There's no such thing as a sure thing in the Pac-12 this year, especially not after their harsh non-conference performance. There's been talk of only the Pac-12 tournament winner getting one bid from the conference, although nothing serious has come of it.
If any team has a shot of earning the at-large bid, it's the California Golden Bears, the only team above 20 wins in the conference. Cal staved off a huge shooting night by Devoe Joseph and rallied behind Justin Cobbs and Harper Kamp to take the win Thursday night in Haas Pavilion.
Magic number for Cal: 5 wins. Presuming they don't do something stupid like lose to Utah, Cal can probably afford to lose one more game in the regular season and finish at 14-4 in-conference and make the tournament. Oregon State did put up 92 points on them in their first meeting, so the Beavers are a potential trap game this weekend. Their final two contests against Colorado and Stanford are their biggest tests--if they split those they should make it in. Add in a win or two in the Pac-12 tourney for good measure.
Even four wins should be enough, but five wins would 100% lock them in.
Projection for Cal: Lunardi has Cal as a 9th seed. This could go up if the Bears go undefeated, but they're pretty close to their ceiling (can't imagine them going higher than a 7th seed). Two/three losses down the stretch probably drops them to a 11/12 seed.
Just Above The Bubble
The Arizona Wildcats are next in line and the second likeliest team to get in. Arizona has won five straight games, sits a game behind Cal and owns the head-to-head tiebreaker. Arizona has two challenging games left before the tournament (at Washington today, home for UCLA next weekend) and two pushovers in ASU and USC. Arizona has a good shot at 22 wins, which would straddle them right on the line of an at-large bid. Of all the Pac-12 teams, the Wildcats probably played the best out-of-conference and have an RPI capable of rising higher.
Arizona must get past Washington and hope Cal trips up somewhere, as winning the Pac-12 would strengthen their claim.
Projection for Arizona: They are currently an 11th seed according to Lunardi. Which makes them bubblicious. Arizona has to win three of their final four and hope one of those losses isn't to the scrubs.
Magic number for Arizona: If no tournament championship, they probably must win five of their next six to feel comfortable.
Last Team In?
The Washington Huskies are surging to the finish and are tied for the conference lead, but their non-conference performance was so pitiful that it's unlikely they can earn an at-large bid unless they win out. Every win only edges them up the bubble, while every loss has the potential to knock them out. And Washington has three tough games ahead--today against Arizona in what could be a potential tournament elimination game, a rivalry contest in Pullman, and then a road game at UCLA, who UW barely beat the first time around. That's a lot of close contests UW needs to pull out, and they can probably only afford to drop one.
Projection for Washington: UW is currently the last team in according to Lunardi. So Washington really can't feel safe unless they win the Pac-12 tournament.
Magic number for Washington: Win out, or lose only one game--probably to a team like Arizona or Cal.
On The Bubble
The Oregon Ducks have a shot, but they are in dire straits after blowing their game last night to Cal. Oregon probably has to win out or win the tournament, two things they are probably capable of doing in a conference where the top five teams have difficulty separating from each other. Lunardi has them fifth off the bubble, but they're probably a step behind everyone else.
The Colorado Buffaloes also have a shot, although they do have to beat Cal at home and Oregon on the road. Not an easy task. Then probably win the tournament. They're probably longshots, but Tad Boyle's bunch has impressed all year long.