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COVID clobbers the basketball schedule

Admittedly, the Hotline has lost track of the number of Pac-12 basketball games canceled, postponed, officially rescheduled, tentatively rescheduled or just out there, waiting for a date that works.

It’s a colossal COVID mess, and it’s a mess in many leagues across Division I. The Omicron wave struck at precisely the wrong time for the sport.

Changes to the protocols for isolation and quarantine, which the Pac-12 unveiled last week, should help teams return to practice and competition more quickly (assuming local health officials also adopt the new CDC guidelines).

But the chaos will continue for the next few weeks as Omicron rolls through and the calendar gets sorted out.

Last year, the Pac-12 built make-up dates into the conference schedule.

This season, there is little inherent flexibility — none of the leagues expected massive disruption when they set the round-robin schedules many months ago. As a result, far more games could be lost to COVID.

1. UCLA (8-1/1-0)
Results: vs. Arizona and ASU (postponed)
Net ranking: 23
Next up: at Cal (Saturday)
Comment: The Bruins haven’t played since Dec. 11 and won’t be on the court until Saturday, at the earliest. That’s four full weeks — they’re effectively a month behind. Too bad the NCAAs don’t start in mid-April.

2. Arizona (12-1/2-0)
Results: vs. USC and UCLA (postponed), beat Washington 95-79
Net ranking: 2
Next up: at ASU (postponed)
Comment: The Pac-12 reportedly is attempting to reschedule the Arizona-UCLA showdown for Jan. 11 in Pauley Pavilion. It needs that game to be played somewhere, somehow, for a slew of reasons.

3. USC (12-0/2-0)
Results: vs. Arizona and ASU (postponed)
Net ranking: 14
Next up: at Cal (Thursday)
Comment: Competitive edge to the home team on Thursday. The Bears just thumped ASU, while the Trojans haven’t played since Dec. 18.

4. Colorado (9-3/1-1)
Results: at Oregon and OSU (postponed)
Net ranking: 110
Next up: vs. Washington State (Thursday)
Comment: The way things are going, the CU-Washington State game will be canceled in the 0.0002 seconds between the moment we hit the publish button and the time this column is available to readers.

5. Oregon (8-6/1-2)
Results: beat Utah 79-66, vs. Colorado (postponed)
Net ranking: 87
Next up: at Oregon State (Saturday)
Comment: The NET ascent has begun in earnest for the Ducks, as we knew it would (eventually). But will it be too little, too late? There are only a handful of chances left for high-profile wins.

6. Washington State (8-5/1-1)
Results: vs. Washington (postponed)
Net ranking: 63
Next up: at Colorado (Thursday)
Comment: The Cougars have experience little disruption compared to their peers, with only one game postponed thus far.

7. Cal (9-5/2-1)
Results: vs. Stanford (postponed), beat ASU 74-50
Net ranking: 114
Next up: vs. USC (Thursday)
Comment: If the Bears remain on anything close to their current pace, Mark Fox will be a lock for Pac-12 Coach of the Year. We didn’t expect them to win nine games all season.

8. Stanford (8-4/1-1)
Results: vs. Cal (postponed)
Net ranking: 100
Next up: vs. USC (Saturday)
Comment: On a COVID pause with no indication when the Cardinal will be back on the court. Could be this weekend, could be next week.

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