Now, more than ever, every game counts for UCLA in Pac-12 title bid
It’s not just how you play the game in the Pac-12, it’s that you play it.
Oodles of postponements could factor into the race for the conference’s regular-season championship if too many more games get shelved.
Widely expected to push UCLA, Oregon may become ineligible for the title if the Ducks can’t make up at least a few of the five games they have had to push back — including two against the Bruins — after sustained issues with COVID-19.
According to Pac-12 rules, teams must play no less than three fewer conference games than the average number of conference games played by all teams (rounded up or down at .50) to be eligible for the championship.
As of Friday, Oregon was on pace to fall short of that threshold unless it added makeup games to a schedule that now features only 15 conference games. If every Pac-12 team played its schedule as currently constructed, there would be an average of 18.8 conference games completed.
UCLA (12-3 overall, 8-1 Pac-12) sits alone atop the conference standings heading into a game against Oregon State (8-6, 4-4) on Saturday afternoon at Pauley Pavilion after the Bruins’ games against Oregon scheduled for Thursday and Monday were postponed.
UCLA’s loss to Stanford ended the Bruins’ undefeated run in the Pac-12, and coach Mick Cronin sees no silver lining associated with losing.
The Bruins are on track to play 18 conference games and could complete a full slate of 20 games as intended as part of the expanded Pac-12 schedule if they can find a way to make up the two games against the Ducks. One scenario would involve the teams playing in early March during a week in which they’re both scheduled to play only their archrival, but Oregon has some considerable juggling to do with so many other games to make up.
The Ducks have had to pause basketball activities twice since conference play started and are on pace to have played a conference-low six Pac-12 games by the end of the weekend. Arizona State also has some ground to make up after a slew of postponements led to some schedule rejiggering that’s put the Sun Devils on track to play only 17 conference games.
USC has rescheduled the two games it had to push back against Stanford, with the teams set to meet Tuesday in Palo Alto and Feb. 22 at Galen Center. The Cardinal are being allowed to move back into Maples Pavilion for the rest of their home games this season after the lifting of local health restrictions that previously had forced the team to occupy Kaiser Permanente Arena in Santa Cruz.
Five Pac-12 teams are on pace to play all 20 conference games and others could get there. Assuming, of course, they get to play.
VS. OREGON STATE
When: 4 p.m.
Where: Pauley Pavilion.
On the air: TV: Pac-12 Networks; Radio: 570.
Update: UCLA’s extra time off this week allowed the Bruins more opportunities to address some of coach Mick Cronin’s pet peeves, including turnovers and what he called “shooting turnovers” on bad shots like the ones his team took in bunches while falling into a 10-point halftime hole during its last home game against Washington. Oregon State had won three consecutive games before getting outrebounded 48-30 and allowing USC to shoot 62% in the second half Thursday on the way to a 75-62 loss to the Trojans. Guard Ethan Thompson averages a team-high 16.4 points for the Beavers.
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