Utah beat Arizona in an important Pac-12 conference game on Saturday, February 27. The Utah Utes and Arizona Wildcats are likely both heading to the 2016 NCAA Tournament, but the Utes picked up a win that could lead to a Pac-12 conference title. The 70-64 victory pushed Utah to 23-7 overall this season and 12-5 in Pac-12 games. Arizona falls to 22-7 overall and 10-6 in Pac-12 games.
In the updated Pac-12 standings, the Utah Utes now have a strong hold of second place in the conference regular season. The team has just a game against the Colorado Buffaloes on Saturday, March 5, to wrap up the regular season schedule. This gives Utah a shot at finishing with a 13-5 record against Pac-12 opponents during the 2015-16 college basketball season. It could lead to the first men’s basketball conference championship for the school since it joined the Pac-12 Conference.
Currently the Oregon Ducks hold first place in the Pac-12 with a conference record of 11-4. The Ducks also beat the Utes earlier in the regular season, giving Oregon a tie-breaker should the teams finish with identical records. With three games left to play, though, Oregon has to finish the season strong in order to clinch that regular season Pac-12 championship.
For the Utah Utes to win an outright Pac-12 regular season title, the team would need to beat Colorado and have the Oregon Ducks lose two of their remaining three games. Oregon finishes the season with a home game against the Washington Huskies (February 28) and road games against the UCLA Bruins (March 2) and USC Trojans (March 5). Earlier in the season, Oregon beat UCLA by 14 points and USC by eight points.
It’s also still possible for the Arizona Wildcats and California Golden Bears to force a four-way tie for the regular season Pac-12 title. All four teams could potentially finish with 12-6 conference records, setting up an extensive serious of tie-breakers for the conference to decide tournament seeding. All four schools could also claim a share of the regular season Pac-12 title at that point, which could certainly show how competitive the conference has been this year.
In the case of a three-way or four-way tie for the Pac-12 tournament seeding, the conference would first look at the common games played among those four schools. Oregon is already 4-1, with a 2-0 record against the Utah Utes, 1-1 record against California, and 1-0 record against Arizona. It would give Oregon the top seed in the Pac-12 tournament, because that record would be better than the other three schools could post.
For the Utah Utes to win the Pac-12 conference title for the regular season, the school needs to finish in just a two-way tie with the Oregon Ducks to be considered co-champs or a game ahead to win the title outright. It would take one Oregon loss to create the conference tie and at least two Oregon losses to give Utah a shot at claiming that Pac-12 title for themselves. Both schools have a great shot to claim the top two seeds in the Pac-12 tournament, especially being favored to win the rest of their regular season Pac-12 games.
It’s also not too early for the top Pac-12 schools to begin thinking about the 2016 NCAA Tournament. At 23-7, the Utah Utes stand a good chance of securing a third seed should the team also play well in the Pac-12 Tournament. That could also be the case for the 22-7 Arizona Wildcats and 22-6 Oregon Ducks, but it all depends on how the teams perform in the Pac-12 Tournament. There are just two weekends left in regular season play before the tournament begins on Wednesday, March 9. By Utah beating Arizona, a new school has a shot to become the favorite in the tournament.
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