So much can change so quickly in the college basketball landscape. Part of that is the number of games played each week, in comparison to football, for example, but part of it is also the volatility of the sport itself: one mid-court heave with time running out alters many destinies.
Such is the reality for Pacific-12 Conference men’s hoops in 2020. Just a week ago, it was the Arizona State Sun Devils with the inside edge for the regular-season title, and now it’s the UCLA Bruins—with the Oregon Ducks close behind. The Sun Devils saw their momentum stopped, and the Bruins have seen theirs continue … and the Ducks wait.
As the last week of the regular season begins, here is the reality: UCLA sits atop the conference standings with a 12-5 record and one game to play (on the road against rival USC). Oregon is 11-5 in league play with two home games against the Bay Area schools left to play, while ASU is 10-6 and gets to host the Washington schools this week.
No other school can win the Pac-12 title: Not Arizona, the highest-rated sabermetric squad in the conference, nor Colorado, the second-highest, poll-ranked team in the league last week. Only the Ducks control their own destiny right now, although the Bruins and the Sun Devils will be right behind them.
If Oregon beats California on Thursday night, it clinches at least a share of the Pac-12 title. The Golden Bears (13-16 overall, 7-9 in league) are the worst team in the conference on paper, sabermetrically speaking, and the Ducks should be able to win that one at home in Eugene.
Also on Thursday night, the Sun Devils host Washington (13-16, 3-13), and while ASU is favored to win, the Huskies are not a pushover: They are actually the seventh-best team in the league when it comes to offensive and defensive efficiency balance this season, despite their last-place standing.
If the Sun Devils can win that game, they stay alive to Saturday, which will decide everything as UCLA takes on USC (21-9, 10-7); Oregon hosts Stanford (20-9, 9-7); and ASU hosts Washington State (15-14, 6-10).
You can see where this is headed: The Cardinal and the Trojans are both pushing for NCAA Tournament berths, and even the Cougars have postseason aspirations this year. That means all three of those games could be quite the contests, with so much riding on the line for each team.
If we had to guess, the Ducks will end up winning the conference title after winning both its games at home, and both the Bruins and the Sun Devils will end up a game behind—all because of this last-second shot on Thursday in Los Angeles.
See what we mean?
Read all our Pac-12 men’s basketball coverage here!