Bracketology 101 Exam Week: The Pac-12

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 23: Josh Owens #13 of the Stanford Cardinal knocks the ball away from Markel Brown #22 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys during the 2011 Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden on November 23, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Much like the conference I featured in the first part of this series, the ACC, about half of the teams in the Pac-12 now find themselves in a considerable hole at this point of the season. However, that's where the similarities end. The Pac-12 doesn't exactly have any teams that will compete for a spot on the top line.

For other posts in this series, visit the Bracketology 101 Exam Week 2011-12 section.

Records are accurate as of 12/12/2011.

Passing

Stanford Cardinal (8-1)
The Cardinal have been one of the nation's biggest surprises this season, only losing to Syracuse in the NIT Season Tip-Off final in New York City so far, annihilating Oklahoma State in the semifinal. Johnny Dawkins' team looks like it could certainly grab 24 or 25 wins, especially with the strength of the rest of the Pac-12, meaning that seeding would be Stanford's biggest worry on Selection Sunday. The Cardinal have two final non-conference tests before jumping into conference play with a visit from the L.A. schools, winnable games at Maples against Bethune-Cookman and Butler.

Needs Improvement

California Golden Bears (8-2)
The Golden Bears are yet another team that has racked up a fairly impressive record while failing to beat anyone of note, and, more worryingly, looking downright terrible in one of their two losses (the 92-53 beating Missouri handed them in the CBE Classic final). Like their archrivals, Cal should be end the season with a gaudy looking record, but they may drop a line or two on the S-curve because of the lack of quality wins. Outside of the league, Mike Montgomery's club has one last chance to make a splash, December 23rd at UNLV.

Oregon State Beavers (6-2, 5-2 vs. Division I)
Might this finally be the year Craig Robinson's team breaks through? For starters, the Beavers served noticed that they would be considerably different than previous versions by defeating Texas in overtime and falling by a bucket to Vanderbilt at the Legends Classic. Plus, it took them a month until they dropped a game they shouldn't have, Friday's home loss to Idaho, though there were some heavy circumstances (indicated in the comments). That's an improvement, considering how frequently those types of losses have happened during Robinson's tenure. Oregon State should (and I emphasize "should") sweep through its final non-conference games and get to nine Division I wins before jumping into the Pac-12 slate with a trip to Seattle and Pullman to close 2011. If the Beavers keeping playing with confidence and winning, they'll end their long NCAA drought in three months.

Arizona Wildcats (7-3)
Sean Miller's team has yet to grab a victory against a team likely to be in the NCAA field (sorry, Clemson), and they have just one shot left before Pac-12 play starts, Saturday's "Battle in Seattle" contest against Gonzaga. Arizona's two biggest missed opportunities so far are a failed comeback against San Diego State and a shorthanded overtime loss at Florida (Josiah Turner was suspended). However, given the talent on the roster, it's very possible that the Wildcats make a nice run in conference play and find themselves safely in the field of 68.

Oregon Ducks (5-2)
Oregon was a popular choice to surprise in the Pac-12, but early on it appears their in-state rivals are a better bet to fill that role. The Ducks' best win so far came at Nebraska on November 23, and they have just one remaining non-conference game of note, a December 18th home game against a Virginia team that's also likely to find itself on the bubble in March. Still, Dana Altman's team was able to pull some surprises in Pac-10 play last season, which means a more talented bunch definitely has a chance to make some noise during the long conference campaign, even with some key early departures from a touted freshman class.

Failing

Washington State Cougars (6-4), Colorado Buffaloes (5-4, 4-4 vs. Division I), Washington Huskies (4-4), USC Trojans (4-6), Arizona State Sun Devils (4-5), UCLA Bruins (3-5, 2-5 vs. Division I), Utah Utes (1-8, 0-8 vs. Division I)
It's shaping up to be a very long season for the bottom half of the Pac-12, especially UCLA and newcomer Utah, who've managed to win two and zero games against Division I opposition, respectively. (Good job, Penn and Pepperdine!) As for the best wins earned by these six...well, Arizona State won at Tulsa and beat Wake Forest at the Old Spice Classic, while Colorado won at Georgia, no doubt thanks to the altitude at the Coors Event Center.

Out of this group, the team with the best chance to land a surprise bid is the team that shocked the world last season, USC, and that's because of their remaining schedule. The Trojans still welcome Georgia, TCU, and Kansas to the Galen Center. USC's best win, which came in Las Vegas against the SEC team that shares its initialism, certainly won't attract much attention among the 12 members of the Selection Committee. Don't discount Washington either. Remember that the Huskies needed to win the Pac-10 tournament to make the 2010 field, and they ended up winning two games.

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