Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 3/8/13
Before the Pac-12 season tipped off, UCLA head coach Ben Howland said he thought it would take until the last weekend of the regular season to be decided. Entering the last Saturday of the regular season, UCLA is still alive and can clinch at least a share of the Pac-12 regular season title at Washington on Saturday. It's been a remarkably different year for the Bruins than last season, but landing in this spot did not come without some good fortune. On Jan. 17, the Bruins lost at home to Oregon in a battle of conference unbeatens, which was also the only regular season meeting between the teams. Jan. 26, they suffered an embarrassing 18-point loss at Arizona State, just two days after knocking off then-No. 6 Arizona. UCLA, all of a sudden, was two games behind the Ducks in the loss column. In their next game, they lost at home to USC in overtime. On a night the Bruins very likely could have been three games back in the loss column, Oregon inexplicably loss at Stanford. That was the beginning of a three-game skid for the Ducks, allowing the Bruins to once again pull into a tie for first place on Feb. 9. At the end of the weekend, both teams were 8-3 in conference play. Their next time out, on Valentine's Day, the Bruins couldn't overcome a slow start at Cal, scoring a season low 22 first half points and trailing by 25 at halftime en route to a 76-63 loss. UCLA was a game back of first place. As fate would have it, the same Golden Bears that knocked the Bruins from the top of the conference did them a favor a week later on Feb. 21 by defeating Oregon. Once again the Ducks and Bruins were even in the loss column. Which brings us to the final week of the regular season. The Bruins and Ducks entered the week with identical 12-4 records in conference play. UCLA, yet again, suffered from a slow start at last place Washington State on Wednesday, unable to overcome an early 25-4 hole and suffered their first road loss against the Cougars since 1993. The Bruins didn't show any sense of urgency in a 73-61 loss. The next night in Boulder, the Bruins received a gift, in the form of a Colorado 76-53 win to complete the season sweep of Oregon despite being without the services of Andre Roberson. Howland, who was right on with his prediction of the conference title going down to the end of the regular season, had the same foresight regarding Thursday night's affair in Boulder, knowing Colorado is such a tough place to play. "I thought that Colorado would win that game," Howland said. As outlined, the win by the Buffaloes is one of the many lifelines Howland's Bruins have been thrown this season to stay involved in the conference race. "I don't know if it's luck but we are where we are," Howland said. "We're tied with a game to go."
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