Pac-12 Notebook: Bubble teams try to rise to surface as regular season ends

2014-02-26T00:00:00Z 2014-02-26T00:12:30Z Pac-12 Notebook: Bubble teams try to rise to surface as regular season endsBy Jon Gold Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

It’s crunch time for Pac-12 basketball teams with high postseason aspirations.

Some are stone-cold locks — Arizona, obviously, and UCLA.

But for five other conference conundrums, there’s still some work to be done.

And in a topsy-turvy Pac-12, that might be easier said than actually done.

Here’s a look at what it might take for the conference to get six bids, even before the Pac-12 tournament offers one school a chance for an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.

Stanford

Record: 18-8, 9-5

Remaining schedule: At Arizona State, at Arizona, vs. Colorado, vs. Utah

Résumé boosters: A nine-point win over UCLA was big and a win at Connecticut maybe bigger, but what if the Cardinal would have overcome Arizona and Michigan, two three-point losses? Alas.

Barriers to entry: The Buffaloes will be a tough matchup because of their post play, and the Arizona schools are tough outs because of their backcourts, so it’s hard to peg down the Cardinal chances.

X-Factor: Josh Huestis has been so good as of late that Stanford has been able to mix some things up offensively. He’ll need to keep it up.

Uneducated guess: The Cardinal should pick up at least one win, and a second would put them at 20 and looking at a top-five seed in the conference tournament. They’re in.

Cal

Record: 18-9, 9-5

Remaining schedule: At Arizona, at Arizona State, vs. Utah, vs. Colorado

Résumé boosters: Beating Arizona for the Wildcats’ first loss is the biggest boost you can imagine. Another win at Arizona would blow folks away.

Barriers to entry: The Bears don’t have too many major quality wins, despite ample opportunity. Two losses to UCLA didn’t help.

X-Factor: Tyrone Wallace has been up and down, much like all the Bears, but if he can go off for 20 — as he did twice in the last five games, against Stanford and Washington — and not shoot 1 for 9 as he did in a 20-point loss to UCLA, then Cal will have the supplementary scorer it needs.

Uneducated guess: The Bears have been the conference’s most frenetic team, and at this point, who knows if they will go 4-0 or 0-4?

Even two wins should be enough, though, to put them in the NCAA tournament.

Arizona State

Record: 19-8, 8-6

Remaining schedule: vs. Stanford, vs. Cal, at Oregon, at Oregon State

Résumé boosters: Wins over Colorado, and particularly, Arizona, are both enough to garner consideration, if the Sun Devils reach the 22-win plateau.

Barriers to entry: ASU has a sneaky difficult four-game slate, as both Bay Area teams are tough outs and winning at the Oregon schools is no gimme.

X-Factor: Where has Jordan Bachynski’s offense gone? He was all the rage two weeks ago, but after four and five points, respectively, in losses at Colorado and Utah last week, he’ll need to get back to business.

Uneducated guess: The Sun Devils could go 2-2 over the last two weeks, but a win in the conference tournament would seal the deal. They’ll be in.

Colorado

Record: 20-8, 9-6

Remaining schedule: at Utah, at Stanford, at Cal

Résumé boosters: A stellar nonconference sked that included a win over Kansas put the Buffaloes in prime position.

Barriers to entry: The Buffaloes end the regular season as road dogs, with three straight games outside of Boulder. That doesn’t bode well. Neither does the unfamiliarity with the Bay Area teams, whom Colorado hasn’t seen this year.

X-Factor: Xavier Johnson has fallen off offensively the last two games after a beautiful three-game run that included 20-point games against USC and Washington. He’ll need to regain his touch after going 4 for 23 against the Arizona schools last weekend.

Uneducated guess: Already at 20 wins and having reached that plateau without Spencer Dinwiddie for much of conference play, the Buffaloes should be a lock unless the wheels fall off.

Oregon

Record: 18-8, 6-8

Remaining schedule: at UCLA, at USC, vs. ASU, vs. Arizona

Résumé boosters: A 13-0 start and a one-time No. 10 ranking might be enough to sway the judges, but without a win over a top-60 RPI opponent, the résumé is a bit thin.

Barriers to entry: Oregon clearly has the toughest schedule to close the season, even with laughable USC. It’s not a good thing that Jahii Carson’s Sun Devils would be considered the only other maybe in this group.

X-Factor: Joseph Young has been outstanding in his first year with the Ducks, but Oregon needs more production out of Mike Moser if March Madness is in the future. Just 13.3 points per game isn’t enough from Moser when it matters.

Uneducated guess: The Ducks have the talent, but haven’t put it together, and wins over UCLA and Arizona in the home stretch would be improbable. No go for Oregon.

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