Selection Sunday is unlikely to pack much drama for the Pac-12, which has three NCAA Tournament locks and no apparent bubble-sitters.
The process should be clean, simple and somewhat disheartening for a conference that had hoped to build on its unprecedented success in the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
In other conferences that span the Mountain and Pacific time zones, there is reason for optimism.
What should we expect Sunday when the CBS Selection Show begins at 3 p.m. (Pacific)?
Here’s a preview:
*** Pac-12 bids and seeds
Arizona should fall somewhere on the No. 1 line, and the specific location matters.
The placement of teams in the four regionals is based on seeding, with the top overall seed sent to the region closest to campus. Priority moves to the No. 2 overall seed, then the No. 3 seed.
Gonzaga is expected to be No. 1 and placed in the San Francisco regional, leaving San Antonio, Chicago and Philadelphia for the Wildcats. The higher their seed on the No. 1 line, the better chance of landing in San Antonio.
UCLA could be slotted as high as a No. 3 seed and as low as a No. 5, with most projections placing the Bruins on the No. 4 line.
(Note: UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond is a member of the selection committee, although he does not participate when the group votes on the Bruins.)
USC is expected to be the lowest-seeded member of the Pac-12 trio because of a weak non-conference schedule and a dearth of victories over tournament-caliber teams.
Expect a No. 6 or 7 seed for the Trojans, who were 1-4 against Arizona and UCLA.
***Pac-12 bubble trouble
Three teams have moved on and off the bubble at various points in the past two months: Colorado, Oregon and Washington State.
Now, only Colorado has a fleck of a prayer of a chance, and it’s infinitesimal.
The Buffaloes are No. 70 in the NET rankings — about 20 spots too low for comfort — and have just one Quadrant I victory.
Yes, they’re playing well right now. But the selection committee focuses on a team’s overall body of work, not the final weeks. CU’s mediocre showing against a soft schedule in November and December was its undoing.
*** Rest of the West
Not only does the Pac-12’s projected bid total (three) compare poorly to its historical standard, it looks bad compared to neighboring leagues.
The West Coast Conference, with its tiny budgets and lack of football, is a lock for three bids (Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and USF) and could claim a fourth if Brigham Young sneaks in.
Meanwhile, the Mountain West is assured of more bids than the Pac-12 with Boise State, San Diego State, Colorado State and Wyoming expected to be placed into the field.
All four have better NET rankings than any of the Pac-12’s middle-tier teams.
It’s a fraught situation, indeed, for the Pac-12.
*** No. 1 seeds
Three of the No. 1 seeds are secure: Gonzaga, Arizona and Kansas — likely, but not definitely, in that order. (We don’t expect Arizona to receive the No. 1 overall seed, but it’s certainly possible.)
The final No. 1 seed will go to Baylor or Kentucky.
As long as Arizona is slotted ahead of Baylor, the Wildcats should end up in San Antonio.
*** Arenas Near You
Three cities in the greater Pac-12 footprint will serve as March Madness hosts.
Portland and San Diego are sites for the first and second rounds, while the West regionals will be staged at the Chase Center in San Francisco.
The NCAA is mindful of keeping as many teams as possible close to campus, partly to reduce travel demands on the players but also because of ticket sales. (Psst: The tournament is big business.)
With the Mountain West and WCC joining the Pac-12 as multi-bid leagues, a slew of western teams will be assigned to familiar ground.
Fans should expect to see Gonzaga in Portland and Arizona in San Diego, with UCLA likely to join one of them.
Same with Saint Mary’s, Boise State and San Diego State.
Because of the pod system that has been in use in recent years, teams sent to Portland and San Diego won’t necessarily feed into San Francisco for the Sweet 16.
But Gonzaga — or perhaps Arizona — will be No. 1 in the West and given a path to the Final Four that runs through the Warriors’ new home at the Chase Center.
Support the Hotline: Receive three months of unlimited access for just 99 cents. Yep, that’s 99 cents for 90 days, with the option to cancel anytime. Details are here, and thanks for your support.
*** Send suggestions, comments and tips (confidentiality guaranteed) to [email protected] or call 408-920-5716
*** Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline
*** Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.