UCLA Basketball: The Crosstown Rivalry means more than bragging rights

DAYTON, OH - MARCH 13: Jaylen Hands
DAYTON, OH - MARCH 13: Jaylen Hands /

On Thursday, the USC and UCLA basketball teams will meet for the second time this year and the way the season is playing out, a win could give either team more than bragging rights.

It has been a wacky season in the Pac-12 which is leading to an exciting finish as the regular season winds down. That goes double for the USC and UCLA basketball teams which do battle in Westwood this Thursday and the winner could get more than just the right to brag.

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Currently, both teams are sitting tied in 5th place in the Pac-12 standings with an 8-7 record. With USC beating UCLA last month, the Trojans hold the tie-breaker… for now. But this could change depending on the results of Thursday’s game.

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  • 1. Washington 13-1
  • 2. Arizona State 10-5
  • 3. Oregon State 9-5
  • 4. Utah 9-6
  • T-5. USC 8-7
  • T-5. UCLA 8-7
  • T-7. Colorado 7-8
  • T-7. Arizona 7-8

Let us set aside the fact that bragging rights are on the line. Winning those rights would be great, but right now both teams have loftier goals in mind, specifically, getting an easier path in the Pac-12 Tournament.

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As of now, both teams do not have the resume to get them into the NCAA Tournament, so the only way they can dance is to win the Pac-12 Tournament.

The winner of the Crosstown Rivalry would then be 0.5 games behind Utah for that 4th spot. Utah faces Colorado on Saturday and if the Buffaloes win, that would put Utah into a tie with the UCLA-USC winner, although, the Utes have the tie-breaker as they beat both squads last month. The upside of this is that the UCLA-USC winner can gain some ground the following week as the LA schools travel to take on the mountain schools next week.

The UCLA-USC winner would then have a chance to take over that 4th spot if they beat Utah (and maybe Colorado).

But this is all based on Colorado beating Utah. If the Utes take down the Buffs, the UCLA-USC winner would, in fact, have to win both games in the mountain time zone next week and hope the UCLA-USC loser beats Utah to get that coveted 4th place spot.

So you see, a win in the Crosstown Rivalry is only the first important step in both the Bruins’ and Trojans’ race to the end of the season. There are other things at play here, but for both teams, they have to focus on what is in front of them, take one game at a time, and hope the external factors go their way.

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Despite the uninspired play we have all been witness to the last few weeks in the Conference of Champions, the sense of urgency among all this calamity should take hold of these two teams on Thursday and should present all of us with an intense, hard-fought basketball game. Hopefully.