Bubble teams UCLA and Utah highlight the Pac-12 week
A look at things to watch this week in the Pac-12 Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEK: UCLA at Utah, Thursday. Big bubble game for both teams. The Bruins (19-8, 10-5 Pac-12) are in decent shape for an NCAA Tournament berth after beating the Oregon schools last week. UCLA has wins over Arizona, Kentucky, Washington and Southern California, but is on the road the rest of the regular season. A loss to fellow bubble team Utah could put a dent in the Bruins resume, particularly if they lose another game down the line. The Utes (17-9, 9-6) are in a bit more precarious position and could need to win out to reach the field of 68. Utah can boost its resume with wins over UCLA and USC this week and closes the season against Colorado.
LOOKING AHEAD: No. 14 Arizona has a chance to clinch its 16th Pac-12 regular-season title and fourth in five years this week. The Wildcats (21-6, 11-3) have a 1 1/2 game lead over UCLA and USC, and can clinch the title with a win and losses by both southern California teams. Arizona plays at Oregon State on Thursday and at Oregon on Saturday.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Utah became the first team with two conference weekend road sweeps last week after beating both Washington schools last week. The Utes also swept the Oregon schools earlier this year. … An average of 8,430 fans has attended Pac-12 games through 86 league games so far. That’s just short of the 8,737 average during the 2016-17 campaign, most in the Pac-12 era. … Washington’s Matisse Thybulle has 82, three shy of cracking the Pac-12 top 10 for a single season.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Aaron Holiday, UCLA. The junior guard doesn’t always get the same recognition as the other top players in the Pac-12, but there’s no question he’s one of the conference’s best. Holiday is one of six players averaging at least 20 points (19.4) and five assists (5.7), putting him on pace to become the seventh player in Pac-12 history to hit those marks. He was the Pac-12 player of the week after averaging 23.0 points and 8.0 assists in a pair of wins last week.
ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE: The Pac-12’s women’s race will go down to the wire, but No. 8 Oregon is in the best position. The Ducks (24-4, 13-2) have a half-game lead over No. 16 Stanford (19-9, 13-3) , with No. 10 UCLA (21-5, 12-3) another half-game back. Oregon is at the Arizona schools this week, Stanford at the Washington schools, and the Bruins host Colorado and Utah.
Compiled by AP Basketball Writer John Marshall in Phoenix.