Pac-10 Basketball Predictions

Halfway through the Pac-10 schedule a potential scenario for the Pac-10 race is getting clearer. Here's a prediction as to how Pac-10 conference play will shake out for the remainder of the conference schedule...

With the Pac-10 conference generally through half of its games, it seems appropriate to go out on a limb and make some predictions on how the Pac-10 conference race will play out in the second half of it schedule.

Here is the predicted order of finish:

1. Stanford

Current Pac-10 Record: 5-3 (Fifth -- Tied)

Remaining Schedule:

1/31 ASU
2/2 Arizona
2/7 Oregon
2/9 Oregon St.
2/14 at Washington
2/16 at Washington State
2/21 USC
2/23 UCLA
2/28 at Arizona
3/2 at ASU

Stanford is currently 5-3 and tied for fifth in the conference. So, how do you pick them to win the Pac-10 championship? They have the easiest path to it. Even though they're officially in fifth place, they're only one loss behind the leader, USC. If you look at their schedule, the tougher games they have remaining on their schedule they get to play at home, except for on the road at Arizona. Their other road trip is to the Washingtons. If they win the games in which they'll be favored, which would probably include the game at Arizona in late February, they wouldn't lose another game and end up 15-3 in the Pac-10, which almost assuredly gets them the championship. Among the five games of Arizona at home, Oregon at home, USC at home, UCLA at home and Arizona on the road, if they win three of those and hold serve on the other games on their schedule, they're still 13-5, which is probably good enough for at least tie for the conference title. Curtis Borchardt pulled an abdominal muscle this weekend; if he sits out any prolonged period of time, all bets are off.

2. USC

Current Pac-10 Record: 7-2 (1st)

Remaining Schedule:

1/31 at OSU
2/2 at Oregon
2/6 at UCLA
2/14 ASU
2/16 Arizona
2/21 at Stanford
2/23 at Cal
2/28 Oregon 3/2 Oregon St.

USC looks like a likely pick for second, merely because they have emerged from the first round of Pac-10 games with only two losses. If they win the games in which they'll be favored for the rest of their Pac-10 schedule, which would include a split on their Bay Area road trip, they'd finish 13-5 in conference. If they get one win at Oregon or at UCLA, they could finish 14-4, which could be good enough to get them the Pac-10 championship. If USC sweeps in Oregon, they could have enough momentum to win it.

3. UCLA

Current Pac-10 Record: 6-3 (3rd – Tied)

Remaining Schedule:

1/31 at Oregon
2/2 at OSU
2/6 USC
2/9 at Villanova
2/14 Arizona
2/16 ASU
2/21 at Cal
2/23 at Stanford
2/28 OSU
3/2 Oregon

UCLA would probably then be slotted for third. If they win the games in which they'd be favored, they'd finish 12-6, which could get them fourth in the conference, or probably a tie for third. Projecting conservatively for UCLA, it would be specifically a split on the Oregon road trip, wins against USC and the Arizona schools at home, a split in the Bay area and a sweep of the Oregons at home. You might have to figure in that UCLA will win at least one game in which you'd expect they'd lose. The candidates for that would be Oregon at Oregon or Stanford at Stanford. But, the thing is, the Bruins have so many more chances to drop games that you would expect them to win, such as at Oregon State, Arizona and ASU at home, at Cal and Oregon at home.

4. Cal

Current Pac-10 Record: 5-3 (5th – Tied)

Remaining Schedule:

1/31 Arizona
2/2 ASU
2/7 OSU
2/9 Oregon
2/14 at WSU
2/16 at Washington
2/21 UCLA
2/23 USC
2/28 at ASU
3/2 at Arizona

Cal has an excellent chance at finishing among the top four in the Pac-10, and a legit chance to finish even higher. Currently 5-3 in the Pac-10, the next two weeks for them are crucial. They play the Arizona and Oregon schools at home. It'd be big if they get three wins out of those two weekends, which would mean beating one of either Arizona or Oregon at home, which is doable. If they can get those three out of the four wins there, win at the Washingtons, then split against the L.A. schools at home and split against the Arizonas on the road, they're 12-6, which probably at least gets them a piece of third place. If they possibly win one more among the games you think they wouldn't, which would mean beating both Arizona and Oregon at home, or sweeping the L.A. schools at home, or winning at Arizona, they're 13-5. If they win out at home, they have a very good chance that they could (gulp) win the Pac-10. So far this season they're 12-0 at home.

5. Oregon

Current Pac-10 Record: 7-2 (1st – Tied)

Remaining Schedule:

1/31 UCLA
2/2 USC
2/7 at Stanford
2/9 at Cal
2/16 OSU
2/21 Washington St.
2/23 Washington
2/28 at USC
3/2 at UCLA

Oregon has a pretty tough remaining Pac-10 schedule, and because of their vulnerability on the road, will probably take a tumble down the Pac-10 standings. They have UCLA and USC at home this coming weekend, which are absolute must-wins for them. Because then they go to Stanford and Cal, have a rest with a home stand against Oregon State, Washington and Washington State, but then go on the road to end their conference schedule against USC and UCLA. They have to play each of the other four projected top teams in the conference on the road and two of them still at home. If they beat ASU, Washington and WSU at home, and then split on the other weekends, they're 12-6.

6. Arizona

Current Pac-10 Record: 6-3 (3rd -- Tied)

Remaining Schedule:

1/31 at Cal
2/2 at Stanford
2/7 Washington
2/9 WSU
2/14 at UCLA
2/16 at USC
2/20 ASU
2/28 Stanford
3/2 Cal

Arizona is currently 6-3 and tied for third with UCLA, but if you project out the remainder of their Pac-10 schedule, they'll have to win some games in which they wouldn't be favored to remain in the top five of the conference. They have the Washingtons and ASU at home, which you can chalk up as wins. Road trips to the Bay Area and L.A. are going to take its toll. They won't be favored when the travel to Stanford, and probably not when they go to Cal. But let's say they split on the road in the Bay Area. They definitely won't be favored when they travel to UCLA and USC. If they lose both of those, they still close out the season with a home weekend against Stanford and Cal. Tough. The probably won't be favored against Stanford at home. If they split that home weekend, they're 11-7 in the Pac-10.

More than likely Arizona State and Oregon State round out the top eight of the conference, so that would then be your field for the Pac-10 Tournament to be held at the Staples Center, March 7-9.

The finish in the Pac-10 regular conference would then dictate the tournament seeding:

1) Stanford
2) USC
3) UCLA
4) Cal
5) Oregon
6) Arizona
7) Arizona State
8) Oregon State

That would mean, in the first round, Stanford v. Oregon State; USC v. Arizona State; UCLA v. Arizona; and Cal v. Oregon. Second round games, if the favorites win: Stanford v. Cal and UCLA v. USC.

Now, of course, there are still many, many games to be played, so it's practically impossible to really predict the outcome of Pac-10 conference play, and especially the Pac-10 tournament. In a tournament, anything can happen. The Pac-10 tournament has essentially rendered Pac-10 conference play into 2 ½ months of vying for the conference tournament seeding. And UCLA, no matter its seeding in the Pac-10 tournament, looks to have some clear advantages. It's a hometown crowd at the Staples Center, the team doesn't have to travel anything more than getting on a bus, and you would think, by that time in the season, the team with the most experienced seniors would have an edge. So, even though UCLA, after the results of the first round of the Pac-10, has an uphill climb to finish higher than third in the conference, the conference tournament this year presents a whole new scenario and perspective. It gives UCLA still another chance to put it together and win the conference by making a run in the tournament. If the projected seeding above is slightly accurate, it's very conceivable that UCLA could beat Arizona, USC and Stanford at the Staples Center, win the Pac-10 championship and vastly improve its NCAA tournament seeding prospects.


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