Pac-12 Title Race: Any Takers?
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With the Pac-12 tournament coming in a matter of weeks and only a handful of games left for each team to play, nobody -- absolutely nobody -- has shown enough consistency to win the regular season title.
As of now, six teams are in the mix, and each one has a real claim for prevailing. But it's scary that not one of them can separate itself from the rest of the Pac (as it were). Here are the four most likely candidates to emerge, possibly in spite of themselves:
- With Oregon getting swept by Cal, the Ducks will head into their Sat 23 Feb game against Stanford tied for first with Arizona, whom the Ducks beat earlier this season. The last time Oregon played the Cardinal, they lost horribly. It would be no surprise to see the Ducks lose that game in a horrific fashion again. They truly need injured frosh point guard Dominic Artis to heal; they're not the same team without his direction. If the Ducks do beat the Beavers, they will at least be able to control their own destiny throughout the balance of the regular season.
- UCLA was set to grab the top spot and control their own destiny before they ran into a suddenly resurgent Cal Bear squad on Thu 14 Feb. The Bruins have the pesky and surging USC Trojans on the slate this Sun 24 Feb, and while they should win, notable alum Bill Walton can give you -- and anyone else within earshot -- a litany of reasons why should is the operative word in that sentence. (Hint: the name Howland would be mentioned prominently.)
- Arizona is the highest-ranked team in the Pac-12, currently at Number 12 in the nation. The Wildcats are tied for first with Oregon, who owns the tie-breaker, and they play UCLA again, which could be the deciding factor if Oregon loses one more game this year.
- The dark horse coming up on the rail is Cal. Capable of inexplicable stumbles -- they dropped a home game to that SAT powerhouse Harvard earlier this year -- they're as predicable as a bottle of nitro in a paint shaker. As of now, the Bears are one game behind the Ducks and Wildcats and own the tie-breaker in both series. But the Bears are like that mythical box of chocolates and, incredibly, sometimes need special motivation to rally late.
As of now, only Oregon controls its own destiny; each of the other team needs someone in front of them to fall. At some point in the season, each of these teams was either first or second in Pac-12 play and either fourth or fifth in the standings.