Surprise, surprise: Stanford sits atop Pac-12

It’s a different Pac-12 conference than last year, but it’s a conference people are used to seeing.

Last season, only Stanford and California made it to the NCAA tournament.

There are four, possibly five, Pac-12 teams that could make it to the big dance this March.

As it seems to be in so many other sports, the Pac-12 in women’s basketball is loaded with talent across the board.

There are currently four teams that are ranked in the top 25 in the nation. There four other teams that already have double-digit wins.

While it’s early in conference play, it’s going to be difficult to tell who will come on top this year.

 

No. 1 – Stanford (16-2, 5-1 Pac-12)

The No. 6 Stanford Cardinal is on great pace to win the Pac-12 for the 12th time consecutive year, but a season split with the No. 7 California Golden Bears may have cost Stanford sole possession of the regular season title for only the third time in more than a decade.

The loss also ended the Cardinal’s 81-game winning streak against Pac-12 opponents.

In Stanford’s third game of the season, it beat then No. 1 Baylor by two. However, on Dec. 2, it took a beating by then No. 4 Connecticut by 26.

 

No. 2 – California (15-2, 5-1 Pac-12)

The No. 7 nationally ranked Golden Bears have the No. 1 scoring offense in the Pac-12, averaging 72 points per contest.

Pair that up with the best rebounding margin in the conference, averaging 12 more rebounds per game than their opponents, and it could end up equaling a share of the conference title.

It would be their first ever.

Losses to No. 4 Duke and a season split with Stanford are nothing to cry about, especially with four top 25 wins under their belt.

 

No. 3 Colorado (15-2, 4-2 Pac-12)

The Buffaloes may end up being the most improved Pac-12 team, and that’s saying a ton with this year’s conference.

Colorado can score the ball from the inside and out. They can also rebound with the best of the Pac-12, averaging 10 more rebounds than their opponents.

CU had an impressive win over then No. 8 Louisville and has a tough schedule coming up with the four California schools in line.

 

No. 4 – UCLA (13-4, 4-2 Pac-12)

A .500 season in conference a year ago is way in the past for No. 14 UCLA.

It has five players averaging over eight points per game and average a conference-best 16 assists per game.

It lives off its talented guards both on the offensive and defensive end.

It also average a conference-best 12 steals per game.

 

No. 5 Washington (12-5, 4-2 Pac-12)

The Huskies are going to attempt to score their way to victory every game.

They average 65 points per game, consisting of a conference-best seven three-pointers per game at a three-point efficient rate of 33 percent.

However, statistically, they are the worst rebounding team in the Pac-12 and have an average defense at best.

They live off of sophomore guard Jazmine Davis, who averages 20 points per game.

 

No. 6 – USC (7-10, 4-2 Pac-12)

The Trojans took care of business in their first four Pac-12 games, then played California into a tough overtime loss. They lost by single digits to Stanford. If any team is going to make some unexpected noise in the conference, it sure may be USC.

USC doesn’t quite dominate any aspect of the game, but it’s pretty decent at almost every facet.

The Trojans’ toughness will be tested in mid-February, when they must play four straight games against ranked teams.

 

No. 7 – UA (11-6, 3-3 Pac-12)

After losing two of their first three conference games, the Wildcats showed their ability to score the ball. They went off for 100 points versus Oregon.

They space out the floor with the best of the Pac-12, averaging six three-pointers per game, good enough for second in the Pac-12. They do it very efficiently, shooting a conference-best 33 percent from three.

Their ability to perform well against elite teams is still unseen, as they were held to 25 percent and scored a season-low 36 percent versus Colorado.

 

No. 8 – Oregon State (9-9, 3-3 Pac-12)

The Beavers have a difficult time scoring the ball, however, they’re strong on the interior, averaging a conference-best six blocks per game and fourth-best 44 rebounds per game.

OSU started conference play losing to the Trojans on a game-winning layup then lost to UCLA by only four.

The Beavers just swept their season series with the Ducks and could make it four in a row as they go on the road versus the Washington schools.

 

No. 9 – ASU (10-8, 2-4 Pac-12)

The Sun Devils held the lead versus No. 21 Dayton for about 37 minutes back on Dec. 2. Their biggest problem all season has been consistency.

The Washington schools ran over ASU’s defense but held the Oregon schools to 45 and 55 points.

Coach Charli Turner Thorne’s next win will put her at 300 Pac-12 victories – only the third coach to do so.

 

No. 10 – Utah (10-7, 1-5 Pac-12)

The Utes arguably had the toughest conference start, having to play California, Stanford and Colorado twice.

Things are not getting easier. Their next three of four games are versus the four California schools.

However, they have a chance to finish strongly as their last six conference games are versus the bottom six Pac-12 teams.

The Utes bank on their talented frontcourt. Junior Michelle Plouffe and redshirt junior Taryn Wicijowski combine for about 30 points and 15 rebounds per game.

 

No. 11 – Washington State (5-12, 1-5 Pac-12)

There’s not too much the Cougars can hang their hat on. One encouraging performance they can take away is that they played a tough USC team closely, only losing 61-59.

With the Oregon and Arizona schools up next, now is their shot to move up the rankings.

 

No. 12 – Oregon (2-16, 0-6 Pac-12)

Rebounding is the one aspect they can hang their hat on, but that’s obviously nowhere near enough.

They statistically play the worst defense in the Pac-12.

The Ducks only sport one senior. This season may be tough, but a bright future is ahead for these young players under NBA and WNBA champion coach Paul Westhead.

 

Reach the reporter at gdemano@asu.edu