Jorge Gutierrez

Will Cal run over the rest of the Pac-12 down the stretch?
Photo by Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic

The second half of the initial Pac-12 conference season is about to get underway.

Because of the extra teams (without extra games) you don’t play all the same teams you played in the first half of the year. As we saw in football, the schedule can play a significant role in who makes a run at the championship.

Which school has the advantage among the contenders over the final nine games? And can the Arizona Wildcats fare better against this Pac-12 co-leader than they did against the other one?

TWIT-Pac has bad news if you were hoping to watch a lot of games tonight (or if you were looking to get to bed early). Here is the limited TV schedule (all times Arizona/Mountain):

Date Away Home Time TV
Thu Feb 2 Oregon Utah 7 p.m.
  OSU Colorado 7 p.m.
  UCLA Washington 7 p.m. ESPN
  ASU Stanford 8 p.m.
  USC WSU 8 p.m.
  ARIZONA Cal 9 p.m. FSN
Sat Feb 4 ARIZONA Stanford 1 p.m. FSN
  ASU Cal 3 p.m. CSN CA
  OSU Utah 3 p.m.
  Oregon Colorado 7 p.m. ROOT RM/NW
  USC Washington 9 p.m. FSN

CSN CA = Comcast SportsNet California
FSN = Fox Sports Net
ROOT NW = Root Sports Northwest
ROOT RM = Root Sports Rocky Mountain

Thu. Feb. 2

Oregon (15-6 / 6-3) at Utah (5-16 / 2-7)
All the Ducks needed to stay atop the Pac-12 standings was to beat Oregon State at home last Sunday. Just another reminder that rivalry games are never easy.

OSU (14-7 / 4-5) at Colorado (14-7 / 6-3)
After suffering a 17-point beating at UCLA, Colorado is happy to be back in its mile-high home.

UCLA (12-9 / 5-4) at Washington (14-7 / 7-2)
Washington acquitted itself well on the road last week to move into a 1st place tie. Can they remain there? Read on!

ASU (7-14 / 3-6) at Stanford (15-6 / 5-4)

The only team happier to be at home than Colorado is the Cardinal. Three straight double-digit road losses have wiped out Stanford’s promising start.

USC (6-16 / 1-8) at WSU (11-10 / 3-6)
Rejoice, Trojans! There will not be an 0-18 team in the Pac-12 this year.

ARIZONA (14-8 / 5-4) at Cal (17-5 / 7-2)
Cal is calling for a “gold out” tonight. Why? Because “yellow out” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Sat. Feb. 4

ARIZONA at Stanford
No word of an “out” for this one. It may take the Cats a bit to adjust to multi-colored shirts.

ASU at Cal
The Sun Devils exploded for 70 points to beat WSU. Actually, 55 is an explosion for this team so 70 is more like a gamma-ray burst.

OSU at Utah
Thanks to the aforementioned upset in Eugene the Beavers are on a nice little three-game win streak. Utah is trying to forget it lost to USC.

UCLA has been the opposite of Arizona in that every week has been sweep-or-get-swept for the Bruins.

Oregon at Colorado
This is a big one for the two teams starting the week tied for 3rd. Does either have enough to catch the co-leaders? Read just a little bit further!

USC at Washington
Your wait is over. If we assume the Pac-12 champion will come from among the current top four teams, who has the smoothest path to the title? Let’s break down each team’s record and remaining schedule:

Team Home Remaining Home Road Remaining Road
Cal 5-0 UA, ASU, UO, OSU 2-2 USC, UCLA, UU, CU, Stan
Wash. 4-1 UCLA, USC, ASU, UA 3-1 UO, OSU, WSU, USC, UCLA
Ore. 3-2 UW, WSU, CU, UU 3-1 UU, CU, Cal, Stan, OSU
Colo. 5-0 OSU, UO, Stan, Cal 1-3 UA, ASU, UU, UO, OSU

You’ll notice another quirk in the new Pac-12 schedule in that some schools play each other twice in the second half of the year. That’s a plus for Washington (USC twice) and Oregon (Utah twice).

But the Ducks have too many home losses already and Colorado has been terrible on the road. That leaves the current co-leaders. If both win out at home Cal has the advantage of Utah as one of its remaining road games. But if the Bears lose at Colorado and the Huskies split on the Oregon Trail (and the leaders have the same result at UCLA) it’s going to come down to each team’s rivalry game.

Cal fans will lament not getting a chance at Washington on their home court because I think that ends up being the difference. I predict the Bears drop the season finale at Stanford to finish at 13-5 while the Huskies go 7-2 on the back nine to finish 14-4 and win the Pac-12 regular season championship.

As for the Wildcats? We talked about the need for the freshman guards to improve over the latter half of the year. It would also help the UA’s long-term aspirations if Solomon Hill continued developing into a force on the offensive end. Expect more close games and root for this team to mature in last-two-minutes scenarios with Hill emerging as a closer.

Halftime is over.

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