Pac-12 Heads into Final Week of Regular Season with Top Teams Battling for Seeding
Nothing is settled in the top four places in the conference standings
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Arizona’s Paris Clark (22) and Colorado’s Jaylyn Sherrod (00) in their game on Feb. 19, 2023 at McKale Center. Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics.
Every Pac-12 team has two games to go, but the top four seeds in the tournament are still up in the air. Teams jostling for a first-round bye in Las Vegas have work to do this weekend.
This season, even the No. 1 seed hasn’t been determined. Stanford currently holds the top position, but its final two games are not easy wins. The Cardinal stand at 14-2 in the conference heading into games against the Associated Press No. 21 Colorado and No. 8 Utah. Both are on the road and require the most grueling travel of any Pac-12 road trip.
The road trip to the Mountain schools requires a flight between the games. Even the second-most difficult road trip to Washington and Washington State is typically not as difficult to navigate for the other teams.
To add to the challenge for the Cardinal, they stand just one game in front of Utah in the league standings. If the Utes defeat California on Thursday and the Cardinal drops its road game at Colorado, the final game between the two will determine who wins the regular season title and the top seed in the tournament.
The Utes must go 2-0 over the weekend and hope the Cardinal lose to the Buffaloes to grab the regular season title and the top seed. If the two were to end up tied, Stanford would take the tiebreaker by virtue of its 2-0 record against Arizona. Utah went 1-1 against the Wildcats.
The reason the games against Arizona matter is the tie breaking rules of the Pac-12. In cases of a two-team tie, the first tiebreaker is head-to-head play. If the two teams split the season series, which would be the case in this situation, the process moves on to the next tiebreaking criterion.
After head-to-head records, the next criterion is the winning percentage against the highest-ranked teams in the league. It starts with the winning percentage against the top-ranked team then proceeds down the standings until the tie is broken. Since the two teams in question would be the two top-ranked teams, it would start with either Colorado or Arizona, whichever ends up at No. 3 after the weekend. In a scenario where the Cardinal lost to the Buffs on Thursday, both Stanford and Utah would be 1-1 against CU. That leaves Arizona as the tiebreaker.
Utah is not guaranteed to even be the No. 2 seed, though. The Utes could still fall to third in the league depending on what Colorado does. The Buffs are one game behind their fellow Mountain team. If CU can pull out the weekend sweep of Stanford and Cal while its rival gets swept by those two teams, it takes the No. 2 seed outright.
If the Mountain schools end up tied, the tiebreaker could fall in either direction depending on this weekend’s games. The most important facet of this tiebreaker is how both do against Stanford this weekend.
CU would have to go 2-0 and hope Utah goes 1-1 to end up tied. If Utah’s loss came to Stanford, CU would take the tiebreaker by virtue of beating the Cardinal in this scenario. If Utah’s loss came to California, the Utes would take the tiebreaker because they beat USC while Colorado lost to the Women of Troy.
It is also possible for the Buffaloes to end up as the fourth seed, but there is no one who can knock them completely out of the top four seeds and the guaranteed bye. Moving up to No. 2 or staying at No. 3 likely allows them to miss Stanford until the conference tournament final, so it’s a desirable position to be in. To stay there, CU must take care of its own business and root for Oregon and Oregon State this weekend.
Arizona stands one game behind Colorado for the No. 3 seed. The Wildcats have to finish on the road, but they are playing Oregon and Oregon State. The Ducks are currently on a seven-game losing streak while the Beavers are on an eight-game losing streak.
UA could pass the Buffs by going 2-0 while Colorado goes 0-2. Thinking CU will go 0-2 at home when one of the teams is 4-12 Cal might not be very realistic, though.
The other scenario that sees CU falling to fourth is Arizona going 2-0 while the Buffs go 1-1. The two teams split their season series, so it goes to the next tiebreaking option. In this tiebreaker, the Wildcats would likely win because they beat USC while Colorado lost to the Women of Troy.
The one thing Arizona does not want to happen is Washington State overtaking USC in the standings. The Cougars are one game behind USC. If they move past the Women of Troy, Arizona would no longer hold the tiebreaker over CU because WSU upset the Wildcats in Tucson while the Buffs defeated the Cougs twice.
Going 2-0 is something Arizona is shooting at for other reasons. The Wildcats are trying to stave off UCLA, which stands one game in back of them for that first-round bye.
The Bruins have only one scenario that goes in their favor. They must go 2-0 when they host Washington and Washington State while Arizona goes 0-2 in the state of Oregon. In a tie breaking situation, Arizona wins by virtue of head-to-head results. The Wildcats won the only game between the two teams this season.
There’s nothing like the final weekend being crucial for all the top teams’ hopes. That’s life in the Pac-12.
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Great info. Go wildcats