1. Washington Huskies (18-4)
The only flawless team still left in a struggling Pac-12, the Huskies have won their last eleven games overall and may be surging into February on a tear. The daunted 2-3 zone defense that head coach Mike Hopkins has implemented in the program since he took over is now paying dividends and Washington may not look back. They can just about close out the league regular season race this week with road showdowns at Arizona and Arizona State.
2. Arizona State Sun Devils (15-6)
Arizona State’s confounding road defeat at the hands of USC was just another thorn in the multiple-bid NCAA Tournament potential of the conference. The Sun Devils win the battle of attrition of the second-tier squads, in terms of their still dangerous potential. If Bobby Hurley’s boys can become a bit more consistent, Arizona State can lock in their big dance bid.
3. Oregon State Beavers (14-7)
With home meetings against Stanford and California on the horizon, Oregon State has a legitimate chance to sit at 16 wins heading into the Civil War against rival Oregon. However, the Beavers can’t afford a letdown after making it out of the Rocky Mountain trip alive. To keep their post-season dreams in the distance, Oregon State has to keep the good vibes rolling.
4. Arizona Wildcats (14-8)
USC fans will not be pleased to see Arizona ranked above the Trojans, despite the fact that the guys from the City of Angels recently handed the Wildcats a 23-point shellacking. At the end of the day, I still have more faith in Sean Miller to get this group refocused and play on any given night like one of the best teams in the league, than I do for USC to keep rolling.
5. USC Trojans (13-9)
You’ve heard some of my critique of the Trojans in Arizona’s rundown and not let me praise some of the good that USC has done as of late. Their three-straight victories against UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State were impressive and despite a tough loss against Washington, they fought back and didn’t let Washington State get the better of them. Consistency is the key now.
6. UCLA Bruins (12-10)
At any given moment, the talent level of this Bruins group could begin to poke through and the real potential of UCLA can still be recognized. That’s why the Bruins take hold off the sixth spot in our rankings and not really for any other good reason. Times are tough right now in the Conference of Champions and UCLA is the epitome of a failing athletics model.
7. Stanford Cardinal (11-10)
The Cardinal may be beating up on the cellar-dwellers of the league but at least they’re winning games and that’s more than most of the Pac-12 can say. Stanford is developing some younger pieces on this team and the excitement for what this unit becomes next winter is already buzzing. Thursday’s clash at Oregon State should teach us a lot about this group.
8. Oregon Ducks (13-9)
Since an injury sidelined Ducks star Bol Bol for the season, Oregon hasn’t looked like a group capable of stopping the bleeding. Head coach Dana Altman hasn’t had too many defeats in his career that looked worse than Saturday’s debacle against Colorado, where the Ducks lost by 22 in a one-sided affair. How Altman rights the ship in Eugene in still unknown from here.
9. Utah Utes (11-10)
No team in the league (sans Washington) has really shown more heart than Utah up to this point, who is doing almost as much as they can with a bit of an undermanned roster. One of the untold stories of the league over the past few seasons is how the Utes are a few untimely transfers (and NBA decisions) from becoming one of the Pac-12’s top programs.
10. Colorado Buffaloes (12-9)
While Colorado showed the guts needed to defend their home floor in the victory over Oregon, the Buffs haven’t strung two victories together since back on December 11th. With a 3-6 mark currently in league play and a treacherous slate on the horizon, it’s safer to expect less than more from Colorado at the moment. The Buffs are trending downwards.
11. Washington State Cougars (8-14)
The Cougars have now dropped eleven of their last twelve overall games, dating back to their weak collection of out-of-league opponents. Washington State would be the flagrunners for a stagnant and tumbling program, if only California wasn’t trying so hard to take their place. There’s nothing exciting (besides Robert Franks) about the Cougars right now.
12. California Golden Bears (5-16)
A 5-16 record isn’t what any team wants to see but the more troubling sign for the Golden Bears is the ten straight losses to their name. Finding a win in conference play would do a world of good not only for this group but for head coach Wyking Jones’ job security. California has to be doing more than just running out the clock on the season at this point.