Arizona has an in-house bracketologist, and he does not bear good news for the Wildcats.
Senior forward Solomon Hill, who correctly noted last season after a late loss at ASU that "we just popped the bubble," now says Arizona's 66-64 loss to UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals on Friday will cost the Wildcats in the NCAA tournament placement.
"It matters. More than anything," Hill said after the game in Las Vegas on Friday. "This could be the difference between a seed or two and that could make a very big difference in trying to make a long run in the tournament. Instead of being a five, we could have been a three."
There's no guarantee the Wildcats will even be a No. 5 seed when the selections are announced today at 3 p.m.
While Arizona still has overall credentials that suggest a No. 4 or 5 seed - including an RPI of 14 - the Wildcats skidded to the finish line with a 5-5 record in their last 10 games. They were 7-5 over their last 12, dating back to a Feb. 2 win at Washington State.
As such, UA will test exactly how the NCAA selection committee now weighs late-season finishes. This season's NCAA selection committee chair, Xavier AD Mike Bobinski, said the committee no longer factors in the simplistic factor of how a team does in its final 10 or 12 games - as it did until several years ago - but that it does indeed look at the big picture down the stretch.
"Is how you finish important? Of course it is," Bobinski said. "But it's different in an individual way."
Bobinski, who hired UA coach Sean Miller at Xavier in 2004, said the committee threw out the "last 12" factor several years ago because media and others were "fixating" on it to the point where it became misleading.
Now, there's more context added to how the committee views a late-season finish.
"With unbalanced schedules and other factors out there today, who you play in those last 10 or 12 games makes a big difference, and where you play makes a big difference," Bobinski said. "If your schedule is back-loaded with a lot of tough tests, you may be doing great to finish 7-5 over the last 12. Conversely, if your schedule isn't very good, 7-5 may be an indication you're struggling a little bit.
"Just like everything, you have to slice it a little finer, look at it through a sharper focus to understand how much it means."
With that in mind, the Wildcats' 7-5 finish might look better. They suffered only one bad loss down the stretch, at USC on Feb. 27, and that was actually UA's only bad loss all season.
Two of UA's other losses in the final 12 were to league champ UCLA, and the other two were to likely tournament-bound teams California and Colorado.
However, Arizona's even level of success all season - with only the one bad loss but no Top 25 wins after New Year's and no Top 50 true road wins all season - may hurt more than it helps. While he said it is only his personal view, Bobinski said good wins added more to a team's resume than bad losses subtract because of what a good win says about a team's potential to win NCAA tournament games.
"If you can beat teams that are generally accepted and evaluated to be among the best in the country, that says something about who you are," Bobinski said. "For me, one of the real hallmarks is: have you shown that you can play successfully at a very high level? That to me weighs a little bit heavier than the loss side of it."
After the UCLA loss, Miller argued that the Wildcats can play successfully in the postseason because of the combination of talent and experience they have.
"One of the things our team has going for us in the tournament - and we've had it all season - is that we have a great blend of young talent and older guys who have been through the battles," Miller said. "It's that combination that's going to take us as far as we need, no question. I think we've earned a good seed."
Even though Miller worked under Bobinski at Xavier, Bobinski said Miller has been gone long enough that it's no longer the kind of conflict of interest that sends committee members out of the room when their own teams are being discussed.
"That restriction no longer applies," Bobinski said. "I'm able to participate fully in discussions about his teams or teams from the Pac-12."
They could be some pretty long talks.
THE "PROTECTED" BUBBLE
Teams seeded 1-4 are given preferential treatment in geographical placement and are protected from facing a lower-seeded team near its home campus. Arizona appears to be on the bubble of receiving a top four seed.
Why they should get one:
• Sunshine State success: Arizona has beaten two Top 10 teams in the RPI, Miami (on Dec. 23 in the Diamond Head Classic at Honolulu) and Florida (on Dec. 15 at McKale Center).
• High in the Pac: The Wildcats didn't win the Pac-12 regular-season title as they were narrowly expected to, but they did finish in a three-way tie for second place, along with California and Oregon. The Pac-12 is No. 6 in conference RPI.
• Road warriors: Until the last month of the season, Arizona played better basketball away from McKale Center. The Cats picked up early road wins at Texas Tech and Clemson, won the three-game Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu and won at Washington for the first time under Sean Miller.
Why they should not:
• Post-holiday blues: Arizona did not beat a Top 35 team in the RPI (the standard rating that the NCAA selection committee uses to judge opponents) after Christmas.
• Sliding to the finish: The Wildcats split their final 10 games of the season, with two losses to UCLA, a road loss at USC, home loss to California and 13-point smacking at Colorado.
• Everybody was there: Except for a foot injury that kept out reserve Grant Jerrett for the Feb. 6 Stanford game, no key Arizona player missed a game because of injury or suspension all season. So the Wildcats have no excuses.
• What: Selection Sunday
• When: 3 p.m.
• TV: Channel 13
Arizona's NCAA résumé
• Overall record: 25-7
• Home record: 14-2
• Road record: 7-4
• Neutral record: 4-1
• Vs. Top 25 RPI: 2-3
• Vs. Top 50 RPI: 6-5
• RPI: 14
• Sagarin: 24
• Kenpom: 19
• ESPN Bracketology: No. 5 in South Region (first weekend pod in Salt Lake City)
• CBS Sports: No. 4 in East Region (San Jose pod)
• Sports Illustrated: No. 4 in South Region (San Jose pod)
• Bracket Matrix (an average of bracket projections): No. 4
Contact reporter Bruce Pascoe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4145. On Twitter @BrucePascoe.