1. Oregon Ducks (13-2)
Last Game: (W) 84-61 v. #22 USC | Streak: 11W
The Ducks handed two previously unbeaten teams their first losses of the season in back-to-back games, knocking off UCLA with help from a Dillon Brooks buzzer-beater, before thrashing USC just a few days later. After last year’s magical post-season run, the pre-season potential of this Oregon group is beginning to be gradually realized.
2. UCLA Bruins (14-1)
Last Game: (W) 76-63 @ Oregon State | Streak: 1W
It was no surprise that UCLA ended up one more defensive possession away from remaining undefeated, as all season long, it’s been the Bruins porous defense that has been the only cause for concern for Steve Alford’s superbly gifted group. The Bruins rebounded nicely against Oregon State and now return back to Westwood for a duo of match-ups with California and Stanford upcoming.
3. USC Trojans (14-1)
Last Game: (L) 84-61 @ #21 Oregon | Streak: 1L
Andy Enfield’s boys showed signs of wearing down in the lead-up to their meeting with Oregon, where the Ducks capitalized on some of USC’s weaknesses and put on a clinic in a runaway victory. Without overreacting to one defeat at the hands of one of the hottest teams in all of college basketball, USC gets the benefit of the doubt for another two weeks after their impressive fourteen straight wins to start the season.
4. Arizona Wildcats (13-2)
Last Game: (W) 91-52 @ Stanford | Streak: 7W
While USC was busy getting decimated by the likes of Oregon, Arizona got going in re-establishing their case for the conference’s reigning powerhouse, sliding past California on the road before brutally beating down an upstart Stanford team on their home floor. There’s a point in every season where Sean Miller seems to have his group firing on all cylinders and the Wildcats could be entering that juncture just as conference play begins.
5. Utah Utes (10-3)
Last Game: (W) 76-60 v. Colorado | Streak: 3W
The eye-test always has to be considered when taking into account where all these teams align with one another and after watching the way that Utah cut apart Colorado in Salt Lake City on Sunday night, it’s hard to deny that the Utes could be the real deal. Forward David Collette is one of the most underrated players in the whole Pac-12, who looks to be developing into a classic “Larry K” coached big man.
6. California Golden Bears (10-4)
Last Game: (W) 81-65 v. Arizona State | Streak: 1W
California was one of the toughest teams to gauge heading into the 2016-2017 season, as the Golden Bears lost some serious talent in NBA prospect Jaylen Brown, returned a key piece in sophomore forward Ivan Rabb and added some new talent in Columbia transfer Grant Mullins. All-in-all, it was going to be a season of unique expectations and steady growth for Cuonzo Martin’s squad. The Golden Bears took both Virginia and Arizona to the wire, before knocking off Arizona State in just their second conference game. Their prize for all that? Trips to UCLA and USC in the next week.
7. Colorado Buffaloes (10-4)
Last Game: (L) 76-60 @ Utah | Streak: 1L
The Buffs are holding onto their big win over Xavier back on December 7th as the lone impressive mark on their non-conference resume, especially as their win over then-ranked #22 Texas continues to look less and less impactful. To return to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in Tad Boyle’s six seasons at the helm, Colorado will have to snag some marquee wins against the top-tier teams in the conference. They could start stating their case on January 7th, when they travel to Tucson to meet up with a two-loss Arizona team.
8. Arizona State Sun Devils (8-7)
Last Game: (L) 81-65 @ California | Streak: 1L
Arizona State has shown a few times through the first half of this season that this group has the potential to knock off some of the tougher teams in the Pac-12, if they can play their best basketball at the right times. The Sun Devils stunned Stanford to kick off their conference slate, and then hung tough with California for the better part of forty minutes on Sunday night. If they can steal a win this week with both Colorado and Utah headed to Tempe, the momentum around this struggling Arizona State program may finally change.
9. Stanford Cardinal (8-6)
Last Game: (L) 91-52 v. #18 Arizona | Streak: 2L
The Cardinal have been a high-and-low team all season long but they’ve now lost five of their last six games to Division I opponents, including two straight defeats to start the Pac-12 slate. Their loss to Arizona State was a bit eye-opening, considering it came in Palo Alto, but the way they failed to rebound against Arizona added even more insult injury. In another two weeks’ time, Stanford could very easily fall behind the likes of Washington State and Washington, with road trips to USC and UCLA on the horizon.
10. Washington State Cougars (8-5)
Last Game: (W) 79-74 @ Washington | Streak: 3W
You’ve got to give it to Washington State head coach Ernie Kent, who despite dealing with a myriad of players exiting the program since he took over in 2014, seems to have the Cougars trending in the right direction. Forward Josh Hawkinson may be the star of the Washington State show but keep an eye on freshman guard Malachi Flynn. The rookie from Tacoma, Washington, could develop into an all-conference type of talent before his stay in Pullman is through.
11. Washington Huskies (7-6)
Last Game: (L) 79-74 v. Washington State | Streak: 1L
ESPN Jeff Goodman almost perfectly summed up the Huskies’ situation in a tweet where he stated, “Johnny Jones (LSU) got crushed last year for having No. 1 pick and not making NCAA tourney. Washington's Lorenzo Romar has potential No. 1 this year, Markelle Fultz, and just lost to Washington State at home.” And it’s true. The Huskies have a talented go-to option. Now, the cast around him must come together.
12. Oregon State Beavers (4-11)
Last Game: (L) 76-63 v. #2 UCLA | Streak: 2L
The Beavers couldn’t have drawn a tougher start to conference play, meeting with the Trojans and Bruins in back-to-back games, and despite some great strides being made, there’s still some serious work to be done. Oregon State could soon be aided by the return of forward Tres Tinkle from injury but even that won’t be a simple “fix-all” for this unit.