Wednesday’s matchup between UCLA and USC will be the most significant basketball game the rivals have played in years.
USC is second in the Pac-12 standings. UCLA has three signature wins this season. Both defeated then-No. 7 Arizona last week. The game at Pauley Pavilion will alter the Pac-12 race and bestow bragging rights to one team’s fans.
One hitch: Neither team is ranked.
The Associated Press top 25 was released on Monday, and USC was the first team left out. UCLA was two spots behind.
It’s a significant improvement for the Trojans, who haven’t been ranked since Nov. 17, 2008. Until this week, they hadn’t received a single vote all season.
But USC can make a compelling case it deserves a place in the top 25. It is 14-3. It has wins over Monmouth, Wichita State and Arizona. Its only losses are to No. 7 Xavier, Washington on the road and Monmouth in a rematch.
UCLA, meanwhile, has wins over Kentucky, Gonzaga and Arizona but was swept by Washington and Washington State a week ago. Its 11-6 record likely turned away some voters.
The upshot for either team: A win Wednesday would be another quality win. So one more prize could be at stake: a place in the top 25.