Let's start with what the author of a Wooden book I won't read and SI senior writer Seth Davis most obvious mistake in response to a question on UCLA before the Utah win:
I'm sure the NIT would want them, so long as the Bruins fulfill the requirement of finishing with a .500 record or better.
No, Seth that is not the way it works. The rule is below (Emphasis added):
Any regular-season champion of an NCAA Division I conference (as determined by the conference's tie-break protocol) not otherwise selected to the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship will secure an automatic qualification into the NIT. The committee will then select the best available teams to fill the 32-team NIT field. Once selected teams are seeded and placed into one of four eight-team regions.
The NIT does not have the freedom to pick the biggest names if they are above 500. Howland found this out the hard way. UCLA was not good enough in 2011-12 when UCLA finished 19-14. If UCLA eeks out above Five Hundred as Seth says they certainly won't make the NIT.
At the time Davis wrote his story, he was wrong. UCLA was likely on the NIT bubble.
However, last night certainly put UCLA itself in the NIT. By the BPI last night was easily UCLA's best win of the season. The irony is according to BPI its worst performance was the game immediately preceding this when UCLA lost to a bad Oregon team.
UCLA has one other good win against Stanford at home. Stanford is likely an NCAA Tournament team. The next best win is against Long Beach State.
Now let's switch to RPI. UCLA's RPI is now 64. 64 is good enough for the NIT and not the NCAA tourney. (Probably need to be in the low 40s to make NCAA.) UCLA would not even be the highest seed in the NIT form the PAC 12 with that distinction going to Washington, for now. (Washington has lost their star Robert Upshaw and I think they are on a downward spiral.)
UCLA has two quality games left where it can help itself at Stanford and at Arizona. The rest of the games if we lose hurt us to varying degrees.
So here is where we stand in my guestimation for the postseason chances keeping in mind the other teams can change their ratings and this is assuming the rest of the season goes as it should (e.g. Utah and Stanford finish second and third and don't get upset again).
To qualify for the NCAA Tournament
- UCLA wins the PAC 12 tournament
- UCLA wins all its remaining regular season games it goes to the NCAA tournament.
- UCLA wins at Arizona, loses to Stanford, and wins the rest of its games, likely it goes to the NCAA tourney.
- UCLA wins at Stanford, loses at Arizona, wins the rest. UCLA need to do well in the PAC 12 tournament to have a shot.
- UCLA losses to Arizona and Stanford, wins the rest of its game. Need to get to the Pac 12 tournament final with a win over Utah or Arizona, preferably Arizona, and we might sneak in.
For the NIT
- The last two scenarios with a crappy PAC 12 tournament.
- UCLA loses to UC Berkeley OR ASU, Arizona, and Stanford on the road and wins all home games.
- Now for the sake of argument let's say UCLA wins the rest of its game at home (not unreasonable as these are relatively easy games there) and losses the rest on the road (Arizona, ASU, California and Stanford). UCLA's record would improve to 18-13, about the same as 2011-12 when we missed. UCLA would not have a single win against a team better than them in the RPI except Washington during that stretch. Washington ranking is likely going to fall without Upshaw. Further UCLA would have two more bad losses against Arizona State (ranked 112) and UC Berkeley (ranked 122). I think UCLA still makes the NIT.
- Put another way, UCLA is in danger of missing the NIT with 3 or more bad losses the rest of the way. A bad loss is any remaining home game, at UC Berkeley or at ASU.
- Note a bad loss or two could be offset by a road win against Arizona or Stanford.
Okay, I realize I have not covered all scenarios. I also am sure I made some mistakes. So let me get to the bottom line.
UCLA is not out of the NCAA tournament yet but it odds are still very long.
UCLA must continue to win at home to make the NIT which is not assured by a winning record.
Road wins against Arizona or Stanford are the only ways UCLA can help itself the rest of the regular season in the RPI/BPI.
Road losses against both ASU and UC Berkely could even knock UCLA out of the NIT if UCLA is not perfect at home.