When the NCAA women’s basketball selection committee reveals the field of 64 teams for the upcoming NCAA tournament in two days, there’s a very good bet that six Pac-12 teams will be taking part.
The conference, which is top-rated when it comes to the RPI, should have four teams that receive top four seeds for the second straight season.
Oregon State (29-4), which won the Pac-12’s regular-season title for the third straight season, is projected to be a No. 2 seed. Stanford (28-5), which finished second behind the Beavers but topped Oregon State 48-43 in the conference tournament’s title game last week, is also projected to be a No. 2 seed after that victory.
Washington (27-5), which finished tied for second in the conference with Stanford, is projected to be a No. 3 seed. The Huskies lost their quarterfinal game to Oregon in the Pac-12 tournament. UCLA (23-8), which was fourth in the regular season and lost to Oregon State in the tournament semifinals, should be a No. 4 seed.
The top four seeds in each regional will host first- and second-round games. However, Stanford is unable to host this season due to the school hosting the Pac-12 gymnastics championships the same weekend.
Oregon advanced to the semifinal game by upsetting the Huskies. They are expected to receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament. But Washington coach Mike Neighbors is confident that his school will be hosts next weekend.
“I didn’t think there was any way we could fall out of the three seed just based on who the other four seeds were and what their resumés were,” Neighbors said after the Huskies’ loss in the Pac-12 tournament. “This will put Oregon’s RPI probably into the top 25, close. Low 30s at the very least. And that would be considered our worst loss because we’ve lost to Notre Dame, Oregon State, UCLA, Stanford, and Oregon, there is not a bad loss in that column.”
“So if we don’t end up getting the host, then we’ll go back to work to try to figure it out. But I think we’ve done plenty to be able to host one.”
Oregon (20-13), which hasn’t been in the NCAA tournament since 2005, is projected as a No. 8 seed after finishing sixth in the conference and playing for the tournament championship. Their win over the Huskies will most likely pushed the Ducks to the Dance despite an 8-10 mark in the conference’s regular season.
“It’s incredible each and every night,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said of playing in the Pac-12. “We’ve played a lot of very good teams, teams that are going to be in the second and even third weekends (of the NCAA tournament). Tooth and nail, right down to the wire. Oregon State, UCLA, Stanford.”
“We haven’t really – other than the UCLA win, don’t really have that signature win against a top team. Now I think a win like this really makes our kids believe that, yeah, we’ve been playing them close, playing them close. We can play with anybody.”
Arizona State (19-12), which was a No. 2 seed last year after sharing the regular-season title with Oregon State, finished fifth in 2016-2017 and is projected to be a No. 7 seed.
The only other conference team that has a shot at making the tournament is California (19-13), and coach Lindsay Gottlieb made her pitch for the Golden Bears after they lost to Oregon State in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals.
“I cannot fathom the Pac-12 not having seven teams in the NCAA tournament, with what an incredible top to bottom conference it is,” Gottlieb said. “People talk a lot about the top four seeds who have been continually in the top 16 reveals, which is an incredible story. But I think the bigger story is five through 12 are better than anybody else’s five through 12 in any conference.”
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said the same thing in a conference call prior to the Pac-12 Tournament.
“How many teams will we get to the tournament? Seven, eight? I think we’re looking at seven or eight teams going to the NCAA tournament based on RPI,” VanDerveer said. “You can’t use RPI against us when it’s handy and then not use it for us when we’ve earned it.”
She went on to say that the conference tournament winner should receive a No. 1 seed.”
“These are teams that have battled against top competition game in and game out and I just think the Pac-12, the reward of beating ourselves up is getting a great seed for the NCAA.”
While that doesn’t appear to be the case, had Oregon State won the conference tournament, coupled with Baylor’s loss in the Big 12 title game, there could have been a strong discussion for the Beavers to be the No. 1 seed in the Stockton Regional.
As for Cal’s issues, according to ESPN bracketology expert Charlie Creme, the fact the Golden Bears were just 6-12 in the regular season is a sticking point.
“As good as the Pac-12 is, six games below .500 in your league, that’s hard to overcome,” Creme said. “It’s hard to justify, I think, putting a team in the tournament that can only win a third of its conference games. Whether they’re playing great teams or not.”
“Cal lost to some teams in the league that didn’t have good seasons. I think that’s a huge knock and that’s something as I go through my internal discussions, the one-man conversation I have when I’m putting these brackets together, that just keeps stumping me.”
The conference had a terrific run in 2016 with four three teams reaching the Elite Eight – Oregon State, Stanford and Washington – and two advancing to the Final Four – Oregon State and Washington, which defeated Stanford in the process.
That could be tough to duplicate this year, but the conference has shown it can compete against some of the top teams in the country the past few seasons.
The selection show begins at 4 p.m. Monday on ESPN.