The Arizona Wildcats could still earn a share of the Pac-12 Conference title, but they might actually be better off if they didn’t.
That’s how jumbled the Pac-12 race, and potential conference tournament seeds are, entering the final week of the regular season.
The Wildcats will earn somewhere between a No. 2 and No. 5 seed for the conference tournament, and if they beat ASU on Sunday, they are guaranteed a finish in the first four spots and a first-round Pac-12 Tournament bye.
Since they have to play on Sunday, a first-round bye could be critical. Not getting one would mean Arizona would have to play in Los Angeles roughly 72 hours after playing in Tempe.
At the same time, a loss to ASU would probably necessitate the Wildcats make a tiring, four-game journey to win the Pac-12 Tournament in order to be invited to the NCAA tournament.
“If we don’t get a bye, it’s not like we can’t win a few or win the tournament,” UA coach Sean Miller said last week. “But in our case not only would you have to win four games in four days you’d really have to win five in seven — or play five in seven. I wish we weren’t playing on Sunday (before) the conference tournament, but we are so we have to be ready.”
Other than the guarantee of a first-round bye with a win, there’s no telling where Arizona could wind up after the weekend concludes. The Wildcats could earn a share of the Pac-12 title only in the unlikely event that Washington was swept in Los Angeles and Stanford beat California.
But in that case, UA would finish third in a three-way tiebreaker because it is only 1-2 collectively against California and Washington. The Huskies would be No. 1 even though they lost to Cal because they beat Arizona twice and are thus 2-1 against the group.
Ties are settled first by head-to-head competition and then by records against the top finishers in the conference, on down until the tie is broken. Multiple-team ties are broken by comparing records within the group of tied teams.
Arizona would actually finish as a No. 2 seed if Washington won the league outright and Arizona, Colorado and California had a three-way tie for second place.
Find out how that scenario, and two others, could play out, in Tuesday's Arizona Daily Star.