1. Oregon Ducks (11-2)
The Ducks head into the new year on a five-game winning streak, which includes a key road victory at Michigan. Oregon has been relying less on Payton Pritchard offensively and focusing more on a group effort, keeping this team in the Top Ten nationally. Road trips to Colorado and Utah will be a nasty introduction to conference play in 2020, for the likely Pac-12 favorites.
2. USC Trojans (11-2)
Like Oregon, USC has rattled off five-straight wins and recently, they’ve secured some quality victories over Harvard, at TCU and against LSU. Big man Onyeka Okongwu has emerged as one of the elite freshmen forwards in the country, not just the league, while the veteran duo of Jonah Mathews and Nick Rakocevic are anchoring a young and excitable roster in Los Angeles.
3. Colorado Buffaloes (11-2)
Colorado has a strong litmus test sitting on the horizon when they host Oregon on Thursday, in a clash of two of the conference’s most remarkable squads. The Buffs did a fantastic job of edging Dayton in a crucial out-of-league victory not just for them, but for the Conference of Champions as a whole. That win should hold up in time. Can Colorado do the same is the question?
4. Arizona Wildcats (10-3)
Sean Miller’s group took some shots to their confidence, dropping three of their last four games to the likes of Baylor, Gonzaga and St. John’s. The good news for the Wildcats is that these are not resume crushing losses and Arizona should be just fine if they can get their act together in time. The bad news is that a road meeting with rivals Arizona State will be their welcome to Pac-12 play.
5. Washington Huskies (10-3)
Watching Washington fall to a underrated Houston team validated three main talking points about this Huskies group. One, Mike Hopkins needs to find more depth for this team to believe in. Two, the Huskies are still learning how to be a good team with their freshmen influences. And three, Isaiah Stewart is an absolute wrecking machine. Washington is at a crossroads right now.
6. Stanford Cardinal (11-2)
If there’s any group that has a case to be angered by these rankings (not that they read them anyway), it would be a Stanford team with losses to only two Top-15 teams in Butler and Kansas. Quietly, the Cardinal are one of the better defensive teams in the land, allowing just 58.8 PPG to opponents, but there’s no signature win for this group. Stanford just needs to do a bit more.
7. Utah Utes (9-3)
Signature wins are not a problem for Utah, who took down Kentucky in Las Vegas in what most would consider a shocking upset. The Utes followed up their stunning victory with a brutal defeat at the hands of San Diego State, who exposed every weakness of this Utah group. The Jekyll and Hyde effect is real for this roster, as they can play above their potential against better foes.
8. Oregon State Beavers (10-2)
Every time you want to believe that this Oregon State team has completely turned the corner, they do something that brings you back to this program being just an almost contender in the conference. The Beavers losing on the road at Texas A&M was more about how poor they looked then the actual loss. Oregon State has questions to still answer as league plays welcomes itself.
9. Arizona State Sun Devils (9-4)
The Sun Devils loss to Saint Mary’s may go down as one of the most unique results in all of college basketball this year, as Arizona State trailed 51-19 at half-time, lost 96-56 and received 43 points off the bench from guard Alonzo Verge Jr., who apparently was the only Sun Devil who actually wanted to play in the game. If one contest can be a microcosm of a team, that one was it.
10. UCLA Bruins (7-6)
Oh, to be a fly on the wall at UCLA’s practices this week. The Bruins have lost three straight, the most recent of them being a letdown defeat at the hands of a 4-10 Cal State Fullerton group and Mick Cronin has to be wondering how soon his new culture will begin to rub off on this disjointed UCLA roster. The transition period has officially gotten ugly for the veteran head coach.
11. Washington State Cougars (9-4)
Albeit the victories have come against mostly inferior opponents, you can’t penalize a team that simple needs wins for winning’s sake and that’s all the Cougars have done in their last six games. As strange as it sounds, the longest current win streak in the Pac-12 belongs to Washington State at the moment and the Cougars have found some momentum heading into their league slate.
12. California Golden Bears (6-7)
The Golden Bears have dropped five of their last six games overall, unable to stop the bleeding that has seen California go from 4-0 to 6-7 on the year. Mark Fox did what most new head coaches are able to do in coming into a program, exciting them to play to a certain standard, but now the honeymoon period has worn off. California has to do a gut check and find some fight.