Breaking Down the Pac-12 Title Race


by: Griffin Bennett

With only 3 weeks and 5 games remaining for each team, the Pac-12 regular season title race has come down to five teams. Oregon, Colorado, and Arizona are each 9-4 while Washington and California are 10-3.

It’s going to be a close one as we reach the end. Strangely, each of the 5 teams has 3 road games and 2 home games left. Cal, Oregon, and Colorado all play each other while Arizona and UW have one match-up remaining against each other and don’t play any of the rest.

Let’s break the remaining three weeks down, game-by-game, and try to predict the conference champs (or co-champs) using some advanced metrics ( as well as some old fashioned speculation.

Here is how predicts wins and losses: “Predictions are based on the current values of the adjusted efficiencies and tempo, with home court advantage factored in.”

Week 1: Feb 15-19

  • Arizona (9-4):  @ WSU and @ UW. Kenpom predicts a 60% chance of winning in Pullman for the Wildcats as well as a 48% chance of winning at Washington. With the loss of Aden, they should be able to get a road win up there. On the other hand, with Washington already winning in Tucson combined with UW being a far better team at home, a close loss is a fair prediction here. Prediction: Split.
  • California (10-3): vs. Oregon and vs. OSU.  The kenpom system LOVES the Bears. It has them ranked as the 15th best team in the nation. As expected, it gives Cal an 87% chance to beat both Oregon and Oregon State on their home court. While I would like to assume that Cal will stumble here, it’s hard to outright predict it. Both schools are able to pull the upset and the rest of the league may just need them to stumble to have a chance. Prediction: Two Wins.
  • Colorado (9-4): @ Utah. Pretty much a lay-up here. Kenpom gives them a 90% chance of winning and Utah has all but given up on the season. It’s tough to see Colorado falling with a title still up in the air. Prediction: One win.
  • Oregon (9-4): @ Cal and @ Stanford. This is the toughest road trip in the conference so it’s not looking good for the Ducks here. Kenpom gives Oregon a 13% chance at Cal and a 28% chance at Stanford. Those aren’t strong numbers for a team that will need to at least split this road trip to remain alive. I like both of the Stanford and Oregon squads, so I think that this is more of a toss up. I’m going against the numbers here and predicting an Oregon win against the Cardinal. Prediction: Split. 
  • Washington (10-3): vs. ASU and vs. Arizona. The computers at kenpom give UW a 92% chance of winning against ASU and a 52% chance against Arizona. As I said earlier, I see Washington beating the Wildcats at home and blowing out the Sun Devils. Prediction: Two wins.

Week 2: Feb 22-26

  • Arizona (10-5): vs. USC and vs. UCLA. USC is bad and UA is getting a 94% chance at beating them. Against UCLA, another team that the kenpom system loves, the Wildcats are given a 60% chance at winning. You’ve got to assume that Arizona will sweep at home with only a game remaining. Prediction: Two wins.
  • California (12-3): @ Utah and @ Colorado. The California Kenpoms (their new nickname) are predicted to get a 97% blowout in Utah while also getting a 66% chance of winning in Boulder. Playing at Colorado is so tough with the altitude where they are undefeated in conference play. This will be the biggest game of the season for the Buffs and I see an upset brewing. Prediction: Split.
  • Colorado (10-4): vs. Stanford and vs. Cal. The Buffs are getting a 58% chance to beat Stanford and you already know my prediction for the Cal match-up. The Buffs sweep it at home again. Prediction: Two wins.
  • Oregon (10-5): @ OSU. Shockingly, Oregon is only getting a 36% chance to win in Corvallis according the kenpom numbers. That OSU team is feisty and has already beaten this Duck team in Eugene. I think it’s closer than 36%, but I’d have to say that the Beavers will pull this one out in the end. Prediction: Loss.
  • Washington (12-3): @ WSU. This game terrifies me. I hate playing in Pullman and I especially hate this year’s team playing in Pullman. Kenpom gives the Huskies a 48% chance of winning in Pullman and I have to agree. This team struggles on the road and all the Cougs have left is to beat us. Prediction: One loss.

Week 3: Feb 29-Mar 4

  • Arizona (12-5): @ ASU. They’re not dead yet! They play the Sun Devils on that Sunday but they will need the win if they want any share of the title. They’ll dominate the Sun Devils regardless. Prediction: One win.
  • California (13-4): @ Stanford. This is what you want, right? A rivalry game with all the marbles (potentially) on the line for the Bears. Kenpom gives them a 60% chance at winning and I think that sounds about right. Anything could happen in this game and it should be a must-watch. For an added piece of intrigue, this will be the last conference game played as it is on Sunday at 5:30. The conference title could come down to the waning minutes here. For an early guess, I’d have to assume that the Bears will win this one. Prediction: One win.
  • Colorado (12-4): @ Oregon and @ OSU. This is not best road series to try and end the season with a pair of wins. Kenpom gives the Buff’s chances at beating the Ducks and Beavs at 39% each. With both Oregon and Oregon State’s title hopes likely done, they would still be battling for Pac-12 tournament seeding with Oregon looking for that coveted 4th seed. I’ll lean on the stats here and say that Colorado crash lands before the finish line and drops both road games in Oregon. Prediction: Two losses.
  • Oregon (10-6): vs. Colorado and vs. Utah. With their title hopes gone, they’re still playing for a top 4 seed in the Pac-12 tournament which includes a bye. I see them finishing strong and sweeping the mountain schools. Prediction: Two wins.
  • Washington (12-4): @ USC and @ UCLA. The USC game should be an easy win for the Huskies as kenpom has them with a 76% chance at winning. It’s the key Saturday match-up in Westwood that could decide the fate of UW’s season. They could conceivably be headed into that game all tied up with Cal at 13-4. A win would guarantee them a share of the title and a loss would have them rooting for Stanford the next day. Kenpom gives a terrible 29% chance at winning. Can UW beat the Bruins on the road with a title on the line? Possibly, but not from what I’ve seen this year. Prediction: Split.

Final Standings:

In the my completely scientific, no bias, 100% accurate predictions, I have the California Golden Bears winning the season title outright. It’s tough for me to write that, but the Huskies have not shown the consistency on the road to keep pace down the stretch.

Washington would then hold the tie breaker over the Wildcats after sweeping the season series which would secure them the 2nd seed in the Pac-12 tournament. The Buffs would win the tie breaker with the Ducks because the second tie breaker, after head-to-head, is record against the top seed, Cal. The Ducks will have lost both and the Buffs split. That gives the Buffaloes the 4th seed and the Ducks will be stuck playing an extra game in the tournament.

The best part about these predictions is that it most certainly won’t be correct. The Pac-12 has been so crazy that anything could happen and it could all be turned on it’s head by March 4th. Either way, it will be very exciting to watch while rooting for the Dawgs. Bow Down.