A 3-0 start to Pac-12 play has apparently enhanced the perception of Washington as a potential NCAA tournament team.
In his latest projections, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi predicts eight Pac-12 teams in this year’s field of 68 -- more than any other conference -- and for the first time includes Washington. Lunardi pegs the Huskies as a No. 13 seed facing No. 4 Iowa State in Denver.
The Huskies are the only Pac-12 team still unbeaten in league play after beginning the conference schedule with home wins over UCLA and USC and a road win at Washington State. They currently rank 72nd in RPI -- and the fact that they rank only 11th among Pac-12 schools in that category says a lot about the strength of the conference (WSU, at 148th, is the only Pac-12 school not in the RPI top 100).
Lunardi’s projections for other Pac-12 teams: Arizona (4 seed), USC (6), Oregon (6), California (7), Utah (7), Colorado (10) and UCLA (11). He lists Colorado among the final four teams to receive first-round byes (i.e. the teams that don’t have to play in a play-in game), and UCLA among the last four teams to make the field. Oregon State is listed among the first four out, and Arizona State is among the next four out. So, Stanford and Washington State are the only Pac-12 teams not to receive any mention in Lunardi’s latest projections.
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UW visits Arizona (30th in RPI) on Thursday and Arizona State (46th) on Saturday.
Interestingly enough, just one Pac-12 team made this week’s Associated Press top 25 rankings -- Arizona, at No. 18. USC, UCLA, Utah, Oregon and Oregon State each received votes. Arizona ranks No. 16 in the USA Today coaches’ poll, with Oregon, USC, UCLA, California, Washington and Utah receiving votes.
Here is the ballot I submitted for the AP poll this week. It includes two Pac-12 teams.
4. Michigan State
5. North Carolina
13. Texas A&M
15. West Virginia
16. South Carolina
19. Iowa State
Christian Caple can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple