The first week of conference play is in the books and the Pac-12 actually appears to be a pretty competitive league. While there are some usual suspects atop the list of contenders, there is one team that has come out of nowhere to look strong in the early going of the 2012-13 campaign.
After a week of Pac-12 basketball, here is how the conference ranks.
While Arizona is the lone nationally ranked team in the conference, the Bruins looked more impressive than the Wildcats over the first two contests in Pac-12 play. UCLA appears to have a pair of very impressive freshmen in Shabazz Muhammad and Jordan Adams to lead the scoring charge, while the rest of the supporting cast has looked impressive recently.
The Bruins have a history of being inconsistent, so how long they remain atop these rankings is to be determined. Their recent play warrants some attention though, and their talent is strong enough to compete with anyone in the conference.
The Wildcats are very fortunate to be 2-0, but that’s where they currently stand and have still yet to lose a game this season. UA will have to play much better than it did last week to remain undefeated, however.
Colorado – despite its 0-2 start – is a strong team, so it’s no surprise that the Buffaloes gave the Wildcats a run for their money. The close game with Utah is what causes slight concern because there are several teams of higher caliber remaining on the schedule.
3. Arizona State
The Sun Devils are the early surprise in the Pac-12 with their 2-0 start. ASU didn’t look particularly strong against Utah, but were able to pull off the upset over Colorado over the weekend. With a quality big man, senior wing who can score, and one of the best point guards in the conference, Arizona State could be a dangerous squad this season.
The Ducks took care of business in their road victory over rival Oregon State. It was UO’s lone contest of the week and the Ducks were able to avoid an upset with a strong second half against the Beavers. Oregon gets its first true test in conference play with Arizona coming to town Thursday.
A victory over Wazzu in its Pac-12 opener is a solid start to the conference slate for UW. C.J. Wilcox is off to a strong start and the supporting cast seems to possess enough weapons to complement him. The Huskies didn’t face one of the Pac-12’s better squads to start, but picking up the victory on the rival’s home court is a strong way to kick-off conference play.
Cal split its road games in Los Angeles last week. After getting out-classed by UCLA at Pauley Pavilion, the Golden Bears rebounded by defeating USC. It appears that Allen Crabbe is going to have to carry the load on most nights, but if Justin Cobbs can contribute on a consistent basis the way he did against the Trojans, the Bears could steadily improve as the season progresses.
There is no team in the Pac-12 more disappointed at this point than the Buffaloes. A team many expect to compete with the top half of the conference, CU was swept on its road trip to the desert last week.
Sure, Colorado may feel a bit robbed after the call at the end of regulation in Tucson, but the Buffaloes looked defeated in overtime and that body language carried over with them to Tempe in the following game.
The Trojans had the worst record of any Pac-12 squad in non-conference play, but they were able to come up with a big win over Stanford in their Pac-12 opener. While they followed that up with a loss at home to Cal, USC was not expected to do much this season and a split of its first two Pac-12 contests is something the Trojans could build on.
9. Oregon State
A halftime lead over rival Oregon had the Beavers in position to upset what many assume to be one of the better teams in the Pac-12 this season. OSU collapsed in the second half, however, and fell to the Ducks after getting outscored by 19 in the second half.
The Beavers will be tested more this weekend with the Arizona schools coming to town, but they will have to put forth a much better effort than they did in the final 20 minutes of Sunday’s affair in order to defeat either school from the desert.
10. Washington State
After a loss to Washington to start the season, Wazzu doesn’t look to be any more of a threat than anyone expected it to. The Cougars were controlled from the opening tip and, despite efforts to fight their back in to the game, they could never get their offense in gear enough to mount the comeback.
There is a thin line between the top and the bottom in the Pac-12 and the Utes are a perfect example of how closely competitive the conference currently appears. Utah positioned itself to come away with two victories against the Arizona schools, but ultimately came up short in each contest.
Considered to be a potential bottom-feeder this season, the Utes were more competitive than most anticipated in their first two games.
The Cardinal are off to a disappointing start of conference play. After losing on the road to USC, Stanford followed it up by losing by eight to UCLA. While the margin of defeat wasn’t large, the Bruins were in control for the majority of the contest and looked like a vastly superior squad.