The regular season is just about done, with only Saturday's 7:30 p.m. game against Washington remaining for the Trojans after another comeback fell short Thursday against Washington State.
Let's recap where things stand, keeping in mind that an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament is pretty much officially out of the question:
USC is guaranteed to finish in either fourth, fifth or sixth place in the Pac-10, depending on the outcome of Saturday's game and depending on the outcomes of the Cal-Stanford and Washington State-UCLA games.
Cal, Wazzu and USC are in a three-way tie for fourth-place at 9-8 in conference play.
So, if USC beats Washington, the Trojans will finish 10-8 in the conference, almost guaranteeing they will finish either fourth or fifth because they would win potential tiebreakers with both the Bears and Cougars because of the Trojans' win over Arizona. The first tiebreaker in the Pac-10 is head-to-head records, and, since USC has gone 1-1 against both schools, the next tiebreaker is each team's record against the top team in the conference and so on.
The Trojans are the only one of the three teams to have defeated Arizona. Of course, that's all irrelevant if Arizona loses to Oregon, but that's exceedingly unlikely considering (1) how good Arizona is at home and (2) Oregon lost to Arizona State on Thursday. UCLA does still have an outside shot at sharing the conference title if the Bruins were to beat Washington State -- sans Klay Thompson -- and if Arizona were to lose to Oregon.
If the Trojans finish fourth or fifth, they'll face whichever team also finished fourth or fifth, likely Cal.
Now, if USC loses to Washington, the Trojans would finish 9-9 in the conference, but they could still finish anywhere from fourth to sixth. But if the Trojans lose and both Cal and Washington State win, USC will finish sixth and then -- most likely -- face third-seeded UCLA next Thursday in the Pac-10 tourney, by virtue of an incredibly complicated system of tiebreakers.
So, does that clear it up? All we know for sure is that the Trojans will be playing next Thursday and they will be playing either UCLA, Washington, Cal or Washington State. Any four are realistic, but a No . 5 seeding and a matchup against Cal is the most likely prospect.