The Arizona Wildcats and Oregon are not only the remaining unbeaten teams in the Pac-12, but the teams closest to them in the conference standings have lost to both teams.
UCLA (6-3) is 0-2 against Arizona and Oregon.
Utah (5-3) is 0-2 against Arizona and Oregon.
California (5-3) is 0-2 against Arizona and Oregon.
USC (5-4) has also lost to both teams.
All of these teams need Arizona and Oregon to each lose three times to at least force a tiebreaker for the regular-season title and higher seed in the Pac-12 tournament.
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One loss will certainly occur for either team when Oregon hosts Arizona next Saturday.
UCLA hosts Oregon on Feb. 9 and travels to Tucson on Feb. 25.
Utah does not play again against Arizona and travels to Eugene, Ore., on Feb. 16. Utah is far on the outside looking in not having another shot at Arizona.
Cal plays at Arizona on Feb. 11 and hosts Oregon on Feb. 22.
UCLA and Cal must hope to beat Oregon and Arizona while running the table if they can. Their margin for error is near zero.
This is shaping up to be one of the best two-team races since Arizona joined what was then the Pac-10 in 1978-79.
The following graphic shows when the top two teams were separated by at least two games from the third-place finisher. It has happened 13 times and Arizona has been either the first- or second-place finisher seven times in this scenario.[table “” not found /]
Judging from the conference records, the 1980-81 race between Oregon State (17-1) and ASU (16-2) is the best two-team race followed by 1991-92 with UCLA (16-2) and USC (15-3), and 1997-98 with Arizona (17-1) and Stanford (15-3).
At the first half of the conference season in 1980-81, Oregon State was 9-0 and ASU was 8-1 with the Beavers beating the Sun Devils in Tempe to open the conference schedule that season. Oregon State did not lose until the very last game of the regular season in an 87-67 setback to ASU in Corvallis, Ore. The Sun Devils also lost at UCLA that season.
The chance exists for either Oregon or Arizona to finish 18-0 and the runner-up 17-1 this season.
For now, the best two-team race Arizona has been part of what was the duel of 1997-98 between the Wildcats and Stanford. Arizona did not lose until the second-to-last game at USC 91-90 in overtime. Arizona swept the season series against Stanford prior to that, so for the most part it was the Wildcats’ dominance that was the story not a race with Stanford.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.