Bubble Banter: Cal, Stanford need course correction
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Pac-12 teams in the Bay Area. California has lost three straight and four of five. Stanford has also dropped three straight. Both schools are coming off home losses (Utah and Colorado), and both need a course correction to avoid problems on Selection Sunday.
Stanford’s win at Connecticut is worth mentioning first, and perhaps puts the Cardinal a tiny bit ahead of Cal at this juncture. As for the rest of its resume? Stanford is 6-10 vs. Top 100 RPI teams and has a losing record (9-11) against the Top 150. When you factor in the three-game skid – which included missed opportunities against Arizona and Arizona State – there’s reason for concern. Other than the win at UConn, Stanford’s best non-conference victory is either Northwestern or Denver.
California has its home win over Arizona. Impressive as that is, the Bears are 6-11 vs. the RPI Top 100 and two of those wins are against Washington (No. 95 as of this morning – March 8). Outside the league, they beat Arkansas in Maui and also beat Denver. Having played a couple more Top 150 games, Cal is 11-11 by comparison. During its three-game slide, Cal also missed opportunities against Arizona and Arizona State.
Safe to say, both the Bears and Cardinal have work to do at the Pac-12 tournament.
If you’re looking for a surprise team on the Bubble, consider Southern Methodist (SMU). It’s been a great year for the Mustangs. And if it weren’t for one small – but major difference – within their profile, the Mustangs would be closer to Memphis as a team likely IN the Field of 68 at this point. Neither has a high total of quality wins (SMU is 4-6 vs. the Top 100; Memphis is 5-7. (The Tigers also have one less bad loss). But here’s that difference: SMU has a non-conference strength of schedule ranked No. 300 as of this morning (per ESPN, Insider RPI). By comparison, Memphis’ non-conference SOS is 34 – including a win over Oklahoma State. If the Mustangs were to lose at Memphis today (March 8) and absorb another bad loss early in the American Conference tournament (they have already lost to Temple, South Florida), their selection might not be as clear-cut as people think. That NC SOS number could give the Committee a reason to leave SMU out. We’ve seen it happen before.
One last quick example related to SMU … take a peek at Utah’s resume. The Utes have an even worse non-conference SOS (No. 345 – out of 349 Division I teams). That number will make it difficult for them to stay on the at-large board without a deep run in the Pac-12 tournament. Neither has much to offer outside their league; although Utah did beat BYU at home. By comparison, SMU has a winning road record and won at Connecticut in league play.
Enjoy Championship Week! It’s going to be a lot of fun.