After four games on the second-to-last night of the Pac-10 regular season, Arizona has control of the title race again and Cal finds itself in a three-way tie for fourth place.
Arizona’s 70-59 home victory over Oregon State, coupled with UCLA’s 70-63 loss at Washington, gives the Wildcats at least a share of their first league title in six years. They can clinch the crown outright on Saturday with a win over Oregon, regardless of how UCLA fares at Washington State.
But the UCLA-WSU game has ramifications for Cal. So does USC’s game at Washington.
Cal, WSU and USC share fourth place, all at 9-8.
If Cal beats Stanford on Saturday and both the Cougars and Trojans lose, the Bears have fourth place outright and the No. 4 seed for next week’s Pac-10 tournament. That much is easy.
Here’s where it gets a bit complicated:
In the case of a three-way tie
If all three teams win or lose and finish in a three-way tie, the first tiebreaker is how the three did against the others. All of them were 1-1 against the others, so that settles nothing.
The next tiebreaker is how they fared against the teams above them in the standings, starting at the top. USC went 1-1 against first-place Arizona and both Cal and WSU were 0-2, so the Trojans would earn the No. 4 seed.
Next: How to separate Cal and WSU. If UCLA finishes second, Cal has the edge because of its overtime win over the Bruins. That is, unless the Cougars beat UCLA on Saturday. Then they remain tied.
At that point, the tie would be broken based on records against third-place Washington. WSU swept the Huskies, Cal lost twice, so the Cougars would be the No. 5 seed, and Cal No. 6.
Thanks to Todd for pointing out that for there to be a three-way tie for fourth, UCLA and Washington would either have to both win or both lose, so nothing is altered on that potential tiebreaking front.
In the case of a two-way tie
If Cal is tied for fourth only with USC, the Trojans’ win over Arizona gives them the No. 4 seed, and Cal is No. 5. But it really doesn’t matter since No. 4 and No. 5 play one another in the Pac-10 quarterfinals.
If Cal is tied for fourth with WSU, both teams would have lost twice to Arizona and split with UCLA. Thus, WSU’s sweep of Washington gives the Cougs the No. 4 seed. Again, Cal would be No. 5 and face the Cougars at noon next Thursday.
Washington State 9-8
Oregon State 5-12
Arizona State 3-14