What does Long Beach State have to do to get on more solid footing with the NCAA Tournament Selection committee? The Beach just keeps on winning, moving to 19-6 overall and a perfect 12-0 in the Big West Conference -- and their all-important RPI keeps going down. In two weeks, the 49ers have dropped from 33 to 36 to 41 in the RPI rankings, even as they've won every game they've played. Unfortunately, facing the like of the 2-21 Davis Aggies doesn't do much for one's tournament resume.
But they'll have a big chance to improve that resume on Saturday, when they travel to Nebraska to face Creighton in the BracketBuster event. The Blue Jays have dropped out of the national rankings after three straight losses, but they're still a 21 win team, and a road win in Omaha would almost certainly punch Long Beach State's ticket to the big dance.
The 49ers remain the only team among the eight college hoops programs of LA and Orange County (the LA Eight) with any shot at an at large bid. Both UCLA and Loyola Marymount came up short in games this week against teams near the top of their respective conferences, and they'll have to hope to catch fire at just the right time in their conference tournaments.
The LA Eight Rankings (through games of February 13):
1. Long Beach State 49ers 19-6 (Last week: 1)
Seniors Casper Ware and T.J. Robinson each set records in Long Beach State's 19th win of the season, 89-69 over Davis. Ware became the 49ers' all time leader in assists, passing Billy Walker. Robinson became the career leader in rebounding in the Big West Conference, passing Tony Neal of Fullerton. This group of seniors has had quite a run at the Beach, and hopefully they'll be able to extend it into the NCAA tournament. Saturday's game against Creighton will be huge, as it's the team's last chance to show what it can do against non-conference competition.
This week: @ Creighton (21-5) Feb. 18
2. Loyola Marymount Lions 16-10 (2)
LMU has had a very solid WCC season. They've beaten the teams they were supposed to beat, and played the big boys tough. This week they got a solid road win over Portland on Thursday, but then couldn't keep pace with the mighty Zags in Spokane on Saturday. Gonzaga may not catch St. Mary's for their 12th consecutive WCC title, but they're still near the very top of the conference, and the Lions aren't quite there yet. Unfortunately for LMU, they now have to head to Moraga to face the 16th ranked Gaels, before hosting Valparaiso in a BracketBuster TV game on Friday.
This week: @ #16 St. Mary's (23-3) Feb 15; Valparaiso (18-9) Feb 17
3. UCLA Bruins 14-11 (3)
UCLA hadn't lost a home game since December 3 heading into the week, and were a perfect 4-0 at home in Pac-12 play. They ran that record to 5-0 against Stanford, but couldn't manage to stay perfect against Cal. The Bruins have had trouble defending the perimeter all season, and Cal's three guards caused problems for them once again. This week UCLA hosts the cross-town Trojans on Wednesday, and then travel back to New York to face former coach Steve Lavin and St. John's on Saturday.
This week: USC (6-20) Feb 15; @ St. John's (10-15) Feb 11
4. Cal State Fullerton Titans 16-7 (4)
Fullerton used a huge 60 point second half to establish it's dominance in Orange County hoops by beating UC Irvine for the second time this year last Thursday. The Titans have emerged as among the best of the rest in the Big West after Long Beach State, and at 8-3 in conference play could be in line for the second seed in the conference tournament.
This week: @ Riverside (11-14) Feb 15; Montana State (11-13) Feb 18
5. UC Irvine Anteaters 9-16 (5)
The Anteaters average about 68 points per game on the season. The had an offensive explosion against Fullerton, scoring 94 -- and still lost, 100-94. They then turned around and lost at Cal Poly.
This week: Santa Barbara (13-8) Feb 15; Eastern Washington (11-14) Feb 18.
Tie - Last. Pepperdine Waves 8-17 (6)
Pepperdine has been pretty much terrible since West Coast Conference play began. It's been hard to justify keeping them sixth in these rankings as they've lost 12 of their last 13. But USC and Northridge have been just as hapless. So this week I'm declaring it a tie -- they're all the worst team in the LA Eight, and among the worst teams in the country. Pepperdine's distinguished itself as a bad team this week by losing by 38 at BYU in a game in which no Wave scored in double figures.
This week: @ Seattle (7-14) Feb 16; Portland (6-19) Feb 18
Tie - Last. USC Trojans 6-18 (7)
I still feel sorry for the Trojans with all their injuries, but it doesn't mean they're not terrible. They lost to Stanford and Cal this week, scoring 47 and 49 points in the process. It was the sixth and seventh times in Pac-12 play that they've scored fewer than 50 points. This week's game against UCLA will be noteworthy in that the Bruins will be the home team, hosting the Trojans in their former home, the Sports Arena.
This week: @ UCLA (14-11) Feb 15
Tie - Last. Cal State Northridge Matadors 6-15 (8)
The Matadors are the worst of the worst in LA hoops, as they proved this week by losing to UC Davis. It was the Aggies first win over a Division I opponent this season.
This week: Cal Poly (15-11) Feb 15; Fresno State (11-16) Feb 18
If you go to only one college basketball game in the Southland this week, make it:
USC at UCLA, Wednesday at 7:30 PM at the Sports Arena. I wish I had another alternative for you, I really do. The Trojans are a train wreck right now, and they weren't a lot of fun to watch before, but it's the big LA showdown, so it's the game, right? Besides, there aren't a lot of other choices. You know what? I changed my mind -- go see Valpo at LMU Friday night in Westchester. Bring a sign and get on TV.