1. Oregon Ducks (24-7, 13-5)
The Ducks needed to win four straight games to claim the league’s regular season title and they did just that, in well, the way only Dana Altman can. I’m thinking that Oregon’s late run of fortune may have secured point guard Payton Pritchard the Pac-12 Player of the Year Award.
2. UCLA Bruins (19-12, 12-6)
Conference seeding aside, I’m putting UCLA as the favorites to win the Pac-12 Tournament. The Bruins almost definitely need the league’s automatic bid to make the NCAA Tournament, even after Mick Cronin got this group to rally down the stretch. What a run UCLA is on right now.
3. USC Trojans (22-9, 11-7)
Nothing else in the Pac-12 makes sense, so USC riding a three game winning streak into the conference tournament doesn’t mean much at this point. The Trojans can be one of the most dangerous teams in the big dance. It’s just getting there with some focus that’s the key.
4. Arizona State Sun Devils (20-11, 11-7)
God bless Arizona State fans right now. Bobby Hurley’s group won seven straight games and looked to lock up their spot in the field of 68, before falling apart and losing three of their last four games. Now, they are barely in according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, with little room left for error.
5. Arizona Wildcats (20-11, 10-8)
As weird as this will sound, it felt like Arizona checked out once they lost their chance at a Pac-12 regular season title and coasted through to relying on a solid run in the Pac-12 Tournament. However, as a #5 seed, they missed out on a bye and will have to fight through a tough field.
6. Colorado Buffaloes (21-10, 10-8)
Tad Boyle and company may have followed Arizona’s lead and checked out a bit, but in reality, this is the absolute worst time for the Buffaloes to be playing so poorly. Close losses like Colorado has had as of late are always a double-edged sword. Something has to change soon in Boulder.
7. Utah Utes (16-14, 7-11)
Talk about a team that just keeps getting pushed and pushed by their coach to find ways to win. Larry K’s boys haven’t been perfect this season by a far stretch, yet their ability to find moments of brilliance in crucial victories has been remarkable. The Utes are a scary team to see right now.
8. Washington Huskies (15-16, 5-13)
On paper, Washington has enough talent to win the league title, but on the court, they’ve been an absolute disaster. That is, until they went and upset Arizona State and Arizona on the road to end the regular season. The Huskies have a legitimate shot to beat the Wildcats again this week.
9. Stanford Cardinal (20-11, 9-9)
In some ways it almost hurts to see Stanford in the shape they’re in after the Cardinal started the season playing such a great brand of basketball. Welcome to life in the Conference of Champions. Stanford is still a formidable opponent, just not an elite one, even by Pac-12 standards.
10. Oregon State Beavers (17-13, 7-11)
A pair of victories heading into the Pac-12 Tournament and a draw against Utah, a team they beat in mid-February by 19 points, gives the Beavers at least the idea that there’s a reason to keep playing. However, even a win over the Utes will draw them Oregon. Talk about brutality.
11. California Golden Bears (13-18, 7-11)
Watching California push through that first half against Oregon the other night and barely make it to the break was demoralizing for how much good Mark Fox has done for this program in year one. The Golden Bears have stalled out offensively and need to find some motivation to play.
12. Washington State Cougars (15-16, 6-12)
Losers of six of their last seven, it’s felt like old times back in Pullman again. Kyle Smith is another first year head coach trudging on with a mix-and-match roster that doesn’t exactly fit his mold of players. The Cougars are trying so hard to make it work, but they’re just treading water.