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Third NCAA bid depends on USC’s finish

The pretenders have been cleared. Now only one serious contender remains: USC.

The Trojans are the last team standing in pursuit of the Pac-12 for a third NCAA Tournament at-large bid.

Arizona and UCLA are locks. But barring an upset conference tournament winner, the Wildcats and Bruins will be the Pac-12s only representatives in March Madness…unless USC climbs out of the bubble and lands a bid.

No one else is reasonably well positioned. Utah, Oregon, Arizona State – they’re all frustrated just when they were supposed to shine.

— The Utes have lost seven of their last 12.

— The Ducks have lost three in a row and five of the past nine.

— The Sun Devils have dropped six of their past 10.

– Colorado and Washington state have been shut down a long time ago.

To avoid a two-bid march, the conference needs either a Las Vegas stunner or the Trojans to finish strong.

That won’t be easy with the Mountain swing and a visit from the Arizona schools. But right now, USC is by far the conference’s best hope.

The selection process is always fluid, but time is short.

To the asset values…

(NET ranking through Monday.)

1.UCLA (23-4/14-2)

Last week: 1
Results: Beat Stanford 73-64 and Cal 78-43
Next: in Utah (Thursday)
NET ranking: 4
Comment: The Big Ten’s move played no part in how the Bruins were treated by the selection committee at the early start reveal. But I wonder if committee members are so offended by Mick Cronin’s suggestion of impropriety that the accusation itself has an unconscious influence on how the Bruins are treated in the future. Did Cronin create a problem that wasn’t there?

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2.Arizona (4/24/13/4)

Last week: 2
Results: Defeated Utah 88-62 and Colorado 78-68
Next: vs. Arizona State (Saturday)
NET ranking: 11
Commentary: On New Year’s Eve, the Wildcats led ASU for the final 38 minutes in a 69-60 victory. We expect more of the same in the resit.

3.USC (8/11/19/5)

Last week: 4
Results: Beat Cal 97-60 and Stanford 85-75
Next: in Colorado (Thursday)
NET ranking: 56
Comment: One more win and Andy Enfield will reach 20 wins for the fourth consecutive season. Here is a list of the other USC coaches who have accomplished this feat:

4.Oregon (15-13/9-8)

Last week: 3
Results: Lost in Washington 72-71 (OT) and WSU 68-65
Next: in Oregon State (Thursday)
NET ranking: 49
Comment: The Ducks don’t deserve this spot in the power ratings after three consecutive losses, but we couldn’t feel comfortable with anyone else. (And we tried. Oh, how we tried.)

5. State of Arizona (9/10/19/7)

Last week: 6
Results: Lost to Colorado 67-59, defeated Utah 67-59
Next: in Arizona (Saturday)
NET ranking: 69
Comment: If the Sun Devils had started 7-5 instead of 11-1, their current record would feel more like 23-5 than 16-12.

6. Utah (11/17/10-7)

Last week: 5
Results: Lost to Arizona 88-62 and ASU 67-59
Next: vs. UCLA (Thursday)
NET ranking: 57
Commentary: Even a worst-case finish for the Utes — a 10-10 record in conference play — would top best-case projections in November.

7. Washington State (13-15/8-9)

Last week: 7
Results: Defeated OSU 80-62 and Oregon 68-65
Next: at Stanford (Thursday)
NET ranking: 75
Comment: That’s four wins in six games against Oregon for Cougars coach Kyle Smith if you score at home. What the Cougars did and got three points ahead of the Ducks.

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