. One of the NCAA Selection Committee’s criteria is how a team finishes in its final 12 games. UA is more than headed in the right direction at 5-0 with seven left.

“All we’ve done at this point is put ourselves in position,” Pennell said. “I think if we think of (the NCAA Tournament) too much, we’ll put too much pressure on ourselves.

“In these last seven games, if we are good enough, we’ll get it done. If we are not, we won’t. It’s that simple.”


Steve Rivera’s e-mail:


UA’s tourney position tenuous



Thursday: USC (15-7, 6-4) at Arizona (16-8, 6-5), 8:30 p.m., FSNA

Saturday: No. 11 UCLA (19-4, 8-2) at Arizona, 11 a.m., CBS


If the NCAA Tournament began this week, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi predicts Arizona would be one of the last four at-large teams in along with UNLV, BYU and Kansas State. At the moment, he has six Pac-10 teams making the tournament. Their seeds (and teams they would face):


No. 4 UCLA (19-4) vs. No. 13 Buffalo (16-5)


No. 12 Arizona (16-8) vs. No. 5 Ohio State (17-5)


No. 8 ASU (18-5) vs. No. 9 Virginia Tech (15-7)

No. 7 Cal (18-6) vs. No. 10 Boston College (18-8)


No. 5 Washington (17-6) vs. No. 12 Kansas State (15-7)

No. 11 USC (15-7) vs. No. 6 Tennessee (14-8)

Our Digital Archive

This blog page archives the entire digital archive of the Tucson Citizen from 1993 to 2009. It was gleaned from a database that was not intended to be displayed as a public web archive. Therefore, some of the text in some stories displays a little oddly. Also, this database did not contain any links to photos, so though the archive contains numerous captions for photos, there are no links to any of those photos.

There are more than 230,000 articles in this archive.

In TucsonCitizen.com Morgue, Part 1, we have preserved the Tucson Citizen newspaper's web archive from 2006 to 2009. To view those stories (all of which are duplicated here) go to Morgue Part 1

Search site | Terms of service