Is it pressure or pleasure?
It's something coach Andy Lopez asks his Arizona Wildcats team on occasion.
It's especially pertinent now.
The Wildcats will face USC this weekend for the final three games of the regular season. The opener is tonight at 6 at Hi Corbett Field and the stakes are simple for the UA: Win all three and the coach thinks his squad will have a pretty good chance at qualifying for next week's NCAA tournament.
"I hope it's pleasure, because of the theory I have with these guys," Lopez said. "They have all heard it from the beginning of the season. I take it in 10-game increments. If the last 10 games have meaning, that means you've done OK.
"The last three have meaning, so just go out and play."
The Wildcats enter the weekend at 31-21 overall and 12-15 in the Pac-12. USC comes in at 20-33 and 10-17 in conference.
Lopez said two out of three may do the trick, but win all three and "we're in pretty good shape."
The defending College World Series champions know what's on the line.
"This is going to be a very competitive series because it's all or nothing for us," junior pitcher James Farris said. "Everyone is going to be playing all out, so it should be fun.
"We're all juiced. We're definitely ready. We want to be in the postseason."
Here are three things to know before tonight's opener:
1. Arizona's tournament résumé is lacking. A pair of websites that study RPI, Boydsworld.com and Warrennolan.com, have Arizona's predicted ranking at No. 59. It was the upper-80s before the UA took two of three from Arizona State last weekend.
Three wins against USC likely won't help that number much. But, as Lopez points out, there are other factors to consider.
First, his team was supposed to open its season against Auburn before the Tigers canceled because the SEC expanded its conference season with the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M. Forced to scramble, the Wildcats added Coppin State to their schedule to open the season.
"We can't control that," Lopez said. "Our record and our lack of pitching, that's our responsibility. But, when you look at our schedule, you have to look at that."
Lopez also thinks the fact that the Wildcats are the defending national champions should help their cause.
In 2007, Oregon State, then the defending champs, got in with a 10-14 conference record. The Beavers, though, had an RPI of 35 entering the NCAA tournament.
2. The Wildcats could use some help within the conference. Sure, three wins gets the UA to .500 in the Pac-12, but the Wildcats could still finish seventh in the league.
It would help Lopez's team if Washington and Stanford both lose weekend series to Arizona State and UCLA, respectively.
If that happens and the UA sweeps, the Wildcats would, at worst, be in a tie for fifth behind four surefire tournament teams in Oregon State, Oregon, UCLA and Arizona State.
But finish behind Washington and Stanford, two teams with RPIs north of 70, and anything could happen.
"I really don't know about that stuff because I don't follow it that closely," Lopez said. "I would like to wake up Monday morning or go to bed Sunday night with a very good weekend under our belt and then whatever happens, happens."
3. The players just want to play. In basketball, it's hard to escape "bubble watch." Analysts break it down on a nightly basis on ESPN and assign odds to all the teams trying to get in the tournament field.
That's obviously not the case with baseball.
"I don't even know how RPI works," junior center fielder Johnny Field said. "I don't look at that stuff. I think some of the guys do look into records and what people are saying, but everyone here trusts what 'Lopes' is saying and whatever he says we have to do, we have to do.
"He made it seem like if we win three, we're a pretty good lock."
Farris agreed with his teammate and went back to pressure versus pleasure.
"I honestly couldn't even tell you our record," Farris said. "You just come out and play. You can't live in what you've done. At this point, we're all just excited for this series to start.
"It's going to be a pleasure."
• What: USC at Arizona
• Where: Hi Corbett Field
• When: 6 p.m. today; 6 p.m. Saturday; noon Sunday on Pac-12 Arizona
• Radio: All games on 1290-AM
Contact reporter Daniel Berk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk.