Slow and Steady: How UCLA Will Win the PAC-12

By John Engel
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats and Oregon Ducks have dominated the PAC-12 Conference for the better part of the 2012-13 season, making the west coast look like a two horse race. However, with UCLA playing their best basketball of the season, there is a strong likelihood the Bruins could wind up with the best record in the conference.

It’s no secret the Bruins haven’t been the best team in the PAC-12, or even second-best for that matter. UCLA struggled to find consistency before conference play began, and even flirted with the AP Top 25 for a few weeks. Now the Bruins are the hottest team in the PAC-12, and have the opportunity to capture the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament with the help of some other factors.

UCLA (22-7, 12-4 PAC-12) is currently tied atop the PAC-12 with No. 24 Oregon, after trailing the Ducks all season long. Both teams have two games remaining in their schedules, but Oregon must face Colorado on the road before wrapping up the regular season.

The Bruins possess the most NBA ready player in the PAC-12 Conference in Shabazz Muhammad, and professional scouts will get their first real opportunity to see the forward’s leadership skills this March. UCLA’s inconsistency this season has been their major pitfall, but with Muhammad’s advanced skills and control of the team, the Bruins should have no trouble contending for another PAC-12 championship.

The Buffaloes recently had their lunch stolen by California on the road, losing 62-46 as part of the Golden Bears late-season run. Regardless of their last effort, Colorado is the only hope if the Bruins plan on capturing the No. 1 in seed in the tournament. UCLA finishes their schedule with Washington and Washington State, two very manageable match-ups. The Buffaloes are 8-2 in their last ten and are just about as hot as the Bruins in the PAC-12.

Colorado is also attempting to fend off Southern California, who is tied with the Buffaloes in the conference standings.


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