That scenario only underlines the chaotic nature of this season's inaugural Pac-12 race. No one team has proven consistent enough to claim the title of front runner, and the current leaders all face tough road stretches to end the year, leaving the final outcome muddled and frantic.
With everyone having played each other, and only a month of hoops remaining on the schedule, I think it's an appropriate time to try and make sense of it all... before the conference further confuses things.
I might as well start with the current leaders, Washington. They may sit alone in 1st, buoyed by a 5-game win streak, but they reside behind a massive tie-breaker 8-ball, having lost to each of the teams currently residing in 2nd (Cal and Colorado). Much like the Buffs, they play most of their remaining schedule on the road (five of seven). Add to it some serious free throw shooting woes, and I can't see them holding on to their tenuous lead.
|Wroten and the Huskies currently lead, but will it last?|
|How'd these guys lost to WSU? Worst loss amongst the leaders.|
|Home wins have kept the Buffs near the top of a conference for the first time in 15 years.|
|The Ducks have proven to be the toughest road team in the league.|
|The 'Zona win at Cal dramatically altered the Pac-12 race.|
That buzzing sound in your ear is a stress induced headache, brought on by the exceedingly mediocre set of Pac-12 contenders. As I said at the outset, no one looks comfortable at the top, so much so that the only possible outcome is a tie. I think 5-way is a little extreme, but some manner of sister-kissing will rule the Pac-12 at the end.
I think Washington is about to fall hard. I could easily see them losing both games in Oregon this weekend. Same with the Buffs; the road is not the place CU wants to find themselves right now. Look for both CU and UW to fall off the pace.
Oregon, being the only team proven capable of winning on the road, must be considered, but they've looked awkward against teams like Utah and USC in victory. Not as statistically strong as the other contenders, I think a few too many splits down the stretch will keep them with the Buffs and Huskies, and off the lead.
I like Cal and Arizona to tie for the title, with 'Zona getting the nod due to the tie-breaker. While they've slowed a bit over the past two weeks, the Golden Bears are still a strong team on paper, and their toughest remaining pair of games, against the Oregon's, is at home. Arizona's recent performance in the Bay Area has me convinced that they can slog through to the kind of victories needed to claim a title.
As for the conference tournament, I feel that it is the definition of a crap shoot, with any of eight teams capable of catching fire, and their opponents, at the right time. Certainly, hoop challenged squads like Utah, USC, ASU, ans WSU are out of it, but I could envision even roller-coaster groups like UCLA and Oregon St having a good stretch of games towards a title.
To that end, with randomness the call of the day, I decided to literally pick a winner out of a hat. I tossed 16 slips of paper (two per team) into a well-worn cap of mine left lying around the office. After ensuring the mix was well tossed, an underling was asked to pick the winner and a runner-up. The results, Arizona over UCLA in the final. Book it.