A fight to the finish this week for the #Pac12Hoops crown

Eric Evans

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The 2015-16 Pac-12 men's basketball season has been one of the most challenging and competitive in conference history.  Fittingly, the race for the league's regular-season title will come down to the final week of play, 10 games that will each have an impact on Pac-12 Tournament seeding and postseason possibilities.

#PAC12HOOPS STARTING FIVE

.276 - Road win percentage in Pac-12 play through Feb. 28 games, the toughest conference to win on the road in college basketball just ahead of the SEC (31-81, .277). It would mark the toughest road season in Pac-12 history (35-73, .324 in 2014-15).
>> Home teams went a perfect 12-0 in Pac-12 play last week (Feb. 23-28).

.823 - Combined home win percentage of all Pac-12 teams this season through Feb. 28 games, the best home win percentage by a conference in college basketball.

4 - With 10 league games remaining, four Pac-12 teams remain in contention for the regular-season title.
>> 6 games separate the top 10 teams in the Pac-12 standings as of Feb. 29. The smallest separation between 10 teams in league history was seven in 2013-14, a season in which a record-tying nine teams participated in the postseason (6 NCAA, 2 NIT, 1 CBI).

7-11 - The Pac-12’s seven teams in the NCAA RPI Top 50 (ACC, Big 12 also seven) and 11 teams in the RPI Top 100 as of March 1 are the most in the nation.
>> Since 2004-05, only one conference has had at least 11 RPI Top 100 teams entering Selection Sunday - the old 15- and 16-team Big East on six separate occasions.

11 - Eleven Pac-12 teams have an NCAA Strength of Schedule in the top 50, the second-most in the nation, including nine inside the top 25 and three in the top 10.

PAC-12 QUICK HITS

BRACKETOLOGY: The Pac-12 is currently projected to earn seven-or-more NCAA Tournament bids (six is Pac-12 record) according to various major sports news bracketology posts:

USA Today - 7 (+1 First Four Out)
FOXSports.com - 7 (+1 First Four Out)
Sporting News - 7 (+1 On Bubble)
ESPN.com - 7 (+1 Next Four Out)
CBSSports.com - 7
NBCSports.com - 7
SI.com - 7

HOME SWEET HOME: The Pac-12 owns two of the nation’s top 10 longest home-court win streaks. OREGON is tied for the nation’s fifth-best streak at 25 straight games, coming after the Ducks ended ARIZONA’s national-best 49-game streak on Jan. 28.

CALIFORNIA is tied for the seventh-best home streak in the country at 18 straight wins.

TOUGH ROAD TO VEGAS: Only five teams have completed a road sweep in 44 attempts so far in league play:

UTAH at WSU/WASH
ORE at ARIZ/ASU
ARIZ at WSU/WASH
UTAH at UCLA/USC
CAL at WASH/WSU

CONTEXT TO STANDOUT YEAR: Since the NCAA adjusted the RPI formula to account for game location in 2004-05, the league’s best Conference RPI entering Selection Sunday came in 2013-14 at .5695. The Pac-12 currently boasts a Conference RPI of .5841, second-best in the country, according to CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm. That .5841 rating would be the sixth-highest by any conference since 2004-05.

Below is a breakdown of the league’s RPI Top 25-50-75-100 teams since 2004-05.

YEAR RPI TOP 25 RPI TOP 50 RPI TOP 75 RPI TOP 100
2015-16 3 7 8 11
2014-15 2 4 5 6
2013-14 2 6 7 9
2012-13 1 4 5 8
2011-12 (Pac-12) 0 1 4 6
2010-11 1 3 4 6
2009-10 1 2 3 4
2008-09 1 5 6 7
2007-08  3 5 6 8
2006-07  3 5 6 8
2005-06  2 3 4 5
2004-05 (Pac-10)  2 4 5 7

The only other league to have at least 11 teams in the RPI Top 100 entering Selection Sunday during this time frame was the old Big East (13 - 2006, 2010; 11 - 2009, 2011-13).

TOP 100 CHARTS: Through Feb. 29, the Pac-12 has 116 wins against NCAA RPI Top 100 teams, led by ARIZONA (12-7), CALIFORNIA (13-7), COLORADO (10-9), OREGON (16-5), USC (10-10) and UTAH (16-7).

The Pac-12 has 53 total wins vs. the RPI Top 50, paced by CALIFORNIA (7-5), OREGON (9-3), OREGON STATE (6-7) and UTAH (7-6).

OREGON (4-1), OREGON STATE (3-4), UTAH (3-4) and STANFORD (3-6) combine for 13 of the Pac-12’s 20 RPI Top 25 wins.

EVERY GAME’S A BATTLE: Through 98 league games as of Feb. 28:
>> Average scoring margin is 11.3 ppg.
>> 45 have been decided by single digits.
>> 17 have been decided by one possession (3 pts or less).
>> Seven have gone to OT, 12 total OT periods.
>> Seven decided by a team’s final possession.

#PAC12HOOPS LINEUP

1 - Pac-12 All-Access: Coming off a challenging road swing through the Bay Area, Coach Dana Altman, with assistance from a tough-willed local youth, regrouped his OREGON team to victory in college basketball's most-played rivalry - the Civil War against OREGON STATE.

2 - The fast-approaching postseason will be the ultimate litmus test for the Pac-12, but conference commissioner Larry Scott senses that the "ship is turning" in terms of national respect in hoops.

3 - For the first time since the second week of the 2015-16 regular season, the Pac-12 has four teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 including the first Top 10 ranking for OREGON since 2007. Three of the four teams in the poll have combined to win 16 consecutive games, including UTAH, owner of six straight wins and one of the nation's best postseason resumes according to CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish.

4 - Two of the Pac-12's four ranked teams - No. 18 ARIZONA and No. 25 CALIFORNIA - will meet in Thursday's marquee matchup at the McKale Center.  Pac-12 Networks analyst Lamar Hurd breaks down the matchup that will leave the winner still in contention for the Pac-12 regular-season title.

5 - Staying in the mountains, COLORADO and UTAH both swept the Arizona schools this past weekend. While Buffaloes' forward Josh Scott claimed his second Pac-12 Player of the Week award of the season, the performance of Utes' guard Brandon Taylor garnered National Player of the Week honors from ESPN's Andy Katz.

6 - National awards are being pared down and the USBWA named its finalists for the Oscar Robertson Player of the Year and Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year on Monday. UTAH's Jakob Poeltl is among the 10 finalists for the Oscar Robertson Trophy and CALIFORNIA's Jaylen Brown is one of five freshmen up for the Tisdale Award.
>> 
Poeltl tops the finalists in field goal percentage (.667) and Player Efficiency Rating (32.9), while Brown leads the league's freshmen and his Cal team in scoring at 15.8 points per game.

7 - Brown and the Golden Bears have gelled to the tune of seven consecutive victories and a return to the Top 25. Though just 29 games into his college career, Brown has quickly formed a bond with Pac-12 icon Bill Walton, who calls the 19-year old star "one of the most interesting, thoughtful, conscientious and inspirational people I’ve ever had the chance to work with."

8 - It was a big weekend for standout seniors around the Pac-12:
>> Gary Payton II honored his father by donning his retired No. 20 OREGON STATE jersey, then flirted with a triple-double and rocked the Gill Coliseum rims a few more times.
>> Pac-12 Player of the Week Josh Scott powered COLORADO past No. 9 ARIZONA and to a 16-1 home record this season.
>> Tyrone Wallace punctuated his standout CALIFORNIA career with a thunderous dunk that propelled the Golden Bears to their first perfect home mark since 1959-60.
>> Elgin Cook averaged 25.0 points as OREGON capped a perfect home season and moved within a victory of at least a share of its first conference title since 2002.

9 - Several of the nation's best shot blockers are in the Pac-12.
>> OREGON's Chris Boucher leads the league with 93 total blocks and is tied for first nationally with 3.21 swats per game. However, did you know that the 6-10 forward also has 31 three pointers and is the first player in conference history with 90+ blocks and 30+ threes in a season?
>> WASHINGTON's Malik Dime is ninth in the country with 2.79 blocks per game and has the NCAA Division I block-leading Huskies just 11 rejections shy of the Pac-12 single-season team mark of 211. His 81 blocks this season are the third-most by a freshman in league annals.
>> USC ranks 11th in the country with 5.5 blocks per game and is just five shy of breaking its single-season mark of 165.

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