Dancing with themselves
Come March, it's likely just Cal is headed to the dance from the Pac-10
What this is: In the run-up to the 2010 NCAA tournament, as the bubble expands and contracts, every week Mark Schlabach will release his popular Bubble Watch (to go with Joe Lunardi's popular Bracketology). ESPN Insider editor Mike Hume gives you a closer look at the bubble with Bubble Insider, examining in detail teams that are on the fringe of the field. Here's edition No. 2 for 2009-10.
It sounds preposterous that any major conference could go stag (i.e., solo) to the Big Dance; however, there is an increasingly real possibility that the Pac-10 will be a single-bid conference in this year's NCAA tournament.
A BCS conference producing just one NCAA tournament team would be unprecedented since the field expanded to 64 teams, but the Pac-10 is going to put that to the test this year. Through Feb. 7, the conference rates No. 8 in the RPI -- behind the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West. Only one Pac-10 team -- the California Golden Bears (No. 26) -- ranks inside the RPI Top 50, and just four others within the RPI Top 100. One of them, USC, is ineligible for the NCAA tournament.
The picture just isn't pretty. Washington has an RPI of 56, with one nonconference Top 50 RPI win (over Texas A&M), and the Arizona Wildcats, they of a No. 67 RPI, have zero nonconference Top 50 RPI wins. Arizona State defeated San Diego State (RPI of 39), but owns an RPI of 77 itself.
It might feel as though the Pac-10 is still a ways away from the likes of one-bid leagues such as the MEAC, SWAC and Southland. Remember how lousy the SEC was last season? Come Selection Sunday, the SEC still put two at-large teams into the tournament, in addition to the SEC tournament champion Mississippi State Bulldogs. Only one problem with that comparison: The Pac-10's current predicament is worse than the SEC's last season. Far, far worse.
To see a definitive analysis of this year's "Why a major conference will essentially get shut out of the NCAA tournament" debate, you must be an ESPN Insider. If you live in the Pacific time zone, this should be an interesting -- if gut-checking -- read.
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