UA's Solomon Hill shoots in Wednesday's practice at EnergySolutions Arena. This is the Cats' fourth visit to Salt Lake City in the last three years.


Entering the final two weeks of the regular season, the Arizona Wildcats find themselves on not one, but two tournament bubbles.

And if one pops, the other likely will, too.

The Wildcats could stumble in one of their final regular-season games against USC, UCLA and ASU and still make the NCAA tournament field - if they win the Pac-12 tournament title and the accompanying automatic bid.

But they probably can't win the Pac-12 tourney if they lose one of those three games - because the Cats could then be forced into a first-round contest in the conference tournament.

Playing a first-round Pac-12 tourney game on March 7 means a team would have to win four times to capture the event, and only four teams will avoid that fate with a first-round bye because of the league's expansion to 12 teams.

Earning the bye is "life and death" for teams aiming to win the Pac-12 tournament, according to UA coach Sean Miller, and, well, right now the Wildcats are sitting at No. 5 in the conference.

As of now, Colorado would earn the No. 3 spot and Oregon would be No. 4, meaning the Wildcats would have to play No. 12 USC on Wednesday, March 7 before getting a shot at the Ducks on Thursday if they beat the Trojans in what would be a rematch of their game this Thursday at McKale Center.

What's more, the Wildcats won't be able to improve their bubbly 67 RPI much over the final three games because that metric is heavily tied to the opponent: USC has an RPI of 238, UCLA's is 134 and ASU's is 236.

So, again, losing is not a very attractive option.

"We need every game," UA guard Nick Johnson said after Saturday's 79-70 loss at Washington in a game that could have made their postseason path much easier with a win. "We definitely felt we needed this one. But we've gotta come ready to prepare for 'SC and the rest of the games."

Even if it is bad for their RPI, the schedule may help the Wildcats somewhat in Pac-12 tournament seeding.

Arizona will play two of the league's three worst teams in ASU and USC, plus gets a mediocre UCLA team at home on Saturday in the final McKale Center game for the Wildcats' five seniors.

Oregon, meanwhile, must play at rival Oregon State on Sunday and host third-place Colorado next Thursday. And Colorado must host first-place California on Sunday, then finish the season with potentially tough games at the Oregon schools.

For what it's worth, the Ducks (55 RPI) and Buffs (76) are also on the NCAA tournament bubble. So they could be competing not only for the No. 4 Pac-12 tourney spot but one of the last NCAA tournament bids with the Wildcats.

UA senior guard Kyle Fogg has heard enough speculation. What he knows is the Wildcats need to win.

"I try not to pay too much attention," Fogg said. "I'm hearing sometimes we're in, sometimes we're out. It kind of changes a lot.

"But I just know if we do what we're supposed to do, we'll have the best chance to make the tournament."

Rim shots

• The Pac-12 selected Cal guard Justin Cobbs as its player of the week. The sophomore had a career-best 28 points, eight assists and four steals in an 86-83 win over Oregon, and 10 points and 13 assists in a 77-63 victory over Oregon State.

What's left

Remaining schedules for the Pac-12's upper half:


California (12-3) At Utah, at Colorado at Stanford

Washington (12-3) at WSU at USC, at UCLA

Colorado (10-4) Stanford, California at Oregon, at OSU

Oregon (10-5) at OSU Colorado, Utah

Arizona (10-5) USC, UCLA at ASU

UCLA (8-6) at ASU, UA WSU, Wash.

Arizona's ratings

RPI 67

Sagarin 44


Kenpom 41

Up next

• What: USC at Arizona

• When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday

• TV; radio: FSAZ; 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)