1. Arizona Wildcats (11-3)
Last Game: (W) 84-78 v. Arizona State | Streak: 8W
The Wildcats shut down arch-rival Arizona State in their conference opener, proclaiming themselves (for the moment) as still kings of the Pac-12. Allonzo Trier is still Allonzo Trier, freshman forward Deandre Ayton is getting better by the day and swingman Rawle Alkins is just getting his basketball legs back under him. The Wildcats may only be scraping their potential so far.
2. Arizona State Sun Devils (12-1)
Last Game: (L) 84-78 at Arizona | Streak: 1L
It’s hard to penalize a previously unbeaten team for losing on the road against their nationally ranked rival so don’t expect this to change anything at all for Bobby Hurley and company. The Sun Devils are probably still the best team on the West Coast not named Arizona, but upcoming road trips to Colorado and Utah will be testy. The heat begins to turn up for Arizona State as more familiar opponents come into view.
3. UCLA Bruins (11-3)
Last Game: (W) 74-53 v. Washington | Streak: 4W
Things looked bleak for the Bruins after a fourteen point loss to Cincinnati, where the narrative of this group was pegged as “good but not good enough”. Instead of folding, UCLA rallied somehow to slide past a top-ten Kentucky squad and then ran into the Pac-12 portion of their slate with two straight victories. Is there any more left in the Bruins’ tank? That’s the question now going forward for Steve Alford and company.
4. Utah Utes (10-3)
Last Game: (W) 66-64 at Oregon State | 3W
No, Utah hasn’t looked overly impressive in their wins over Oregon and Oregon State, and no, it’s doubtful that the Utes are really the fourth best team in the league, but victories are victories in the world of college basketball and you can’t really argue when a team gets the job done at the end of the day. But don’t worry all you Utah haters out there, the Utes host the Arizona duo in the coming days, so this ranking is likely sure to change.
5. Oregon Ducks (11-4)
Last Game: (W) 77-62 v. Colorado | Streak: 1W
As painful as it is to sometimes say, the Ducks are probably one of those teams who will continue to improve, as Dana Altman has a knack for developing a team over the course of a season. Oregon will be tested with three straight road games at Oregon State, Arizona State and Arizona, but don’t be surprised if the Ducks walk away from those contests at 2-1.
6. Washington Huskies (11-4)
Last Game: (L) 74-53 at UCLA | Streak: 1L
Washington’s ugly effort against UCLA was definitely more of a fluke that a real litmus test, as this Huskies group still has a staple win (at Kansas) and only quality losses (Providence, Virginia Tech, Gonzaga, UCLA) on their resume. If Washington wants to go dancing, they’ll need to find ways to knock off some of the conference higher-ups. Helping in that equation would start with fixing their defense, which allows a brutal 76.1 points per game to opponents.
7. USC Trojans (10-5)
Last Game: (W) 89-71 v. Washington State | Streak: 1W
Even the strongest believers in this USC squad are beginning to lose patience with this group, as a general lack of urgency seems to be plaguing a talented depth chart. The Pac-12 may only hold 2-3 ranked programs all-season long, which leaves little error and opportunity for NCAA Tournament caliber victories. USC has to start taking care of business on a nightly basis to prove that their preseason hype was not a fluke.
8. Oregon State Beavers (9-5)
Last Game: (L) 66-64 v. Utah | Streak: 1L
After cautiously giving some praise to the Beavers, Oregon State took some steps backwards in hard-fought defeats at the hands of Kent State and Utah. At 9-5 overall and 1-1 in the league, there’s a chance for the Beavers to make things interesting in that second tier of Pac-12 teams, but that’s only if they get their act together quickly. From a season ago, it’s a night-and-day difference. However, there’s no reason Oregon State should be settling there.
9. Colorado Buffaloes (8-6)
Last Game: (L) 77-62 at Oregon | Streak: 3L
Colorado has now dropped five of their last six games, with the only outlier among that group coming in the form of a double-overtime win over South Dakota State. Somehow, this group almost feels reminiscent of last year’s squad that stumbled out of the gate in the Pac-12. Despite some less than stellar score-lines, the quality of play isn’t awful for the Buffs, but there’s just something missing. Tad Boyle has to work some magic with this team and fast.
10. California Golden Bears (7-7)
Last Game: (W) 77-74 at Stanford | Streak: 1W
Unlike their counterparts in Stanford (see below), California looks to not want conference play to go sour too quickly, as the Golden Bears finally flashed some meddle in their road beating of the Cardinal. The growing pains are still in full effect for first year head coach Wyking Jones but improvements have been gradual and incremental along the way. Expect the backcourt duo of Don Coleman and Darius McNeill to continue to impress, as well.
11. Washington State Cougars (8-6)
Last Game: (L) 89-71 at USC | Streak: 2L
After a strong 6-0 start to the season where it was believed that maybe the Cougars were a bit better than expected, Washington State has dropped six of their last eight contests, including their first two conference match-ups. While they shouldn’t get beaten up too badly for road defeats at UCLA and USC, this team is just lacking some juice at the moment. A near-week to prepare for rival Washington should only help.
12. Stanford Cardinal (6-8)
Last Game: (L) 77-74 v. California | Streak: 2L
The Cardinal basically hit rock bottom against rival California, when they let a seventeen-point lead slip right through their grasps. If the beginning of Pac-12 play was going to be a breath of fresh air for this suqad, it surely didn’t get started on the right foot. Stanford needs to do some serious soul-searching before they host UCLA and USC.