Who's in, who's out of NCAA Tournament

Who's in, who's out of NCAA Tournament

Who's in, who's out of NCAA Tournament
By THE PREZ

Welcome to what will be a weekly feature, debating two NCAA Tournament bubble teams from power conferences and which school would get the nod if the selection committee was down to those two clubs as an at-large choice.

This week: The Arizona Wildcats of the Pac-10 and the Arkansas Razorbacks of the SEC.

Let's get to the key stat that tournament selectors look at: RPI. The Wildcats enter the week at No. 62 while the Razorbacks are at 82. The Pac-10 also is slightly above the SEC in RPI conference index.

As of today, Arizona gets the nod rather easily.

Entering its game against Tennessee Wednesday, the Hogs have lost five of their six conference games (all but one of the losses by double digits) and are last in the SEC West. Arkansas did hand current No. 2 Oklahoma its only loss of the season and upset Texas a week later. But that's it in terms of quality wins and Arkansas has one road win all season.

And it's not like the Hogs will get a strength of schedule boost anytime soon. Their remaining schedule includes no teams currently ranked. In fact, with the SEC down this year, Arkansas' schedule as currently constituted will have the Sooners and Longhorns as the only ranked foes all season. That's weak.

The Hogs do miss senior forward Marcus Monk, who hasn't played since scoring 10 points in a loss to Florida on Jan. 17. He has eligibility issues and is still waiting on a green light from the school. But they will need to get to .500 in a weak conference to have an argument.

The argument for Arizona is partially this: Will the selection committee penalize a team that has made the NCAA 24 consecutive seasons because of Lute Olson's abrupt retirement? I could see that group cutting Arizona a break if the Cats are on the bubble come Selection Sunday.

Not to mention that Arizona has followed a three-game losing streak with a three-game winning streak, including a sweep of the good Washington schools. The Cats begin a swing through Oregon Thursday and a sweep there would have them 16-8 overall and 6-5 in the Pac-10.

The problem for Arizona is that it is winless on the road this year. A sweep, even against the struggling Beavers and Ducks, is certainly no sure thing.

The Cats also will get a schedule boost by facing five teams currently listed as in the NCAA Tournament by ESPN's Joe Lunardi.

The key to their resume will be home games against USC and UCLA, respectively. Win those, and Arizona should get in if it doesn't tank in all the other games. The Cats are currently 14-2 at home, including a win over then-No. 4 Gonzaga, which is UA's only win over a ranked team.

That same bracket projection, doesn't have either Arkansas or Arizona in the NCAA Tournament.

If the Razorbacks and Wildcats were to meet on a neutral site today the line for the contest would have Arizona as a 4-point favorite.

When March arrives and the selection committee sits down to make their Big Dance decisions, expect Arizona to get an at-large bid while Arkansas settles for a spot in the NIT.

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