LOS ANGELES - The most discombobulated chapter of the strangest - and worst? - Pac-12 men's basketball season will be written, starting today.
The Pac-12 tournament, which begins today with four games at Staples Center, will provide an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament for one team.
The rest, even outright champion Washington, could spend Selection Sunday sweating an at-large fate.
One of the sport's reigning statistical masters, Ken Pomeroy of www.kenpom.com, offers predictions reflecting the bewildering season.
Pomeroy ranks No. 2 seed Cal as the most likely Pac-12 team to win the conference tournament, at 32.3 percent.
The next-best odds belong to No. 5 seed UCLA, at 14.9
After that, it's No. 4 Arizona, at 12.7. Pomeroy gives the Wildcats a 50.3 percent chance of beating UCLA and a 28.8 percent chance of reaching the conference final.
"On a power-conference level, it's not very good," Pomeroy said of the Pac-12 on Tuesday. "I still think Cal's a decent team, and UCLA's kinda like, maybe not a sleeping giant, but a little underrated, even by my system."
The Huskies, both the league champion and last year's tournament winner, sit tied for fourth with No. 3 seed Oregon in Pomeroy's odds.
He said, "It seems like people are really high on Washington - for some reason," but that his numbers didn't reflect the sentiment.
He called Arizona and Oregon "your typical bubble teams - flip a coin." He said Utah, USC and Arizona State are "pretty awful" teams.
"All these teams rated out so evenly," he said. "There's really not a huge difference between No. 1 and No. 7."
How unusual is the Pac-12? Consider this: In Pomeroy's breakdown of four other BCS-level leagues, the top seed is also the tournament favorite. The final BCS league, the Big Ten, has top seed Michigan State in the No. 2 slot.
In no other league in America does Pomeroy - using Bill James' "log5" win probability scale - have a No. 5 as likely to win the tournament as UCLA.
For one, USC and UCLA receive half-credit for a home-court advantage, "for proximity," Pomeroy said.
Another explanation echoes what conference fans have been saying all season.
"Basically," he said, "the Pac-12 is kinda crazy."
Today's Pac-12 action
At Staples Center, games on FSAZ
• Game 1: Washington State (8) vs. Oregon St. (9), 1 p.m.
• Game 2: UCLA (5) vs. USC (12), 3:30 p.m.
• Game 3: Stanford (7) vs. Arizona State (10), 7 p.m.
• Game 4: Colorado (6) vs. Utah. (11), 9:30 p.m.