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Pac-12 Basketball: Cal, Washington, Colorado Fight For The Crown

The Oregon Ducks and Arizona Wildcats saw their chances of winning a regular season crown dwindle to a flicker with losses this week to the California Golden Bears and the Washington Huskies, as they've now been swept by both of those squads respectively (Oregon 0-2 vs Cal, Arizona 0-2 vs UW). Oregon and Arizona also both stand two games back, meaning if either of these teams won out, they'd have to hope Cal and Washington lose two of their remaining games. While both Cal and Washington are done with their home slate and have been so-so (particularly UW) on the road, both of them have a gimme game (Cal at Utah, UW at USC).

So this is pretty much a three-team race. Washington and Cal are probably going to end up deadlocked in this thing. It's really hard to believe either team will sweep their home slate, but if you had to pick one of those two teams, you'd probably pick Cal, with both Utah and fading Stanford on their slate. Washington must go cross-state to play a feisty Washington State squad that feels like they blew their chance in Seattle, and rivalry games are never easy.

The big question is can the Colorado Buffaloes join them?

Colorado is in a position to muck things up. They haven't lost at home in-conference, pummeling Washington by 18 and nudging Arizona off by one. Cal comes to town next Sunday, and if Colorado beats Cal and UW stumbles against WSU or UCLA, the possibility of a three-way tie comes very much into play. The big deal is that Colorado will also have to go to Oregon the following week, and the Buffs and Ducks will be tussling for the best possible Pac-12 tournament seeding they can get.

If the Pac-12 tournament was played today...

First-round byes

1 seed - California (22-6, 12-3 in conference): After sweeping the Oregon schools, Cal is very close to earning an NCAA tournament at-large bid. Finishing strong in-conference (and at the very least finishing 14-4 in the Pac-12) and at least one tournament win could make the difference.

2 seed - Washington (19-8, 12-3 in conference): Hardly out of hot water yet with road dates coming against Washington State and UCLA, and we all know how much Washington struggles away from home. Still, they are built to win the tournament, and they have to be flush with confidence after beating Zona.

3 seed - Colorado (18-8, 10-4 in conference): Nearly beat Cal in Haas, beat up Washington, edged Oregon thanks to Pac-12 refs, split Arizona. Colorado has to like their chances at winning three straight, but they have to avoid falling to five. Beating Cal or Oregon could do the trick for that.

4 seed - Oregon (19-8, 10-5 in conference): Playing Arizona early could pay off with a first round bye. Ducks need to win in Corvallis and then beat Colorado though, which is a tough one-two order.

Certain death

5 seed - Arizona (19-9, 10-5 in conference): Getting swept by Washington was brutal. This team is tournament-caliber if they can get win out in Staples, but they need to get out of the five hole and avoid the extra game. Their last three games are all highly winnable though, so they probably will escape if someone else trips up ahead of them.

6 seed - UCLA (15-12, 8-6 in conference): Not even homecourt will save the dysfunctional Bruins from being wiped off the mat by Day 2 or 3.

7 seed - Stanford (18-9, 8-7 in conference): Johnny Dawkins has a lot of talent and has produced a .500 squad in-conference. Doubt Stanford can be too happy with these losses, although they could play spoiler with an upset of Cal on the final day of the regular season.

8 seed - Washington St. (14-13, 6-9 in conference): Anyone want a fun Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate to consider? Brock Motum's been balling out.

9 seed - Oregon St. (15-12, 5-10 in conference): OSU-WSU will be a fun first round matchup, as both these teams are performing way below par. I'm pretty sure whoever the one seed is won't be happy to get the winner of this matchup.

10-12 seeds - Pretend they don't exist.

First day matchups:
#8 WSU vs #9 OSU
#7 Stanford vs. #10 ASU
#6 UCLA vs #11 Utah
#5 Arizona vs #12 USC

Second day matchups
#1 Cal vs WSU/OSU winner
#2 UW vs Stanford/ASU winner
#3 Colorado vs UCLA/Utah winner
#4 Oregon vs Arizona/USC winner

This conference isn't great, but the top half has been showing some great fights down the home stretch, and we could be in for a fun final three weeks of the regular season. For the rest, there's an NIT crown to be contested!