As the calendar turns to February and teams see the home stretch of the season, it is becoming apparent who the real contenders and pretenders are in the Pac-12.
There appears to be a couple classes of teams in the conference: those with deep NCAA tournament aspirations, those who are battling for a tournament slot and those whose seasons will end with the conference tournament.
Stanford (21-1, 10-0 Pac-12): The obvious choice for the top spot, No. 3 Stanford has been the cream of the crop for years, and it will continue as such until the Cardinal are unseated by a team like ASU or California.
ASU (19-3, 8-2 Pac-12): Somehow, the No. 11 Sun Devils keep winning by the closest of margins. ASU clearly knows how to win close games, shown in their 11-0 record in games decided by five or fewer points or in overtime.
USC (14-9, 7-4 Pac-12): The Trojans started off Pac-12 play by winning seven of their first eight games but have lost three straight. USC has a tough road the rest of the way, which could either keep it in the hunt for a bid, or drop the Trojans clean off the slate.
California (14-7, 6-4 Pac-12): Still ranked, the No. 23 Golden Bears have struggled of late, dropping four of their last six games. Granted, two of these losses were to Stanford. The Bears, by virtue of previous seasons, a tough strength of schedule and their actual performance, still have NCAA tournament aspirations.
In the hunt:
Washington State (12-10, 6-4 Pac-12): The Cougars started off conference play hot but have since dropped four of their last five games.
Oregon State (13-9, 5-5 Pac-12): The Beavers have been nothing if not consistent this year, flipping between winning and losing streaks since the start.
Oregon (12-9, 3-7 Pac-12): The high-flying Ducks offense has produced points, but Oregon has a 2-4 record in games decided by 10 points or less, with all four losses coming in conference.
UCLA (11-12, 5-6 Pac-12): The Bruins have played near-.500 ball all season, only recording one streak of longer than two games.
Washington (12-9, 5-5 Pac-12): The Huskies have beaten the teams they were supposed to beat and lost to the games that they were projected to lose, getting them lost in the shuffle.
Utah (10-11, 3-7 Pac-12): The Utes have played every team close in conference play, which can be looked at as a positive and a negative. One game they’re looking for an upset against ASU, then they almost lose to Arizona, which hasn’t won a Pac-12 game.
Colorado (13-8, 3-7 Pac-12): Ranked at the beginning of the season and through nonconference games, the Buffaloes season has not gone the way anyone predicted. After starting the season with nine straight wins, a loss to Louisville on Dec. 21 initiated a 4-8 stretch.
UA (4-17, 0-10 Pac-12): It’s a long drop from the rest of the Pac-12 to the Wildcats, who have yet to secure a conference win.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Tonis_The_Tiger