Solomon Hill

Solomon Hill will try to hold on to Rule #1.Photo by Pat Shannahan/The Arizona Republic

March is upon us.

You have two choices. If you aren’t planning on paying attention to the games tonight and on Saturday and you just want to watch the Arizona Wildcats and be surprised when the Pac-12 tournament bracket comes out, take a peek at the TV schedule below and close the browser.

But if you want to understand who is fighting for what and how each result affects the various tiebreaker scenarios no matter how complex it gets…

You, my friend, have come to the right place.

This Week in the Pac-12 (TWIT-Pac) has one final week in the regular season and a whole mess of speculation. Here is the TV schedule (all times Arizona/Mountain):

Date Away Home Time TV
Thu Mar 1 Utah OSU 8 p.m.
Colorado Oregon 8:30 p.m. FSN
WSU UCLA 8:30 p.m.
Washington USC 8:30 p.m.
Sat Mar 3 Washington UCLA 12 p.m. CBS
Colorado OSU 2 p.m. FSN
Utah Oregon 4 p.m. CSN NW
WSU USC 4 p.m.
Sun Mar 4 ARIZONA ASU 1:30 p.m. FSN
Cal Stanford 3:30 p.m. FSN

CSN NW = Comcast SportsNet Northwest
FSN = Fox Sports Net

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The summary comes before the game breakdowns this week because there’s no sense in telling you who to root for without explaining it first.

In determining the Pac-12 tournament seeding, the first tiebreaker is head-to-head followed by comparing teams’ records against the first-place team(s).

Among the top five teams, Arizona has the head-to-head tiebreaker with Cal but lost head-to-head to both Washington and Oregon. The Cats split against Colorado while the Buffaloes split against Cal and went 1-0 versus Washington. So if Washington wins the regular season championship Colorado would have the tiebreaker over Arizona (1-0 vs. the Huskies compared to 0-2). If Washington and Cal finish tied the nod still goes to Colorado (2-1 combined record against the co-champs vs. Arizona’s 1-2 record).

The only way the UA can win a two-way tiebreaker with Colorado is if Washington falls apart and loses twice this week to allow Cal to leapfrog into the outright Pac-12 championship.

But if that happens you would have a three-way tie for second with Washington, Arizona and Colorado. The three-way tiebreaker is the combined head-to-head record among the three which looks like this:

Team vs ARIZ vs Colo vs Wash Total
ARIZ 1-1 0-2 1-3
Colo 1-1 1-0 2-1
Wash 2-0 0-1 2-1

Arizona is eliminated because of its 1-3 record so Colorado gets the 2-seed based on its head-to-head win over Washington.

Now, if Cal loses to Stanford there could be a three-way tie for second with Arizona and the Colorado/Oregon winner. Here is an Arizona/Cal/Oregon tie:

Team vs ARIZ vs Cal vs Ore Total
ARIZ 1-0 0-1 1-1
Cal 0-1 2-0 2-1
Ore 1-0 0-2 1-2

The advantage goes to Cal. But in an Arizona/Cal/Colorado tie:

Team vs ARIZ vs Cal vs Colo Total
ARIZ 1-0 1-1 2-1
Cal 0-1 1-1 1-2
Colo 1-1 1-1 2-2

…the Cats would claim the 2-seed making this the best-case scenario for the UA. Colorado beats Oregon, Arizona wins, Cal loses, Arizona seeded 2. Piece of cake, right?

Yes, the Wildcats could still technically win a share of the regular season title but it would require Washington losing to USC. Let’s not get carried away here.

The good news is, because Oregon and Colorado play each other, the Wildcats cannot be seeded lower than 4th (earning the first-round bye) if they beat Arizona State on Sunday.

If the Cats lose to ASU? Arizona can’t win a three-way tiebreaker with Oregon and Colorado so in order to get the coveted bye you would either need Colorado to sweep (and get to 13-5 and 3rd place) and Oregon to get swept (to drop to 11-7 and 5th place), or you need Colorado to beat Oregon, Oregon to lose to Utah, Washington to lose to USC and UCLA, and Cal to beat Stanford.

The moral of the story? Don’t lose to ASU.

* * *

Now for the bottom line in each game: Who do Wildcat fans want to win?

Thu. Mar. 1

Utah (6-22 / 3-13) at OSU (15-13 / 5-11)
Utah. In case the Utes are needed to beat the Ducks on Saturday.

Colorado (19-9 / 11-5) at Oregon (20-8 / 11-5)
Colorado. Part one of the ideal scenario.

WSU (14-14 / 6-10) at UCLA (16-13 / 9-7)
UCLA. After all the skeletons came tumbling out of Ben Howland’s closet you want him to win enough to stick around for a while.

Washington (20-8 / 13-3) at USC (6-23 / 1-15)
USC. Getting carried away.

Sat. Mar. 3

Washington at UCLA
UCLA. I predicted the Huskies would win the conference but that wouldn’t be any fun.

Colorado at OSU
OSU. Think positively about Sunday’s result and root against the Buffaloes’ NCAA tournament bubble chances.

Utah at Oregon
Utah. Disaster insurance.

The one game that does nothing for Arizona either way.

Sun. Mar. 4

ARIZONA (21-9 / 12-5) at ASU (9-20 / 5-12)
Your Arizona Wildcats. Now would be a horrible time for Sean Miller’s first loss in Tempe.

Cal (23-7 / 13-4) at Stanford (19-10 / 9-8)
Stanford. The last piece of Arizona’s best-case scenario.

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If you made it this far, congratulations. I applaud your dedication and/or hoops nerdery. At least I’m not alone. And remember Rule #1:

Don’t lose to ASU.

* * *

Update after Thursday’s results

Washington beat USC and Oregon beat Colorado.

Arizona is eliminated from the Pac-12 championship race. The only way the Cats can get the 2-seed in the Pac tournament is if Utah beats Oregon, Arizona beats ASU and Stanford beats Cal. Utah hasn’t won on the road all year (literally. 0-11) so that’s not going to happen.

It looks like if the Wildcats win they’re the 4-seed. If they lose and Colorado loses to Oregon State the UA remains #4 but if the Buffaloes win on Saturday Arizona would drop to the 5-seed and play on Wednesday.

Huge game in Tempe on Sunday for the Red and Blue.

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Scott Terrell lives for sports nerdery. Embrace it on Twitter and Facebook.