Beating Washington is only the first step.
The Arizona Wildcats enter the final game of the regular season unsure of what seed they’ll have at next week’s Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. They don’t even know what day they will begin play at T-Mobile Arena, either Wednesday or Thursday, as their seed could range from as high as third to as low as sixth.
So much is still to be settled with one day of competition left, with only one locked into its Pac-12 tourney seeds. That would be the Washington Huskies, which will be No. 12 whether or not it can beat Arizona on Saturday night.
If the Huskies were to pull off the road sweep of the Arizona schools, after beating ASU in Tempe on Thursday, the Wildcats would be all but assured of finishing outside the top four and having to play in Wednesday’s first round.
That’s why winning the home finale at McKale Center is step No. 1 for Arizona in its quest for a first-round bye. Everything else is up to three other teams—ASU, Colorado and USC—and how they fare on Saturday.
Arizona, ASU, Colorado and USC are currently in a 4-way tie for third place at 10-7. The Sun Devils host Washington State, Colorado visits Utah and USC is home for UCLA. KenPom.com has them all favored by at least five points, making it very possible that 4-way knot will remain and tiebreakers will need to be used to determine seeds.
The same goes for if Arizona and two of those other three win, as well as if the Wildcats and only one other come out on top. If Arizona beats Washington and everyone else loses? Well, nothing’s ever that easy.
All told there are seven different scenarios in which Arizona could win and still be tied for third place. In five of those the Wildcats would earn a first-round bye, with one dropping them to fifth and another to sixth and thus forcing them to play Wednesday.
Below is how each of those would play out:
If Arizona, ASU, Colorado and USC all win Saturday, the first tiebreaker used to split them up would be their collective head-to-head record against each other. And that would favor the Buffaloes, who despite losing in Tucson in January went 3-0 against ASU and USC and their 3-1 mark would win out.
To break the remaining three-way tie, since everyone else split against each other, it goes to who did best against Oregon (ASU) and/or UCLA (USC) and leaves Arizona at the bottom.
- No. 3 Colorado
- No. 4 ASU
- No. 5 USC
- No. 6 Arizona
3-way tie No. 1 (USC loses vs. UCLA)
USC is 7-1 in Pac-12 play at the Galen Center, and it beat UCLA on the road back in January, but the Bruins are the hottest team in the league and very easily can beat the Trojans on their court. If that happens they’d fall to sixth and leave the others tied. Arizona would finish on top via a 2-1 record against ASU and Colorado. Colorado, which split with the Arizona schools in January, would be next and ASU brings up the rear.
- No. 3 Arizona
- No. 4 Colorado
- No. 5 ASU
- No. 6 USC
3-way tie No. 2 (ASU loses to WSU)
Based on how bad Washington State looked in the second half against Arizona on Thursday night, thinking the Cougars can win in Tempe is a little far-fetched. Then again, ASU just lost at home to a Washington team that Wazzu swept, and the Sun Devils fell in Pullman earlier this season, so never say never. If that were to happen, Arizona and Colorado would still be tied because of the same 2-1 mark against each other and USC, though the Wildcats’ home win over the Buffs would serve as the second tiebreaker.
- No. 3 Arizona
- No. 4 Colorado
- No. 5 USC
- No. 6 ASU
3-way tie No. 3 (Colorado loses at Utah)
Colorado heads into Saturday on a 3-game losing streak, including an ugly loss at Cal on Feb. 27, so to expect them to bounce back and win in Salt Lake City may be asking a lot. And that’s too bad for UA fans, because if the Buffaloes are not involved in any 3-way tie with Arizona then all the tiebreakers go against them. Arizona, ASU and USC are all 2-2 against each other, which then means factoring in how each did against the top teams in the league, and that’s not good for the Cats, who went 0-4 against Oregon and UCLA. ASU’s win last month against the Ducks gives it the No. 3 seed, while USC would have two wins over UCLA compared to zero for Arizona.
- No. 3 ASU
- No. 4 USC
- No. 5 Arizona
- No. 6 Colorado
If Arizona wins and only one of the other three 7-loss teams is victorious then it will come down to either head-to-head records or how each did against Oregon or UCLA. And regardless of who the Wildcats would be tied with, it would be for third, and thus they’d earn a first-round bye.
Arizona gets the No. 3 seed if Colorado beats Utah but ASU and USC lose, while if the Wildcats are tied at 11-7 with either ASU or USC they would be the No. 4 seed by virtue of ASU’s win over Oregon or USC’s sweep of UCLA.
Who should you be rooting for?
To put it as simply as possible, USC needs to lose against UCLA in order for Arizona—assuming the Wildcats don’t choke against Washington—to avoid playing in Wednesday’s first round. If the Trojans win then both ASU and Colorado have to lose.
Or all three could fall and Arizona gets third outright.
So in other words, GO BRUINS!