With the big win over Georgetown last week, as well as the relative strength of the Pac-10 early on, many are saying that the Ducks are setting themselves up well for an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament, pending they beat Nebraska on Saturday. Of course, it will all depend on what happens during conference play. But if you think that a fifth or sixth place Pac-10 finish will keep Oregon off the bubble in March. As Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friend.
On the surface, it looks very good. Oregon is ranked 12th currently in the RPI, a major factor in the tournament committee's decisions. 12th is very, very good. The only problem: the Ducks won't be there long. Take a look at #s 1 and 2. Butler and Wichita State. Great early season stories, but they will drop in conference play. Arizona State is 314th, behind such basketball powers as New Hampshire, Savannah State, and New Jersey Tech. Bottom line: early season RPI rankings mean nothing.
But, you say, the Pac-10 is strong. Oregon's RPI will remain strong because they will play UCLA, Arizona, Stanford, Cal, Washington State, etc. Arizona State and Oregon State notwithstanding, that is true. It is a mixed blessing, though, as it means no easy conference games this year.
But the real reason for the Ducks upcoming downfall in the RPI is simply their schedule, which I have been harping on since it was released. Yes, Georgetown was a good win, and their RPI ranking of 65 will go up when Big East play ends. Nebraska remaining at 97 is feasible, and would be another decent win for the Ducks. But look at CSU Northridge, Portland State, and UC-Irvine. Do you really think that those are going to remain top 100 RPI teams as their confernce schedules commence?
And look at the upcoming schedule: Bethune-Cookman is 312. Mercer is 308. Portland is 311. Idaho State and Eastern Washington are 100 and 106, respectively, and only going down from here. Remember, a "quality" win is top-50. A good win is top 100. Anything lower than 200 is just crap.
Bottom line: finish in the top four of the conference and make sure you are in. If the Ducks leave themselves on the bubble, there is a good chance that it will be popped.
That being said, there is no reason to believe that they won't have a top four finish. They are playing great right now.