College Basketball Bubble Watch

Updated: February 1, 2010, 3:25 PM ET
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com


Pac-10's struggles could result in unprecedented tourney haul

Editor's note: This file has been updated to include all games through Sunday, Jan. 31.

The Pac-10, and its forebearer the Pac-8, has given us the UCLA dynasty of the 1960s and 1970s. It gave us Gary Payton and Jason Kidd and so many other greats. It gave us UCLA's Ed O'Bannon and Arizona's Miles Simon, two players who led the Pac-10 to its last two national championships.

But as the 2009-10 college basketball season enters the final month of the regular season, the Pac-10 doesn't stand to give us much of anything.

In the inaugural Bubble Watch, we had to stretch our standards to include more than one Pac-10 team.

The NCAA selection committee doesn't figure to be as gracious in a month or so, when it begins to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates to fill 65 slots in the NCAA tournament bracket.

Chances are there could be only one Pac-10 team included in the field when the dust settles. And it's a shame the NCAA probably won't have the guts to make the Pac-10 champion participate in the NCAA opening-round game in Dayton, Ohio. That's how lousy the league has been this season.

Entering Monday, California was the only league team ranked in the top 50 of the Ratings Percentage Index ratings, which are used to help determine seeding and at-large bids for the NCAA tournament.

The Bears promptly lost at Arizona 76-72, falling into a first-place tie with the Wildcats in the Pac-10 standings.

Every Pac-10 team has already lost at least seven games. Those losses have included defeats to schools such as Sacramento State, Seattle, San Diego, Illinois-Chicago, Loyola Marymount, Montana, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Cal State Fullerton.

UCLA, which reached the Final Four in three straight seasons from 2006 to '08, carries a losing record into this week. The once-mighty Bruins have lost to Fullerton, Long Beach State and Portland (by 27 points).

Since the NCAA expanded its tournament field to 64 teams in 1985 (and then 65 in 2001), every BCS football-playing conference has sent at least three teams to the Big Dance.

But if things don't change on the West Coast, the Pac-10 tournament champion might be dancing alone in 2010.

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