For the most part, the Pac-12 conference has taken shape, and the top five teams have solidified themselves as the best of the west.
With a probable sharing of the regular season title, the conference tournament will likely decide who reigns ruler of the Pac-12.
Overall, the conference is a huge improvement from last season and will end up sending four or five teams to the national tournament.
No. 1 — Stanford (24-2, 13-1 Pac-12)
Winning out will guarantee No. 4 Stanford the Pac-12 regular season title once again. But it may be overshadowed, because it must share the title with rival No. 6 Cal.
During its current 10-game win streak, the Cardinal is winning by an average of 20 points.
Many believe Stanford isn’t at the elite level, as it has been in past years, but junior forward Chiney Ogwumike is an exception. She’s averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds per game, good enough for fifth and sixth best in the nation.
A probable meeting between the northern California rivals in the Pac-12 tournament will tell a lot as well.
No. 2 – Cal (23-2, 13-1 Pac-12)
Cal haven’t been quite as impressive as Stanford during its 11-game winning streak, but that just comes with high-octane offensive teams. Nevertheless, Cal still is the highest-scoring and best-rebounding team in the Pac-12.
The Bears are in position to win out during its Oregon and Washington schools series and earn a piece of the Pac-12 title.
The conference tournament will be interesting as the Bears try to make their case as the new top dog in the Pac-12, if they’re able to meet and shut down it’s crosstown rivals.
No. 3 — Washington (19-6, 11-3 Pac-12)
The Huskies may very well be the biggest surprise in the Pac-12 as they have won eight of their last nine games.
Take into account all eight were against below .500 teams. They deserve an applaud for taking care of business but this individually talented, 3-point shooting team will be tested in its last three games. Washington heads to No. 20 Colorado then welcomes the conference’s top two teams to Seattle.
They need some quality wins, as the Huskies seem to be right on the bubble for the NCAA dance.
No. 4 – UCLA (19-6, 10-4 Pac-12)
The No. 17 Bruins are coming off a thrashing from Cal and a decent outing versus Stanford.
Winning out should be easy and will help their case as third best in the conference. However, a quality win in the conference tournament would help them grab a higher seed in the big dance.
The Bruins seem to stand right behind the fine line between good and great.
No. 5 — Colorado (20-5, 9-5 Pac-12)
The Buffaloes are shadowing the Bruins fighting to be the third best team in the conference, but the head-to-head loss to UCLA keeps them behind.
Colorado should hope to play the Bruins in the Pac-12 tourney. CU seems to be close to figuring out UCLA. It lost to UCLA by four and three points in its two matchups vs. the Bruins.
No. 6 – Washington State (10-15, 6-8 Pac-12)
Washington State has talent on both ends. However, its poor rebounding keeps it from being competitive with the top Pac-12 teams. The Cougars average the second-worst rebounding margin in the conference.
Freshmen guard Lia Galdeira is one of the most promising looking young players in the nation. The Cougars go as she does. In the three conference games she’s scored over 20, Washington State has won.
No. 7 – Utah (14-11, 5-9 Pac-12)
Besides a loss to UA, the Utes have gone through the season taking care of business versus non-ranked teams and doing their best against the nationally ranked ones.
Utah lives and dies by the 3-pointer. Its inability to score inside stops them from being a top offensive team in this conference.
Seeing as all its losses against ranked teams were blowouts isn’t really encouraging for the Utes’ Pac-12 tourney aspirations.
No. 8 – USC (8-17, 5-9 Pac-12)
Early on, the Trojans seemed to have potential when they pushed top ranked Cal to overtime. Now, they’re the Pac-12′s current punching bag.
USC has lost its past nine of 10, five to ranked teams.
Back-to-back games versus its tough L.A. rival could spark back up this once impressive looking team.
The Trojans will be looking for revenge against the Sun Devils who stole a game at the Galen Center in their last meeting.
No. 9 – UA (12-13, 4-10 Pac-12)
The Wildcats somehow have Utah’s number, which is the reason they’re not sitting in last.
UA doesn’t score efficiently and refuses to play defense. The Utah win broke an eight-game losing streak that saw the Wildcats giving up a whopping 72 points per game.
The rivalry between UA and ASU is one of the longest running ones in the nation and is probably the most inspiring basketball the two teams will play.
No. 10 – Oregon State (9-17, 3-11 Pac-12)
Dating back to Dec. 14, the Beavers have lost its past 14 of 17 games. While they rebound and defend around the paint decently, they’re horrible on offense.
Oregon State averages a conference-worst 58 points per game. It has scored under 50 points in each of its last five games.
It only gets tougher from here, as three of its last four games are against Stanford, Cal and Colorado.
No. 11 – ASU (11-15, 3-11 Pac-12)
Of the bottom four in the conference, the Sun Devils have the best shot at making the most it.
While the third winningest coach in Pac-12 history, Charli Turner Thorne, isn’t having the best returning season, the Sun Devils would love to hang their hat on sweeping UA.
They finish vs. UCLA — who they lost to on the road only by four — then take on USC, the last team the Sun Devils managed to beat back on Jan. 25.
No. 12 – Oregon (4-22, 2-12 Pac-12)
Oregon’s rebounding has become decent and it was the only area where they can feel proud. Being the Pac-12’s worst defensive team and most turnover prone, averaging 20 per game, makes the Ducks the bottom feeder of the conference.
Ducks may not win another game for the rest of their season as they have Cal,
Stanford, Colorado and Utah lined up next.
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