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The Daily Wildcat

 

Pac-12 basketball power rankings: conference title dreams shattered

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Tyler Besh
Tyler Besh / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Just like that, Arizona’s dream of a conference title is gone.

Wednesday’s loss to USC was a devastating blow; Saturday’s loss to UCLA finished the Wildcats off.

The absence of the preseason championship favorite doesn’t ruin any of the drama heading toward the final week, though. In fact, it makes it that much more entertaining. Three teams have a shot to take the outright Pac-12 title — let the fun begin.

As a side note, there can be a shared conference title, but the Pac-12 tournament uses tiebreakers to decide seeding. Don’t worry; it gets a whole lot more confusing.

UCLA (22-7, 12-4 Pac-12)

Somehow, the Bruins have clawed their way back into the driver’s seat and now have the easiest road to the championship. With games at Washington State (a joke) and Washington (a little tougher), the Bruins can snag at least a share of the title if they win out.

That possibility was hard to imagine when UCLA lost back-to-back games to ASU (78-60) and USC (75-71) a little more than five weeks ago.

But the Bruins’ lone senior, guard Larry Drew II, has the high-powered UCLA offense running on all cylinders, and with talent like Shabazz Muhammad alongside him, this is the team to beat.

UCLA controls its own destiny for the title, but not for the No. 1 seed in the tournament. That’s because the other two teams vying for the championship beat the Bruins head-to-head this season.

Oregon (23-6, 12-4)

As weird as it seems, Oregon has been Mr. Consistency in the conference this year. Sure, it had a three-game losing streak earlier this season, but in hindsight, a 14-point loss to Stanford, a four-point loss to Cal and a one-point loss to Colorado at home wasn’t an easy stretch at all.

Throw in that guard Dominic Artis injured his left foot just a week earlier, and the skid makes total sense. Now the freshman guard is back, and the Ducks need to win at Colorado and Utah to capture a share of the title.

Thanks to the win over UCLA, they’d also take the top seed in Las Vegas. Of course, if both the Ducks and the Bruins drop a game this weekend, it leaves the door open for Cal to swoop right in.

California (20-9, 12-5)

Cal isn’t the best team in the Pac-12, but boy, is it the hottest (as shown by the Golden Bears’ top spot in the weekly power rankings). Cal is on a seven-game win streak and has won nine of its last 10.

During that time, the Golden Bears have conquered Oregon (twice), Arizona, UCLA and Colorado with the lone slip-up coming in Tempe to ASU by four points.

The run really came out of nowhere, too.

Before the start of February, the Golden Bears had been wholly and completely average. They beat the teams they were better than and lost to those they weren’t. Cal was below-average offensively, middle-of-the-road defensively and only guards Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs were consistently producing.

It all added up to an 11-8 record and a straight path to mediocrity. Then Cal went gangbusters and now has an outside shot at the title. The Golden Bears will need help, as they’re a half-game behind both UCLA and Oregon and rival Stanford visiting on Wednesday.

If everything falls right, though, Cal can win a share of the Pac-12 and take the No. 1 seed in the process. Crazy.

Arizona (23-6, 11-6)

If somehow all three teams ahead of Arizona lost out (and the Wildcats beat ASU on Saturday), there could conceivably be a four-way tie for first place. Considering that the last shared title was in 1999-2000 (Arizona and Stanford), and there have only been 10 co-champions since Pac-10 basketball started in 1915, a four-way tie isn’t a good bet. It’s just not impossible.

What Arizona should concentrate on now is tournament seeding. A win against ASU guarantees a first-round bye and the No. 4 seed. The Wildcats can’t do any better because they’re 0-4 against the projected top-3 seeds.

With a loss, things could get a little murky.

Since Arizona split with USC and Colorado (both are 9-7 and would need to win-out to tie the UA), things get a little jumbled up. The tiebreaker is decided by the teams’ record against the seeds higher than them, so Arizona’s record against UCLA vs. USC’s record against UCLA. If it’s the same, it goes down the list.

It’s a terrible system, I know. But since Colorado and USC both beat a top-3 seed team, Arizona would get a No. 5 seed in that scenario. Ouch.

1. California (20-9, 12-5 Pac-12) Last Week: 2
This week: vs. Stanford
Week nine: W 64-46 vs. Utah, W 62-46 vs. Colorado

2. No. 19 Oregon (23-6, 12-4) LW: 3
This week: at Colorado, at Utah
Week nine: W 85-75 vs. OSU

3. No. 23 UCLA (22-7, 12-4) LW: 4
This week: at WSU, at Washington
Week nine: W 79-74 OT vs. ASU, W 74-69 vs. Arizona

4. No. 18 Arizona (23-6, 11-6) LW: 1
This week: vs. ASU
Week nine: L 89-78 at USC, L 74-69 at UCLA

5. Colorado (19-9, 9-7) LW: 5
This week: vs. Oregon, vs. OSU
Week nine: W 65-63 at Stanford, L 62-46 at Cal

Tied-6. ASU (20-10, 9-8) LW: 6
This week: at Arizona
Week nine: L 79-74 OT at UCLA, L 57-56 at USC

Tied-6. USC (14-15, 9-7) LW: 8
This week: at Washington, at WSU
Week nine: W 89-78 vs. Arizona, W 57-56 vs. ASU

8. Stanford (17-13, 8-9) LW: 7
This week: at Cal
Week nine: L 65-63 vs. Colorado, W 84-66 at Utah

9. Washington (16-13, 8-8) LW: 9
This week: vs. USC, vs. UCLA
Week nine: W 72-68 vs. WSU

10. Utah (11-17, 3-13) LW: 10
This week: vs. OSU, vs. Oregon
Week nine: L 64-46 at Cal, L 84-66 at Stanford

11. Oregon State (13-16, 3-13) LW: 11
This week: at Utah, at Colorado
Week nine: L 85-75 at Oregon

12. Washington State (11-18, 2-14) LW: 12
This week: vs. UCLA, vs. USC
Week nine: L 72-68 at Washington

— Kyle Johnson is a journalism junior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @KyleJohnsonUA.

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