Keep the ladder handy. Don’t put away the scissors.
By doing nothing this week, the Arizona Wildcats have not-played their way back into contention for a share of the Pac-12 title, enjoying the view while the league front-runners took a collective face-plant near the finish line.
If everything continues to go UA’s way Saturday — the final day of the regular season — Sean Miller and his guys could be snipping the nets at McKale Center.
On other hand, the Cats could still drop to a fifth seed for next week’s conference tournament in Las Vegas and miss out on the first-round bye that goes to the top four seeds.
Yeah, plenty at stake Saturday when Arizona State comes to McKale Center.
“Tying for first, that means a lot,” Miller said. “A lot of things would have to go our way, including us beating ASU. That’s the focus for us.”
Miller isn’t concerned about conference tournament seeding as long as the Cats are somewhere in the top four and get that bye. (In any case, UA can’t be better than a fourth seed because it loses all the tiebreakers.) No big deal. The actual order of the top four doesn’t much matter. The league is so tightly packed in terms of talent that one path to the title figures to be as tricky as the other.
But splitting a conference title would be a nice way to wrap up Senior Day on Saturday.
“I’m very disappointed we didn’t win our regular-season conference championship, at this point,” Miller said. “I know a number of things could go our way and maybe we could share it.”
Let’s review the Pac-12 action this week that kept alive Arizona’s title hopes:
–UCLA lost at cellar-dwelling Washington State, 73-61.
–Cal lost at home to Stanford, 83-70.
–Oregon got blown out at Colorado, 76-53, despite the Buffs missing forward Andre Roberson, the nation’s leading rebounder. He was out because of mono.
Yes, the league’s top three teams lost by a combined 48 points so far this week.
Let’s look ahead:
By the time Arizona tips off against Arizona State at 2:30 p.m. in Tucson, it will know if it has a shot to get into what would be a four-way tie for first place.
Cal is done at 12-6. UCLA (12-5) plays at Washington at noon. Oregon (12-5) is at Utah at 12:30 p.m.
Could the Bruins and Ducks both lose? Stranger things have happened just this week.
Colorado, meanwhile, tips off at home against Oregon State at the same time Arizona’s game begins. If the Buffs win and the Cats lose, they tie for fourth at 11-7.
They split the season series, so the seeding tiebreaker can’t be broken by the head-to-head results. The tiebreaking rules then go to which team had the better record against the top team in the regular-season standings, continuing down until the tie is broken.
Colorado wins that tiebreaker against Arizona, no matter if the records are compared against Oregon, UCLA or Cal. (UA went a collective 0-4 against those teams.)
Losing that tiebreaker means the Wildcats would be playing Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. against the No. 12 seed in the Pac-12 tournament.
“To win our 12th game, it’s not going to be easy,” Miller said. “I think we’ll all feel really good if we’re able to do it here on Saturday.”