Pac-12 basketball will at least be compelling to watch this weekend.
Make fun of this conference all you want, but the competition at the top is making the last week of the season worth your while. Too bad you won't be able to see most of it (the last week of the Tom Hansen TV contracts is upon us!), but much has yet to be settled.
Technically, five teams can win the conference title, although the reality is that if Washington takes care of business against USC as they're expected to tonight, that list narrows down to two. In many ways, this weekend is more about settling tournament seeding, and which of the four teams will be getting the crucial bye to avoid going the perilous four games in four nights route to win the conference.
The Washington Huskies are in the most secure possible spot. Their most lethal tests are behind them. They've pulled off two huge comebacks against their in-state rival Washington State. They've swept Arizona. Their loss against Cal is now irrelevant if they take care of business and sweep LA. The only thing standing between them and a conference title is their road woes, but the hapless USC Trojans and besiged UCLA Bruins are their foes this week. While Washington could lose to UCLA, they should at the very least earn a split of the conference title.
The California Golden Bears probably blew their shot at the conference crown when they got the doors blown off of them in Boulder, but a win against Stanford and they should be secure enough to earn the two spot for the Pac-12 tournament. Cal just needs to finish the season 14-4 in conference to feel confident that they'll be selected for the NCAAs and not bomb out next week. Cal still has the highest RPI and the cleanest resume of all the Pac-12 schools, and are the likeliest to earn an at-large bid.
The Arizona Wildcats have to be kicking themselves. Blown home games to Oregon and Washington prevent them from being in control of their destiny, and now they must fight to stay in third. Thankfully, that fight this weekend is Arizona State, which should be a relatively easy victory and a quick path to a bye. But Arizona needs to storm through the conference tournament next week and at least get back to the title game if they hope to have any chance of returning to the Dance.
The Oregon Ducks and the Colorado Buffaloes are both off the bubble right now, but they can get back on it if they can beat the other this weekend. The loser of their head-to-head contest is probably eliminated from at-large contention, and also probably ends up the fifth seed and has to play an extra game.
After the jump, the potential Pac-12 tournament seedings.
If the Pac-12 tournament was played today...
1 seed - Washington (20-8, 13-3 in conference): Washington is in control, with only a sweep by the LA schools possibly derailing conference title and NCAA at-large hopes. But their resume hardly blows anyone out of the water.
2 seed - California (23-7, 13-4 in conference): Cal owns the tiebreaker with Washington, so if the Huskies lose this weekend and Cal wins, the Bears move back into a first place
3 seed - Arizona (21-9, 12-5 in conference): 99 times out of 100 this Arizona team should beat this ASU team. They're pretty well locked into a bye with a victory. A bizarro upset takes them out of consideration for everything.
4 seed - Colorado (19-9, 11-5 in conference): Beat Oregon and they lock up that bye (owning the head-to-head wiht the Ducks.
5 seed - Oregon (20-8, 11-5 in conference): Ducks have a lot of places where they could end up, but beating Colorado simplifies a lot of those scenarios.
6 seed - UCLA (16-13, 9-7 in conference): UCLA beats who they're supposed to beat, loses who they're supposed to lose to, and generally wins at home. That UCLA-Washington game will be fascinating theater.
7 seed - Stanford (19-10, 9-8 in conference): Beating Colorado by billions then losing to Utah is about the worst way to do a road trip. It's the story of a disappointing season for the Cardinal.
8 seed - Washington St. (14-14, 6-10 in conference): Team is hovering to try and keep that NIT/CBI bid alive, but right now they have an uphill road to achieve that type of level of notoriety.
9 seed - Oregon St. (15-13, 5-11 in conference): Beavers and Cougars in the Disappointment Bowl. The nice thing for them is both of these teams have proven to hang around quite well with Washington, so the winner could have a chance at an upset the next day.
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 Oregon vs #12 USC
Second day matchups
#1 Washington vs WSU/OSU winner
#2 Cal vs Stanford/ASU winner
#3 Arizona vs UCLA/Utah winner
#4 Colorado vs Oregon/USC winner