Four weeks to go in the Pac-12 regular season and there are nine teams within two games of each other competing for spots in the top four.
Why does that matter in a conference where it seems no more than two teams — and maybe just one — will secure NCAA tournament bids?
Washington, at 10-1, has a three-game lead on the rest of the field in the conference standings.
But there is something at stake for the next group. The top four finishers earn byes into the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament, March 13 through 16 in Las Vegas, and three of those spots are entirely up for grabs.
Winning three games to capture the Pac-12’s automatic NCAA berth is tough enough. Having to win four straight days is a much steeper climb.
Last week: Jake 6-6, Jeff 4-8
Season: Jeff 48-17, Jake 45-20
UCLA (12-12, 5-6) at Cal (5-18, 0-11), 7 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
Jake: Cal could win this one if things fall its way. The erratic Bruins are vulnerable, but probably not vulnerable enough for the Bears. Pick: UCLA
Jeff: Moses Brown, the Bruins’ freshman center, scored 16 points in the first meeting with Cal and should be inspired after being suspended last Saturday for being after for a team function. Cal would prefer an uninspired UCLA team. Pick: UCLA
Arizona State (16-7, 7-4) at Colorado (14-9, 5-6), 7:30 p.m. (FS1)
Jake: ASU had a great game Saturday, so it’s due for a stinker in the thin air Wednesday. Colorado lost to the Sun Devils by 22 last month, but the Buffaloes are a different team now. Pick: Colorado
Jeff: Colorado has wins over Oregon, UCLA and USC in its past three games, making it perhaps the league’s hottest team. Pick: Colorado
USC (13-11, 6-5) at Stanford (12-11, 5-6), 8 p.m. (ESPNU)
Jake: If Stanford guard Daejon Davis (head) is still sidelined, the Cardinal will struggle. USC has too much talent to play as poorly as it did last week. Pick: USC
Jeff: The Cardinal plays five of its final conference games at Maples Pavilion, beginning with this one. But Stanford’s 23-point loss at Oregon on Sunday does not generate much confidence. Pick: USC
Arizona (14-10, 5-6) at Utah (13-10, 7-4), 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Jake: Things just keep getting worse for Arizona, and Utah’s three-point shooting won’t make it any better. The Utes find ways to win. Pick: Utah
Jeff: I’ve finally come to realize the team from Tucson is no longer Arizona. At least not the one we’ve watched for the past three decades. Losing by 14 points at home to Washington State will have that effect. Pick: Utah