1. Arizona Wildcats (9-0)
While it’s still early in the season, it’s not hard to say that this Arizona team has that classic look of a Sean Miller group that could contend for a league crown and make a run in the big dance. The Wildcats have fantastic balance. They can score. They can shoot. They can defend. There’s not much to dislike about this unit in general. A massive test at Baylor is upcoming on Saturday.
2. Oregon Ducks (6-2)
After a strong comeback win over Seton Hall, a team that’s much better than advertised, Oregon couldn’t upend Gonzaga or North Carolina for a signature victory. Defeats at the hands of two Top-10 teams by a combined 5 points shouldn’t hurt the Ducks stock too much, but it didn’t move the needle. Suddenly, a December 14th trip to Michigan just got a whole lot more interesting.
3. Washington Huskies (5-1)
Mike Hopkins and company have a busy week ahead with South Dakota, Eastern Washington and oh yeah, in-state foes Gonzaga coming up in the next seven days. The Huskies’ defense has been extremely strong, but offensively this group isn’t too fun to watch with all the talent they have. A little top-heavy still, it’s a nice problem to be 5-1 and still have vast room for improvement.
4. Colorado Buffaloes (6-0)
Roll bleeping Tad! Right now, all is well in the Centennial State as the Buffs have been marching through what could be described as a forgettable list of non-conference opponents. While you can’t change the schedule, you can change your fortunes going forward and a statement win can be found sitting on the horizon with a journey to visit Kansas on Saturday. Roll bleeping Tad again!
5. USC Trojans (7-2)
Marquette’s Markus Howard dropping 51 points on the Trojans in a 22-point victory for the Golden Eagles will be one of those salt in the wound type of games to look back upon for USC. Andy Enfield has a team that’s capable of playing with the best in the country on any given night and losing to an inferior opponent at the drop of a hat. Will the real USC please stand up?
6. Stanford Cardinal (8-1)
Stats can always be deceiving in one way or another, but it’s usually not hard to pick out a reason while a team who has won eight of their nine games has done just that. Stanford is never going to be a high-octane, run-and-gun outfit so when you’re defending at a Top 15 clip in the country, life’s going to get easier on the floor. The Cardinal are allowing a paltry 57.7 points per game.
7. Arizona State Sun Devils (4-2)
Arizona State squandered a colossal chance against Virginia, in a game that definitely would’ve helped solidify the progress of a rising program in Tempe. Instead, the Sun Devils lost in heartbreaking fashion and the unsettled nature of the group rolled into a near slip-up at the hands of Princeton. Bobby Hurley’s guys need to find their way and get back to playing sound basketball.
8. Oregon State Beavers (7-1)
The Beavers split their two true tests (Iowa State and Oklahoma) so far and unless they get caught up against a weak Texas A&M team in College Station, Oregon State has a shot to be 11-1 come January. Forward Tres Tinkle is playing like the Pac-12 Player of the Year he can be, Ethan Thompson has found his scoring touch and some other role players have been consistent enough.
9. Utah Utes (5-2)
The little losses around the Pac-12 could haunt this conference in a few months time, when defeats like Utah has at the hands of Coastal Carolina and Tulane will not help tournament resumes. The Utes already lost twice and still have BYU, Kentucky and San Diego State on their slate before Christmas. Larry K will have his hands full with a unit still discovering themselves.
10. UCLA Bruins (6-3)
Hofstra. BYU. Michigan State. The losses aren’t mind-numbing (outside the Pride), yet when you’re UCLA and you’re trying to finally right the ship, a hot-start like they had is somewhat wasted. I believed in this team and had them ranked third. They’ve fallen down the charts now. A road trip to Notre Dame and a battle with North Carolina just got alot more interesting.
11. California Golden Bears (5-2)
Mark Fox’s squad took their beatings as expected in the 2K Empire Classic, when Duke and Texas brought the Golden Bears back to earth. California gave a lackluster effort against UC-Davis but came out with a win and for now, the Golden Bears will keep their head above water. Cal’s guards are really likeable and if the league wasn’t so solid, they could turn some heads down the line.
12. Washington State Cougars (3-4)
The Cougars have done nothing to show any stretches of improvement, losing to Nebraska and Colorado State en route to a 6th place finish out of eight teams at the Cayman Islands Classic. Their victory over a now 3-5 Old Dominion squad was unimpressive in the big scheme of things and it looks like it could be another very rough season in Pullman. Status quo = unchanged.