Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
The Pac-12 Conference Tournament for men’s basketball is 2 ½ weeks away. If the season ended today, Oregon would be the #1 seed, Arizona #2, UCLA #3 and California #4. The top four seeds in the tourney get a first-round bye.
In the next tier of the tourney, ASU would be seeded #5, Colorado #6, USC #7 and Washington #8. And rounding out the Pac, Stanford would be #9, Utah #10, OSU #11 and WSU #12.
Oregon is the only team that controls its own destiny and can guarantee itself the #1 seed and a Pac-12 regular season title simply by winning out. UCLA and Arizona have to win out too, but also need some help in the form of Oregon losing one more time to secure the #1 seed. The Bruins and Wildcats have both lost to Oregon head-to-head and do not play the Ducks again this season.
Cal needs Oregon, UCLA and Arizona to all lose at least one more time to secure the #1 seed. The Golden Bears actually have the easiest remaining schedule of the four “Top Tier” teams (tiers broken down below) with three home games against middle or bottom tier teams. Should all four Top Tier teams end the season tied, California would be the likely one seed as they split with UCLA, are undefeated against Oregon and Arizona and have the best record against Top Tier teams.
Theoretically, ASU, Colorado and USC all have a chance to tie for the best record in the PAC-12 in the event all four Top Tier teams completely tank, but the likelihood of that is so remote it’s not worth considering. So, the battle for the #1 seed is truly between the four Top Tier teams.
UCLA’s path to a #1 seed is tough, but not impossible. Winning out is imperative. Home games against the two Arizona schools loom large this week. Seeking vengeance against ASU should provide plenty of motivation, and then a nationally broadcast game against the Wildcats (with ESPN College Gameday on hand) should have Pauley Pavilion rocking.
The Bruins absolutely have to hold serve at home. If they do, then the criticality of the trip to Washington the following week increases dramatically. If there’s a gimme win to be had on the road in the Pac -12, it’s in Pullman against Washington State. The Bruins should be able to win there. And then a tough, but beatable, Washington remains in the season finale. Winning on the Huskies’ home court is never a given, but if the Bruins are up for the challenge, it’s entirely possible that UCLA can win the Pac-1 2 regular season title. A road trip for Oregon to Colorado could provide the final stumbling block for the Ducks that the Bruins need to seal the deal.
PAC-12 TOP TIER
Oregon 11-4—Three games left: home against OSU, at Colorado and at Utah.
Arizona 11-4—Three games left: at USC, at UCLA and home against ASU.
UCLA 10-4—Four games left: home against ASU, home against Arizona, at WSU and at Washington.
California 10-5 —Three games left: all at home against Utah, Colorado and Stanford.
PAC-12 MIDDLE TIER
Arizona State 9-6—Three games left: at UCLA, at USC and at Arizona.
Colorado 8-6—Four games left: at Stanford, at Cal., home against Oregon and home against OSU.
USC 7-7—Four games left: home against Arizona, home against ASU, at Washington and at WSU.
Washington 7-8—Three games left: all home against WSU, SC and UCLA.
PAC-12 BOTTOM TIER
Stanford 7-8—Three games left: home against Colorado, home against Utah, and at Cal.
Utah 3-11—Four games left: at Cal, at Stanford, home against OSU and home against Oregon.
Oregon State 3-12—Three games left: all on the road at Oregon, Utah and Colorado.
Washington State 2-13 —Three games left: at Washington, home against UCLA and home against USC.