For all intents and purposes, conference regular season play is completed for the NCAA basketball teams of LA and Orange County, the LA Eight. The West Coast Conference regular season is actually over -- the tournament begins in Las Vegas on Wednesday, so Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine know where they stand as far as tournament seeding is concerned.
The Big West and Pac-12 still have another weekend of regular season basketball, but most of the teams are more or less locked into their seeds at this point.
With two more wins, Long Beach State remained undefeated in Big West play and clinched their second consecutive regular season title. Unfortunately, that distinction didn't count for much when the 49ers lost in the conference tournament final, so it's imperative that they avoid a repeat this season.
In the Pac-12, UCLA is currently in sixth place and USC is dead last. The Trojans aren't mathematically locked into the twelfth seed, but they would have to sweep the Washington schools this weekend to avoid it, and that would take a minor miracle. As for UCLA, the top four seeds get first round byes in the tournament, and with their two point loss to Arizona on Saturday, the Bruins can finish no better than fifth. Which could set up a 5-12 Pac-12 first round game between UCLA and USC.
The LA Eight Rankings (through games of February 27):
1. Long Beach State 49ers 21-7 (Last week: 1)
Long Beach State took care of their regular season business this week with decisive home wins over Santa Barbara and Riverside, clinching the regular season title in the Big West. But that title won't mean much unless the 49ers augment it with a conference tournament championship. It's kind of a Catch-22 -- if the Beach wins out and finishes 26-7 going into Selection Sunday, their profile would certainly be good enough for an at large bid, but they won't need it since they'll have the automatic bid. But any loss between now and then would be considered a bad loss, and might damage their at large profile irreparably. The 49ers won't rest easy until they hear their name called on Selection Sunday and see what kind of seed they get.
This week: Irvine (11-17) Feb 29; @ Fullerton (19-8) Mar 3
2. Loyola Marymount Lions 19-11 (2)
It may not make much difference in the long run, but LMU had a bit of a trip as they approached the finish line in the WCC. Coming off two huge wins over St. Mary's and Valpo, the Lioins were riding high as they entered the last weekend of the regular season. They proceeded to lose at home to San Diego, and struggle against last place Santa Clara before prevailing. They still finish in fourth place, earning a bye to the quarterfinals of the WCC tournament, but they'll have to play better than they did this weekend against the likes of St. Mary's, BYU and Gonzaga.
This week: WCC Tournament - Quarterfinal March 2 vs. San Francisco, Portland or Santa Clara; Semi-Final March 3 vs. St. Mary's if applicable; Final March 5 if applicable.
3. UCLA Bruins 16-13 (4)
UCLA got a rare road win Thursday in Tempe against the Sun Devils, but then squandered whatever momentum they had (and a shot at a first round tournament bye) by losing a late lead in Tucson against Arizona. The good news, if there is any, is that no Pac-12 team is particularly intimidating this season, and the Bruins have shown the ability to play with almost all of them. With the exception of Cal, UCLA has either beaten or narrowly lost to every other team. A win against first place Washington at the Sports Arena this Saturday would do a lot for UCLA's confidence heading into the tournament the next week.
This week: Washington State (14-14) Mar 1; Washington (20-8) Mar 3
4. Cal State Fullerton Titans 19-8 (3)
Oops. Riding a six game winning streak and having won nine of ten, Fullerton proceeded to lose to one of the worst teams in the nation on Saturday. Their 78-75 loss at UC Davis doesn't really impact the Titans' season a lot, beyond delaying them reaching 20 wins. It's embarrassing, but the loss really had a much more profound effect on Northridge (see below). For Fullerton, they're locked into the second or third seed in the Big West tournament, which is significant in that it guarantees they'll avoid playing heavy favorite Long Beach State until the tournament final if they make it that far. And speaking of Long Beach, Fullerton closes the regular season by hosting the Beach on Saturday. The Titans have won nine straight at home -- could they put a blemish on Long Beach's perfect record?
This week: Northridge (7-20) Feb 29; Long Beach State (21-7) Mar 3
5. UC Irvine Anteaters 11-17 (5)
Irvine held on in overtime to beat Northridge on Saturday, which left the Matadors in a precarious position (see below). The Anteaters could finish anywhere from fourth to seventh in the Big West, but with two road games left, odds are they'll be lower rather than higher on that continuum.
This week: @ Long Beach State (21-7) Feb 29; @ Riverside (13-16) Mar 3
6. Pepperdine Waves 10-18 (tie-last)
With back-to-back wins to close out the regular season, Pepperdine earns it's way out of the three way tie for last place in the LA Eight. More importantly, their lone road win of the season at Santa Clara moved the Waves into seventh place in the nine team WCC -- and they avoid the tournament play-in game between seeds eight and nine. Instead, Pepperdine has a first round match up with San Diego, who beat the Waves twice during the regular season. So Marty Wilson's first season as head coach in Malibu will mercifully be ending soon.
This week: WCC Tournament - First Round March 1 vs. San Diego; Quarterfinal March 2 vs. BYU if applicable; Semi-Final March 3 vs. Gonzaga if applicable; Final March 5 if applicable.
Tie - Last. USC Trojans 6-23 (tie-last)
Another week, another pair of losses for USC. At one point during their non-conference schedule, the Trojans were 4-4 -- they're 2-19 since. Of course, that was essentially a different team, as injuries have taken away most of their players over 6'5". The season can't end soon enough for this team.
This week: Washington (20-8) Mar 1; Washington State (14-14) Mar 3
Tie - Last. Cal State Northridge Matadors 7-20 (tie-last)
It was a particularly bad week for the Matadors. First, they lost two close ones, by two points against Riverside and then in overtime against Irvine on Saturday. Also on Saturday, UC Davis upset Fullerton. That leaves Northridge and Davis with three wins each in Big West conference play. The problem is, in the nine team Big West, only the top eight seeds qualify for the tournament. So Northridge is in serious jeopardy of missing the post-season altogether. I'm not actually sure what the tie-breaker is -- Davis and Northridge split their two meetings. If it's point differential in those head to head games, the Northridge must beat Fullerton on Wednesday to have a chance to continue their season.
This week: @ Fullerton (19-8) Feb 29
If you go to only one college basketball game in the Southland this week, make it:
UCLA vs. Washington at the Sports Arena. Saturday March 3 at 2 PM. The Huskies are currently on top of the Pac-12 standings, but UCLA has been tough at home. A win could establish the Bruins as a viable dark horse in the Pac-12 tournament the following week.