1. Oregon Ducks (14-3, 3-1)
The Ducks have won eight of their last nine overall and in the wacky world of the Pac-12, that’s more than enough to keep you atop the league’s power rankings. Point guard Payton Pritchard is performing like an absolute beast as of late, averaging 21.8 points and 5.0 assists in conference play. Dana Altman’s boys have regrouped and see an opening in a hazy conference picture.
2. USC Trojans (13-3, 2-1)
USC had a strange road trip to Washington, where it looked like they never really got off the bus or wanted to even compete in the contest. However, outside that, Andy Enfield’s group has been consistent, snagging victories in seven of their last eight contests. The Trojans return home for California and Stanford this week, which are no longer two easy victories for anyone in the Pac-12.
3. Stanford Cardinal (14-2, 3-0)
If there was a vote for Pac-12 Coach of the Year today, there shouldn’t be one single ballot cast for anyone but Stanford’s Jerod Haase. After losing some key pieces from last season’s 15-16 team, it was sure that the Cardinal were in for a brutal season. Instead, Stanford has somehow managed a perfect start against their league opponents and have only lost this season to Butler and Kansas.
4. Colorado Buffaloes (13-3, 2-1)
When eleven of the twelve squads in the Conference of Champions have at least one defeat to their name, it’s about really weeding through who can bring their best effort on any given night. A setback loss to Oregon State wasn’t helpful for the Buff’s psyche, yet Colorado is still one of the tougher outs in the big mess of it all. This is still an NCAA Tournament caliber squad, for now.
5. Oregon State Beavers (12-4, 2-2)
Wayne Tinkle’s group couldn’t be gauged before their upset win against Arizona and things haven’t become any clearer since the victory. When players beside Tres Tinkle and Ethan Thompson contribute offensively, this team is more dangerous than we give them credit for. When they become a top-heavy show, the wheels simply spin in the mud for the Beavers.
6. Arizona Wildcats (11-5, 1-2)
Losers of four of their last five and five of their last seven, it’s simply not a good time for this Arizona. They look disjointed and unable to piece together a forty minute contest. Their defense has been especially porous. The Wildcats compete in stretches, not games and you can see the anguish on Sean Miller’s face when dealing with this group. Something is missing in Tucson.
7. Arizona State Sun Devils (10-6, 1-2)
If there’s ever been a time for a team to really have their moxie put to the test, it’s the upcoming slate of games for this Sun Devils team. Bobby Hurley’s passion is never lost, but Arizona State has been trading wins and losses as of late. If they can find a way to take advantage of home contests against Colorado, Utah and Arizona, this team has a puncher’s chance at saving things.
8. Utah Utes (10-5, 1-2)
Losses to three ranked foes in San Diego State, Oregon and Colorado hammered home the point that this Utes team isn’t on par just yet to compete with the top level of opponents on a consistent basis. Their upset over Kentucky will remain a super unique result and one that can have some implication for seeding in the big dance. Just not for the Utes. Utah needs to stop the bleeding.
9. Washington Huskies (11-6, 1-3)
Before their loss to Houston down in the Diamond Head Classic, it’s as if Washington was playing the “Oregon Trail” game and marching along quite nicely with an ample amount of food and good health. And then suddenly, out of nowhere and for no particular reason, the Huskies tried to randomly ford the river and well, you know the rest. Mike Hopkins unit needs a fresh start.
10. California Golden Bears (8-8, 2-1)
Mark Fox has led his Golden Bears team to victories over Washington State and Washington already in league play and realistically, that’s probably more than anyone envisioned this California team doing. Sophomore guard Matt Bradley is one of the league’s most unheralded play-makers who deserves a lot more credit than he gets, but that’s really the story of the Golden Bears.
11. UCLA Bruins (8-8, 1-2)
Quoting a tweet from ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez, “UCLA is without a McDonald’s All-American on their roster for the first time in 40 years” and that true lack of talent is not hard to see when watching the Bruins play. No, UCLA is so talent starved that they should be 8-8 with the losses they have, but only Chris Smith is averaging in double-figures for this team right now.
12. Washington State Cougars (10-7, 1-3)
The Cougars return to the basement after California proved to have a bit more meddle than first-year head man Kyle Smith’s group does. Smith is overseeing a huge culture change in Pullman and the growing pains are going to take some time. I love his energy and enthusiasm with this team though, which should help them steal a few more wins throughout the rest of the campaign.