USC and UCLA head into Wednesday’s clash unranked

UCLA's Steve Alford, left, and USC's Andy Enfield

UCLA’s Steve Alford, left, and USC’s Andy Enfield

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times; Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

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.

Twitter: @zhelfand