As every Pac-12 men’s basketball team has faced at least nine other schools in the conference, it’s getting a little easier to distinguish which teams will make the NCAA Tournament in March.
Still, that doesn’t mean there’s no parity in the Pac-12. Upsets and nail-biting games still happen every week, giving fans flashbacks of how crazy the Pac-12 football season was last fall.
Here’s how things stack up with the Pac-12 Tournament just over a month away.
1. UA (21-1, 8-1 Pac-12)
Thanks to California junior guard Justin Cobbs, the Wildcats finally got their first loss of the season. While the entire nation rejoices, let’s be realistic and remind ourselves that all teams are due for a loss once in a while. UA can now move on from the pressures of staying undefeated and focus on things that are a little more significant, like winning a national championship.
However, it will be interesting to see how the Wildcats can respond with starting sophomore forward Brandon Ashley out for the season.
2. UCLA (17-5, 6-3 Pac-12)
The Bruins looked like the clear No. 2 in the conference until they dropped another close road game to Oregon State on Sunday. It’s not enough to drop them down a spot in the rankings as they handled California and Stanford at home the weekend before.
3. California (15-7, 6-3 Pac-12)
Oh, Cal. One week, you give the worst team in the league its first conference win of the season, then you make the No. 1 Wildcats bear down (pun definitely intended) the next week.
4. Stanford (14-7, 5-4 Pac-12)
The last two weeks gave a better idea where Stanford stands in the Pac-12. In that span, the Cardinal were blown out by UCLA and lost a close one at home against UA but also had wins over Washington and ASU.
5. ASU (16-6, 5-4 Pac-12)
Many people were ready to push the panic button for ASU in early January, but moving sophomore Eric Jacobsen to starting power forward has made such a positive impact for the Sun Devils. ASU had a three-game winning streak going before it loss to Stanford, and its huge road win over Cal on Jan. 30 puts the Sun Devils on the good side of the NCAA Tournament bubble, for now.
That won’t be easy to maintain, though. ASU has the toughest remaining schedule in the nation, as the Sun Devils’ upcoming opponents have a combined 73 percent winning percentage.
6. Washington (13-8, 5-4 Pac-12)
The Huskies picked up a nice pair of home wins against Oregon and Oregon State, but then they dropped one at Washington State. We could assume Washington enjoys life in the middle, as it hasn’t proved it belongs anywhere else.
7. Oregon State (13-8, 5-4 Pac-12)
Coach Craig Robinson has one gritty team in Corvallis. The Beavers didn’t have a pleasant start to conference play, as they started off with a road trip at Colorado and Utah then hosted California and Stanford. They have now won four of their last five games, including a 71-67 upset over UCLA at home Sunday.
8. Colorado (16-6, 5-4 Pac-12)
Life without junior guard Spencer Dinwiddie continues to be difficult for the Buffaloes. Although they blew out USC on Jan. 18 and survived against Utah at home last Saturday, they looked outmatched and overpowered against UCLA, UA and ASU. What a sad story for a team that was supposed to be a legitimate conference contender this season.
9. Oregon (15-6, 3-6 Pac-12)
The Ducks finally deployed some parachutes to slow down their free fall, but they’ve yet to show they’re still a legitimate team since conference play started. Pushing UCLA down to the wire at home and taking it all out on USC and Washington State is a good start to turning things around, but they have a difficult test with the Arizona road trip on deck.
10. Utah (14-7, 3-6 Pac-12)
Playing down-to-the-wire classics has been so common at Utah, it’s probably been established as a school tradition by now. The Utes were on the short end of close games against ASU, UA and Colorado, but “almost winning” is never good enough in sports. Utah plays every top-tier team in the conference at least one more time this season, so there are plenty of opportunities for the Utes to redeem themselves.
11. Washington State (9-12, 2-7 Pac-12)
There have been only three games during the conference schedule so far where the Cougars weren’t blown out. However, Washington State got a nice win over Washington last Saturday behind redshirt senior forward D.J. Shelton’s 20-point, 18-rebound performance.
12. USC (10-12, 1-8 Pac-12)
The Trojans have a little fire lit inside now. After upsetting California on Jan. 22, USC took Stanford, Oregon State and Oregon to the wire. Close, but no cigar. At least the Trojans have gained a little bit more respect from everyone else in the conference and could mess up everyone else’s places in the standings later in the regular season if they can continue to improve.
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