THIS WEEK’S BEST BETS:
UCLA vs. OREGON
Details/TV: At Pauley Pavilion, Wednesday at 6 p.m., ESPN2
USC vs. OREGON
Details/TV: At Galen Center, Saturday at 1 p.m., Pac-12 Network
What’s the end game here for the Bruins and Trojans heading into the final weekend of the Pac-12 regular season?
On paper, all this does is solidify the seedings for the post-conference tournament (March 9-12). The saving grace for the Bruins (15-14, 6-10) is that all 12 teams get to play, and if they actually grind out a championship win by Saturday afternoon, no one can deny them a spot in the NCAA field of 68. For the Trojans (19-10, 8-8), the reality is they’re not as sure a bet for the bracketologists as much as they were, say, back on Jan. 22.
On that day, the headline actually read: “Cook helps Oregon upset No. 21 Southern Cal 89-81,” as 6-6 senior Elgin Cook had a career-best 26 points for the Ducks. Andy Enfield’s Trojans, who were 15-3 coming into that game, had been the conference’s best 3-point shoot team but shot just 8 of 26 from beyond the arch.
Oregon used that one, as well as an 86-72 win over Steve Alford’s Bruins two nights earlier behind Dillon Brooks’ 25 points, to jumpstart their run to the top of the conference standings and a No. 13 national ranking at the end of last week. That’s territory neither USC nor UCLA has been close to during the season.
Only two other Pac-12 teams have maintained a current Top 25 ranking – Utah, at No. 22, should rise after its win last Saturday over No. 9 Arizona – but remarkably, 11 of them still have a mathematical shot of a 20-victory season, and five are already there.
Just not the Trojans or the Bruins.
Also this week: USC vs. Oregon State, at Galen Center, Wednesday at 8 p.m., FS1; UCLA vs. Oregon State, at Pauley Pavilion, Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Pac-12 Network.
THE REST OF THE WEEK
The Kings and Ducks go at it again, this time at Staples Center (Saturday, 1 p.m., FSW, Prime Ticket) after each plays Montreal at home … Steph Curry plans what will probably be his final game on the same court with Kobe Bryant when Golden State visits the Lakers at Staples Center (Sunday, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7) … The Clippers and Oklahoma City have a Staples Center meeting (Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN) … Conor McGregor and Holly Holmes have the headlining attractions for UFC 196 (Saturday at Las Vegas, 7 p.m.) … Chino Hills (30-0) has Sierra Canyon (26-3) as the opponent in the CIF Southern Section Open Division boys basketball championships (at Honda Center in Anaheim, Saturday at 6:30 p.m., FSW) … More at this link.