Bruins slipping in Pac-12 race

Wasn’t the Pac-12 supposed to be better this year?

After Arizona’s loss at Colorado, Oregon is alone in the lead again at 9-3. If the Ducks don’t sweep their final six games, the conference champion will have at least four losses for the fifth straight year. Yes, the conference could get four teams in the NCAA tournament, but year-to-year improvement is still coming at snail’s pace.

Meanwhile, UCLA is slipping close to another embarrassing milestone: finishing with a worse conference record than USC for the first time since Ben Howland’s first season in Los Angeles.

Here are the current standings, clipped from Pac-12.com.

The Bruins last finished below the Trojans in 2003-04, when they had seven Pac-10 wins to USC’s eight. (Both had 8-10 records in 2009-10, but USC took the tiebreaker with two head-to-head victories.) Only one game separates the two teams now; if the Trojans beat Cal and UCLA loses at Stanford, they’ll be tied heading into a Feb. 24 rematch at the Galen Center. In 10 days, UCLA could very well be looking up at its crosstown rival.

Will that happen? For what it’s worth, Ken Pomeroy currently has UCLA losing three more games — Stanford, USC, Arizona — finishing at 11-7 for the second straight year. However, the latter two games are almost statistical coin-flips: the Bruins have a 48 percent chance of beating the Trojans and 44 percent of beating the Wildcats. (He has the Trojans finishing 10-8 after losing to both Washington schools.)

Pomeroy’s numbers-crunching only gives UCLA more than a 57 percent chance at winning one game — ASU, pegged right now at 75 percent. Basically, the rest of the season is a toss-up.

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