1. Arizona (16-2)*
2. UCLA (14-4)*
3. Colorado (13-5)*
4. Oregon (13-5)
5. California (12-6)
6. Stanford (9-9)
7. Washington (8-10)
8. USC (7-11)
9. Arizona State (7-11)
10. Oregon State (4-14)
11. Washington State (3-15)
12. Utah (2-16)
It is apparent at this point that Arizona is the best team in the conference and when you throw that in with a favorable schedule, it would be a pretty big upset if the Wildcats did not win the Pac-12 this season. It has the veteran point guard, balance, depth, and size up front necessary to win a conference title.
A closer look at UCLA reveals a team that really only has one bad loss this season. Although that loss is definitely not a good one, there are not many more offenses that are playing like UCLA’s. If the Bruins can learn how to defend, it is going to be extremely difficult to beat them. Depth may eventually become a factor, but this is a team that should be good enough offensively to have success in this conference.
I was pretty torn between Colorado and Oregon because they are similar teams on paper. Thus, it made sense for me to give them a tie. At this point I think Colorado is a better team because it has the veterans necessary to succeed, but Oregon definitely has some talent as well. If everything with the Ducks clicks, I would not be surprised to see them finish in second place in the conference.
Cal is another team that could probably finish higher because of its guard play. However, I don’t have a lot of faith in its frontcourt, so I am hesitant to put it any higher. Cal has lost to every good team it has faced and is going to struggle away from home.
After those five teams, I feel it is completely up in the air. Arizona State is another team that has lost to any good team it has faced. It has a player in Jahii Carson that could cause some upsets, but it is hard to put too much faith in the Sun Devils. In addition, Stanford is only shooting 40 percent on the season and that is just not going to get the job done.
I have USC a little higher than some may feel it will finish, but that is because that team still has talent. I know Kevin O’Neill has struggled with this team, but USC is still good enough on paper to pick up a few wins that it probably should.
1. Arizona (17-1)*
2. Oregon (13-5)*
3. Colorado (12-6)*
4. California (11-7)
5. UCLA (11-7)
6. Stanford (10-8)
7. Washington (9-9)
8. Oregon State (9-9)
9. Arizona State (8-10)
10. Washington State (5-13)
11. Utah (2-16)
12. USC (1-17)
It’s clear that Arizona is the class of the Pac-12. After a perfect finish to their out-of-conference schedule, the Wildcats look to be one of the best teams not just in the conference, but in the nation.
They are a team with loaded with talent and depth, but what’s even scarier for the rest of the Pac-12 is that UA is still learning how to play together. With three freshmen playing key roles and a newcomer in Mark Lyons, the Wildcats are still building chemistry and should only improve as the season progresses.
Below the Wildcats is a bit tougher to predict. Oregon has looked strong in non-conference and the Ducks look like one of the better teams in the Pac-12. The Ducks possess quality veteran leadership in players like E.J. Singler, Carlos Emory and Arsalan Kazemi, but they also have two really good young freshmen with plenty of potential in Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson. Look out for the Ducks as they come together.
Colorado could challenge the top half of the conference with Andre Roberson, Askia Booker, Josh Scott and Spencer Dinwiddie all averaging double figures and playing quality basketball.
California will be no pushover thanks to Allen Crabbe. Despite the loss of Jorge Gutierrez, the Golden Bears are a well coached team and will be a tough team for anyone in the Pac-12 to go up against.
UCLA seems to have some sort of turmoil every year, but the Bruins have much better talent than a team that should finish fifth in the conference. The question is, will Ben Howland step up to the plate this year and get the most out of his talent? If not, UCLA will miss the NCAA Tournament.
Chasson Randle and Dwight Powell lead the way for Stanford. The Cardinal have a few solid players, but probably not enough to compete with Arizona, Oregon or even Colorado. Their main hope is for Randle and Powell to play up to their potential while someone like Aaron Bright or Josh Huestis improves drastically enough to move them into contention.
Look for Washington to take a step back from where it finished in 2011-12. While players like C.J. Wilcox and Abdul Gaddy give Huskies’ fans plenty of hope, it is a team that has lost plenty from last season and hasn’t played up to par against non-conference foes.
Oregon State lost Jared Cunningham to the NBA, but the Beavers have played relatively well with two losses coming to Alabama and Kansas. There are plenty of scoring options on the squad, led by junior guard Roberto Nelson. As of now, OSU looks like nothing more than an average team, but I would keep an eye on it with how the Beavers competed in non-conference play.
Before the season started, many expected Arizona State to be one of the teams to bring up the rear in the Pac-12. The Sun Devils’ 10-2 start has ASU fans excited about what their team can do in the Pac-12, especially with Jahii Carson playing at a high level. In reality, ASU is still just a middle-of-the-pack team in the conference and will struggle to stay in the league race. ASU could challenge for a tourney bid, but the Sun Devils are likely a year away from being a part of that discussion.
Brock Motum is a quality big man in an era where post players are severely lacking, yet Washington State has little else and it will be tough for it to survive against the stronger teams in the Pac-12 without providing Motum an ample amount of support.
The bottom two teams, Utah and USC, are both in big trouble unless a miracle happens. The Utes have lost games to Sacramento State and Cal State Northridge while the Trojans – who have played a moderately tough schedule in comparison to most of their conference rivals – can’t seem to beat a quality opponent. It will likely be a long season for both programs.
1. Arizona (16-2)*
2. Oregon (15-3)*
3. Colorado (13-5)*
4. California (10-8)
5. Washington (9-9)
6. UCLA (8-10)
7. Arizona State (8-10)
8. USC (8-10)
9. Washington State (7-11)
10. Oregon State (7-11)
11. Stanford (5-13)
12. Utah (2-16)
Going through the schedule, Arizona has a favorable pull, only getting California and Stanford once, and at home. However, the Wildcats have to travel to the Oregon schools in the same one-way trip. Arizona has played well up to this point in the season and there is really no way I can see the Wildcats not winning the Pac-12.
Oregon will be the one team to challenge Arizona for the conference title. Oregon should even beat the eventual conference champions in Eugene. The combination of Arsalan Kazemi, E.J. Singler, and Dominic Artis will continue to get better and build into a contender under Dana Altman.
Colorado has seen good and bad this season already and there’s no evidence to suggest that they won’t slip up a few times throughout conference play. If Andre Roberson and Spencer Dinwiddie can play well and carry the team at times, the Buffs may have a shot to make some noise come March.
After those three teams, there is a big drop off in the quality of teams. California is a team that can come out and surprise, but the Golden Bears are still a year or two away from making a run at the title.
Washington has pieces, but it don’t always fit together well. Abdul Gaddy is a good point guard and will make sure that C.J. Wilcox, Scott Suggs, and Aziz N’Diaye get it together, but it might not be enough to match up with some other teams in the conference.
UCLA is a tough call in this situation because I simply don’t see the Bruins being able to play together under an interim coach for the remainder of the season if that should happen. All signs point to Ben Howland’s dismissal in the near future and that would create havoc on a team full of young stars. Even if Howland manages to keep his job, the axe hanging over his head won’t make things any easier.
The rest of the pack really plays out as expected coming into the season, with the surprise being Stanford. So far this season, the Cardinal have lost some games that it shouldn’t have and that doesn’t make a compelling case that they would do better in Pac-12 play.
1. Arizona (17-1)*
2. UCLA (13-5)*
3. Oregon (12-6)*
4. Colorado (12-6)*
5. Arizona State (10-8)
6. California (10-8)
7. Stanford (9-9)
8. Washington (8-10)
9. Washington State (5-13)
10. Oregon State (5-13)
11. Utah (5-13)
12. USC (2-16)
Arizona is clearly the top team in the conference and might have the most upside of any team in the country.
People writing off UCLA do so at their own risk. While the Bruins have multiple issues with a lack of a physical post presence and questionable coaching, talent is not in question. Boasting 3 of the 12 best players in the conference, the Bruins have a ton of firepower and while Larry Drew gets beat up a lot, he has excelled at getting Adams and Muhammad the ball in scoring position.
In my opinion UCLA is the only team capable of beating Arizona if both teams are playing well.
Oregon and Colorado both have intriguing components to their teams. Colorado is tall and athletic with multiple double digit scorers, while Oregon is relying on the talented freshman back court of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson to carry the Ducks.
ASU is interesting. The Sun Devils have three quality players at the lead guard, wing and center with some useful role players as well. It will be fun to see if they continue to play this new up-tempo style in conference play.
Washington has major problems. C.J. Wilcox is an all conference caliber player while N'Diaye is solid and Scott Suggs is a great shooter, but other than those players there isn't a lot of talent.
Washington State has one of of the best players in the conference in Brock Motum and a capable scorer in DeVonte Lacy, and little else. Oregon State, USC and Utah are lost causes. KO's team of misfit toys has underachieved and Utah is still a ways off from being a factor.