Bruins seek to finish above .500 as Trojans jockey for Pac-12 (and NCAA) position
An NCAA tournament at-large bid is no longer on the table for the UCLA basketball team. Neither is movement in the Pac-12 Conference standings.
UCLA will finish the regular season in 10th place.
UCLA’s game Saturday against Oregon State matters little for the Bruins, except in one way: to avoid ignominy.
Since 1948, when John Wooden became UCLA’s coach, the Bruins have finished with a losing regular-season record just three times. UCLA is currently 15-15 overall, 6-11 in Pac-12 play, with one game to go.
“It’s now or never,” forward Tony Parker said.
UCLA’s last losing season came in 2010, after Nikola Dragovic was suspended in the wake of an arrest for assault at a Hollywood concert. Before that, UCLA did it in 2003, the final year of Steve Lavin’s tenure, and in 2004, when Ben Howland took over a depleted roster.
This season had a promising start. The Bruins defeated Kentucky, Gonzaga and Arizona in the opening couple of months. An at-large NCAA tournament bid was theirs to lose. But UCLA has now lost six of its last eight games and its only hope to extend its season is to win the Pac-12 tournament.
“When you lose, you just feel terrible,” said Parker, UCLA’s lone senior. “Messes up your whole night. You don’t eat, you don’t sleep. It’s a sour taste. And I’ve had that taste in my mouth too much this year.”
UCLA fans have reacted by staying at home late in the season. Attendance was 6,578 for Wednesday’s game against Oregon, a top-10 team.
Has USC locked up an NCAA tournament bid with 20 wins?
“I don’t know,” Coach Andy Enfield said. “I haven’t thought about that, and that’s not my decision.”
To earn a bid, USC probably needs to win at least another game. A win against Oregon on Saturday could be the difference between fifth place and ninth place in the Pac-12 standings.
Deciphering those standings requires a spreadsheet and maybe an abacus:
With a win, USC (20-10, 9-8) would finish in at least sixth place. If Colorado loses its final game against Utah, the Trojans would end up in fifth place on the strength of their head-to-head tiebreaker with the Buffaloes.
A loss makes the situation more complicated and USC could finish anywhere from sixth to ninth. Washington, at 9-9, currently occupies seventh place. Oregon State and Stanford are tied for eighth, at 8-9.
If Oregon State and Stanford lose, USC would win the tiebreaker with Washington and finish sixth.
If Oregon State wins and Stanford loses, USC would finish seventh.
If Oregon State loses and Stanford wins, USC would drop to eighth.
If Oregon State and Stanford win, it would create a four-way tie for sixth place. In that scenario, the tiebreaker compares head-to-head records among all four tied teams and USC would drop all the way to ninth.
The permutations should make for an exciting final weekend of regular-season play. And they keep alive an interesting possibility:
With a seventh-place finish, USC’s first-round game in the Pac-12 tournament next week in Las Vegas would be against rival UCLA.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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