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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

February 20, 2013 at 11:40 AM

What’s at stake this week in Pac-12 hoops . . .

The headline speaks for itself. And if you don’t find your team’s name on here, you’re probably headed for the horrors of the CBI (or, if you’re lucky, nowhere).


What’s up: ‘Cats host Washington Wednesday night and WSU Saturday.

The skinny:
 ‘Zona (21-4, 9-4) is a game back of Oregon (21-5, 10-3) in the Pac-12 title race, and a slip this week would be extremely damaging to its chances of picking off at least a piece of that championship. ‘Cats are also projected as a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament, and, looking forward, they don’t want to do anything to slip into that fifth-seed category, which would endanger a “preferred” seed in the West that keeps them in Salt Lake City or San Jose. They’ve been a bit of an enigma, recently getting upset at home against Cal and losing decisively at Colorado.

Arizona State

What’s up: ASU (19-7, 8-5) hosts WSU Wednesday night and the UW Saturday night.

The skinny: Sun Devils are shaping up as a true NCAA bubble team, even with their big victory last weekend at Colorado. Their RPI is an iffy 71, and while the other metrics — 3-3 against the RPI top 50, 6-5 against the top 100 — are favorable, what hurts is an ugly 288 non-conference strength of schedule. ASU has to sweep to sustain the NCAA hopes.


What’s up: Bears (16-9, 8-5) are on the road at Oregon Thursday night and OSU Saturday afternoon.

The skinny: Pivotal wins against Oregon, Arizona and UCLA have catapulted Cal into the NCAA-tournament picture, and the Bears finish with home games against Utah, Cal and Stanford. A win in Eugene would be great, but what Cal really needs to avoid here is a loss at Oregon State (RPI 173).


What’s up: Buffs (17-8, 7-6) home to Utah Thursday night.

The skinny: Coach Tad Boyle said this week it drove him crazy that so much emphasis was placed — by media, fans, players — on the Arizona game last week, when the ASU outcome was just as important (the Buffs lost by one). They have a robust 21 RPI — a bit lofty for a team with a 3-3 top-50 record and 8-7 against the top 100. They look relatively good for the NCAA, but can’t afford a loss to the Utes ahead of a trip next week to the Bay Area.


What’s up: Ducks host Cal Thursday night and Stanford Saturday night.

The skinny: The league title is Oregon’s for the taking, but with a final-weekend trip to Colorado, a loss this week wouldn’t be advisable. Ducks would look a lot more convincing if they got point guard Dominic Artis back; his day-to-day status has been more like month-to-month. Big picture, the Ducks, projected by bracketologist Joe Lunardi as a No. 6 this week, could inch up into that preferred category before it’s over and stay closer to home in March.


What’s up: Cardinal (15-11, 6-7) is at OSU Thursday night and Oregon Saturday night.

The skinny: Only by our good graces do we include the Trees in this discussion. A win at Oregon might get them back to the point where they don’t need to win the Pac-12 tournament to make the NCAA, but even that’s debatable. A lot of work would remain. They’re 1-8 against the top 50, 5-11 versus the top 100. You’re welcome, Cardinal.


What’s up: Bruins (19-7, 9-4) visit USC Sunday afternoon.

The skinny: This could be a moment of truth for the Bruins, who have already lost to the Trojans at home, and we’ve seen recently that USC is a fearless (if it a bit too frenetic) team under Bob Cantu. A loss makes it tough to envision a regular-season title, and there’s also the question of whether Coach Ben Howland’s job is safe after a fairly flighty season.


What’s up: Huskies (14-12, 6-7) at Arizona Wednesday night and ASU Saturday night.

The skinny: I’m not ready to say Washington needs to win the Pac-12 tournament to crash the NCAA (but I’m reeling over that cliff and can feel the ground crumbling beneath my feet). Huskies’ outlook would look a lot different if they somehow ambushed Arizona. Still, they’d need to back it up with a victory at ASU, and would very likely also have to knock off UCLA on the final weekend at home. That’s an awful lot to ask of a team with a 2-7 top-50 RPI.



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