Monday, February 16, 2009

Arizona's Quest for 25 Still Alive

Just under a month ago, Arizona was coming off of a heartbreaker at USC, and a demoralizer (and yes I made this word up) against UCLA. Things looked bleak for the Kitty Kits. They were 11-7 and 2-4 in Pac-10 Play. The following Thursday the Cats lost to in-state rival Arizona State at Home taking them to 11-8 (2-5). Not only were there doubts about Arizona making it to their 25th straight NCAA Tournament, there were doubts they would even get invitations to other postseason play.

Following the USC and UCLA series this time, Arizona's postseason outlook is a little less bleak. While they are still a bubble team at best (most recently listed in the Last Four In according to bracketologists out there) they just took down USC and UCLA this past weekend. They are in the middle of a 7 game win streak with 6 Pac-10 wins.

The Cats have righted the record and now stand at 18-8 (8-5) and have moved up to 5th in the Pac-10. They are also 2 games back of Conference leader Washington. They have matchups against 3 of the 4 teams ranked above them over the next down the stretch and have the season split with UCLA who is ranked 4th.

What could possibly be next for the Cats?

5-0: This would put the Cats at 23-8 (13-5) and anywhere from 1st-3rd in the Pac-10 as Washington could finish 4-1 (loss to the Cats) and thus land above the Cats, and UCLA could finish 5-1 (with a loss to the Huskies) and thus land above the Cats with a better season record overall. This however is unlikely, not impossible, but the Cats recent stretch of success can be a little misleading as their only road wins during this stretch are against the number 8 and 10 teams in the conference. 5%

4-1: They'd finish up 22-9 (12-6) and could still potentially place 1st in the Pac-10, but it would take a lot of losing in the top part of the leader board, and frankly there aren't enough games left for that to happen. Most likely a 4-1 finish would land the Cats at 3rd, possibly 2nd, but most likely 3rd. This is actually plausible, but it will take a lot of work. Three of the remaining five are not even close to being guaranteed wins. 13%

3-2: Cats go up and down and finish a successful 21-10 (11-7). Still in the Tournament. Depending on how teams fall ahead of them, and which teams they beat, the Cats could be 3rd-5th. Either way I think they're a tournament team. 3-2 seems to be the most likely scenario. I don't see the Cats going 3-0 against ASU, Washington, and Cal, especially with the first two being on the road. Stanford and Washington State are definite opportunities for an Arizona let down. 41%

2-3: Cats sit on the Bubble at 20-11 (10-8) and need USC, UCLA, or Cal to combust down the stretch in order to sit in the top half of the Pac-10. Still a high possibility. The Cats have shown a propensity to play with emotion, and let emotions take over. A loss at ASU could easily snowball into losses at Washington State and/or Washington and Arizona would need to rally at home against Stanford and/or Cal to finish either last four in or first four out. 25%

1-4: Cats let down and end sub 20 wins at 19-12 (9-9). A .500 Pac-10 record leaves the Cats lucky if they're in 6th place to finish the season and would need an amazing Pac-10 Conference performance to be even in the conversation when Selection Sunday rolls around. While not a high possibility, 1-4 seems more likely than 4-1. Injuries would have to play a key part in this scenario. 16%

0-5: Cats crapout under the pressure, finish 18-13 (8-10) and say goodbye to any tournament chances, land in the bottom third of the conference. Hello, NIT. 0-5 seems impossible at this stretch due to the way the Cats have been playing. While 1-4 seems more likely than 4-1, barring injury 5-0 seems more likely than 0-5. Chase, Jordan, and Nic, would will this team to at least one win. 0%