Having Fun with Pac-10 Scenarios

UCLA holds a one-game lead over Washington State in the Pac-10 Conference race. If UCLA wins the conference -- or even ties for the championship -- it's looking good for a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Here's a run down on the scenarios, and how the tie breakers used to determine the Pac-10 tourney seeding could play out...

We've been maintaining that if UCLA wins the Pac-10 conference, it almost certainly would earn a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

There are some details to know about it.

If UCLA ties for the Pac-10 title with Washington State, they would be co-champions of the conference. The tie breakers are only utilized for the Pac-10 tournament seeding, not to determine the conference champion.

So, if UCLA, say, loses to Washington State, and Washington State wins out, they tie for the Pac-10 Conference title. If UCLA wins the co-championship that way, and doesn't lose against any other remaining opponents, it almost certainly earns a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Remember, UCLA still has that stellar RPI rating.

If UCLA, however, tied for the Pac-10 championship while losing a second game besides the one to Washington State (tying in this scenario would dictate that WSU lost another game), the NCAA Tournament Committee might put UCLA on the bubble for that #1 seed.

So, really, probably more important for UCLA in getting a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament is beating the teams it should: the Bay Area schools this weekend, and Washington in Seattle. If it did this, but then lost to 11th-ranked Washington State at Pullman, which wouldn't be a big blemish in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament Committee, and the Cougars win out, UCLA ties for the Pac-10 Championship, and you can consider the #1 NCAA seed in the bag.

This is all based on at least a solid showing in the Pac-10 tournament, also.

UCLA, really, is more likely playing for the overall #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, which, as we said last week, is pretty crucial. It's the difference between potentially facing the #5 overall seed or the #8 overall seed in the Elite Eight.

Pac-10 Conference Tie Breakers

The tie breaker scenarios, while don't determine the conference champion, do have some unofficial ramifications about that champion, however. Many times the co-champion who won the tie breaker to determine the #1 seed in the conference tournament is remembered as the conference champion. While it shouldn't have any impact on the NCAA Tournament Committee's decision-making, if you're UCLA, however, you'd like to remove all doubt.

So, here's a rundown on the situations that could come into play to determine the Pac-10 tournament seeding, and it's very complicated.

UCLA is currently a game ahead of Washington State in the Pac-10 Conference race.

It severely helped itself by sweeping the Arizona schools this last weekend. However, Washington State kept pace by beating Washington, in Seattle.

So, how does the conference tournament seedings play out if UCLA and Washington State tie for the conference championship?

It could come down to Chaminade.

Let's explain:

Let's say UCLA loses against WSU in Pullman, but UCLA wins the other games remaining on its schedule, and WSU wins out.

UCLA and WSU would finish tied at 15-3 in the Pac-10.

So, the first tie-breaker is head-to-head, and the teams will have split.

Next is how the teams did against the next highest finishing team in the Pac-10.

USC and Stanford are currently tied for third. If the scenario above plays out, UCLA and WSU will have both swept USC and split against Stanford.

Then on to the next highest team, and so on and so on. UCLA and WSU, if the scenario plays out, will have identical records against each opponent in the Pac-10.

The next tie-breaker, then, is won-loss percentage against D-1 schools.

UCLA and Washington State would both finish the season 26-4. But one of those victories for UCLA was against Chaminade, which is Division 2.

So, UCLA would lose out on the #1 seed in the conference tournament because it played Chaminade.

It's truly amazing, especially since the scenario – WSU winning out and UCLA losing to WSU in Pullman – is so plausible.

UCLA winning out, of course, solves the issue. But that would mean beating WSU in Pullman and holding serve in the games at Washington and the Bay Area schools in Pauley Pavilion this weekend.

If Washington State loses to Oregon this Wednesday, it would be a huge step for UCLA in terms of winning the conference outright or giving them an edge in any potential tie-breaker situation for the conference tournametn seeding. It, first, would give UCLA a two-game lead in the conference (assuming UCLA beats the Bay Area schools). UCLA, if it won all of its remaining games except the one against WSU, would then win the conference by a game. Even if UCLA lost to another school in its last remaining four games and WSU, and WSU lost to Oregon but won its remaining games, UCLA would win the tie breaker because of Oregon. UCLA has split with the Ducks, but WSU will have lost twice to them.

So, for the conference race and the #1 seed in the conference tournament, the Oregon-WSU game is a huge one for UCLA.

But, in that same type of scenario (that is, if UCLA loses to Washington State and another team, and Washington State loses to just another team), going over more tie-breaker possibilities, if you applied it to other teams in the conference besides Oregon, the tie breaker would come down to whom UCLA and WSU lost to, and which one of those teams finish higher in the conference.

UCLA would be vulnerable in this type of scenario if it lost to any of its other remaining opponents since WSU holds an advantage over UCLA with each of them. With Stanford, UCLA would then have lost twice to the Cardinal, and WSU split with them. If it lost to Cal, WSU swept the Bears. If UCLA lost to Washington, WSU swept the Huskies.

Washington State would be vulnerable in this scenario if it lost to USC, since UCLA swept the Trojans. And, of course, it would be vulnerable in a loss against Oregon State, since the Bruins swept OSU.

So, in that scenario, the #1 seed in the conference tournament would be determined by whichever one of these teams ends up being the key to the tie breaker and which one finishes higher in the conference.

If, say, UCLA loses to Stanford and Washington State, and WSU loses to USC, but USC finishes ahead of Stanford, UCLA gets the #1 seed.

But there is a clause in terms of other teams tying in the conference race. Let's say UCLA loses to Stanford and Washington State and WSU loses to USC, but USC finishes tied with Stanford for third, the Pac-10 tie-breaker rules stipulate that you take the combined record of the tied first-place teams against the teams tied for third. So, in this scenario, UCLA would be 2-0 versus USC and 0-2 against Stanford. USC would be 1-1 against USC, and 1-1 against Stanford. So, the tie breaker would then go to the next highest finisher in the conference.

Oy. Let's stop there.

The bottom line: If UCLA goes 26-4 and ties Washington State for the Pac-10 Conference title, it still gets credit for being co-champions of the Pac-10 conference. The tie breaker, ostensibly, is only for seeding purposes in the Pac-10 tournament, as we said. However, as we also said, UCLA would like to have the #1 seed in the conference tournament, for reputation alone, as well as helping to ensure it does well in the conference tournament.

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