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UA returns to top spot in men’s Pac-10 hoops

After several years resting on the NCAA tournament bubble, UA has returned to the top of the Pac-10.

After the Wildcats, postseason chances are slim for the other teams in the conference.

1. Arizona (20-4, 9-2 Pac-10)

For the first time all season, the power rankings have a new top team.

The Wildcats, winners of eight of their last nine games, have seized control of the Pac-10. With Washington’s recent struggles, UA controls its fate and road to the regular season championship.

While the Wildcats are a game and a half ahead of second place UCLA, UA has just one win against an RPI top-50 opponent.

Derrick Williams continues to play at an elite level, but the recent five-game winning streak has occurred because he is getting some scoring help, particularly from point guard MoMo Jones.

If Williams continues to get help scoring the basketball, UA will be tough to overtake.

2. Washington (15-7, 7-4)

How quickly things have changed for UW.

The Huskies were being talked about as a team that could make a deep tournament run just a few weeks ago, and now after a three game losing streak, UW is firmly planted on the NCAA bubble.

With no quality non-conference road wins, losing to Oregon State and Oregon really hurt.

The Huskies are almost unbeatable at home, but are just 1-4 on the road.

The good news is that UW only has two more road games remaining on its Pac-10 schedule. However, one of those road games is in Tucson.

In order to win the Pac-10, UW has to beat UA.

3. UCLA (16-7, 7-3)

The Bruins might have the best resume of any of the Pac-10 teams that will find themselves on the bubble.

UCLA has played the toughest schedule and has two non-conference wins that will help them, one over BYU and another over St. John’s.

If the Bruins take care of business and win when they’re supposed to, they will make the NCAA Tournament.

UCLA can’t afford any slip-ups in their next five games because they close with UA, UW and WSU.

4. California (13-10, 6-5)

The Golden Bears were so close to putting their name into the Pac-10 title race.

Cal had a chance to close out UA in regulation, the first overtime and the second overtime on Saturday, but eventually fell in triple overtime. That win would have only put the Golden Bears a game out of first place and rolling on a five-game winning streak.

Nonetheless, Cal is playing its best basketball of the season right now and is only getting better. While UW is tough to beat at home, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Golden Bears hand the Huskies their fourth straight loss.

5. Washington State (16-7, 6-5)

For a team that has no margin for error if they want to make the NCAA Tournament, WSU certainly hurt itself by losing bad to Oregon last weekend.

The Cougars resume is not great, their strength of schedule is poor and WSU’s two marquee wins, Baylor and Gonzaga, haven’t met expectations themselves.

The Cougars get two home games before embarking on a three-game road trip that may make or break their season.

WSU must win its four remaining home games to have any chance of feeling good about itself on Selection Sunday.

6. Oregon (12-11, 5-6)

Since starting 0-4 in the Pac-10, UO coach Dana Altman’s team has gone 5-2 and has improved dramatically.

Nobody expected the Ducks to sweep the Washington schools, but they did it in an impressive fashion. UO is a confident bunch getting hot at the right time.

A lot of credit has to go to Altman and his staff for keeping the Ducks headed in the right direction, and it is finally paying off.

7. Stanford (12-10, 5-6)

The Cardinal’s offense finally showed signs of life on Saturday, albeit against last place ASU.

Stanford has recovered from a four-game losing streak by winning two of three, but now must head to Washington where they will face two hungry basketball teams.

The Cardinal must hope Saturday’s performance sparked Jeremy Green to rediscover his shooting touch.

8. USC (12-11, 4-6)

Once thought of as a tournament team, USC’s season has quickly unraveled.

The Trojans have lost five of seven and three of their last four, including getting beat soundly by UCLA last Wednesday.

With Kevin O’Neill only playing a regular rotation of seven players, USC is a team likely to tire down the stretch.

While Cal and UO have improved as the season has gone on, USC has gone in the opposite direction.

9. Oregon State (9-13, 4-7)

Despite beating UW last Thursday, OSU has struggled since its hot start to conference play, losing seven of their last nine games.

However, OSU has knocked off UW and UA.

The Beavers truly are a confusing basketball team. They can go from being routed to beating anybody on any given night.

10. ASU (9-14, 1-10)

Things are not looking good in Tempe.

Nine straight conference losses could very easily turn into 10 on Sunday with UA coming to town.

ASU has been playing better basketball as of late, but does just enough to falter down the stretch.

Since the Sun Devils play five of their last seven games at home, odds are that the streak will end sometime. But you never know, stranger things have happened to this team in 2010-11.

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