It’s only taken three weeks, but there’s already separation being created in the Pac-12 men’s basketball standings as the top teams begin to make their case for inclusion in the NCAA tournament.
There’s no time to waste with Selection Sunday just two months away.
Colorado (11), USC (16), Oregon (28), UCLA (31) and Stanford (47) on Tuesday were all in the top 50 of the NCAA NET rankings, a tool used to fill out the March Madness bracket. Arizona State (108) has stumbled recently with players missing games for various reasons, but there’s still time for the Sun Devils to regain their footing.
The Pac-12 has also gained recognition from the media, with Oregon ranked 22nd and UCLA, Colorado and USC all among the first five teams receiving votes but just outside of The Associated Press top 25 this week.
Here are my weekly conference power rankings.
1. UCLA 9-2, 5-0 Pac-12 (Last week: 2)
Last week: 81-75 OT win at Arizona State; 81-76 win at Arizona
This week: Home vs. Washington State, Thursday; home vs. Washington, Saturday
The Bruins made a statement on the road and will likely continue their climb this week at home. Their postponed game at Oregon was rescheduled for Jan. 19, but that’s now in danger after the Tuesday announcement that the Ducks have paused team activities due to a positive COVID-19 test in their program.
2. OREGON 9-2, 4-1 (1)
Last week: 79-72 loss at Colorado; 79-73 win at Utah
This week: Home games with Arizona State and Arizona postponed
The Ducks are now 0-10 all time in Boulder but bounced back to win at Utah behind Chris Duarte’s 25 points and six steals. Now they must find a way to get back to the court.
3. STANFORD 8-3, 4-1 (5)
Last week: 91-75 home win vs. Washington; 75-60 home win vs. Washington State
This week: At Utah, Thursday; at Colorado, Saturday
The Cardinal held serve against two teams likely to finish in the bottom half of the conference. The level of competition takes a significant step up with an always-challenging road trip based on travel if nothing else.
4. COLORADO 9-3, 3-2 (4)
Last week: 79-72 win vs. Oregon; home vs. Oregon State postponed; 65-58 win at Utah
This week: Home vs. California, Thursday; home vs. Stanford, Saturday
The Buffaloes, who had not won in Salt Lake City in nine years, had a good week. A win against the Cardinal would solidify their spot among the conference’s top teams.
5. USC 9-2, 3-1 (7)
Last week: 87-73 win at Arizona; 73-64 win at Arizona State; 67-62 home win vs. UC Riverside
This week: Home vs. Washington, Thursday; home vs. Washington State, Saturday
The Trojans got their first sweep at the Arizona schools in 36 years and did it without one of their top players in sophomore guard Ethan Anderson, who has been out since Dec. 1 with a back injury. They’ll try not to look past this week to a big matchup with Stanford.
6. ARIZONA 9-3, 3-3 (3)
Last week: 87-73 home loss to USC; 81-76 home loss to UCLA
This week: At Oregon State, Thursday; at Oregon postponed
It could have easily been three straight losses if not for a double-overtime escape in Pullman. Thursday’s game in Corvallis (if it’s played) is a significant one for the Wildcats.
7. ARIZONA STATE 4-5, 1-2 (6)
Last week: 81-75 OT home loss to UCLA; 73-64 home loss to USC
This week: At Oregon postponed; at Oregon State, Saturday
Thursday’s postponement is the fourth in Pac-12 play for the Sun Devils. Saturday’s game is a must-win for a team with Arizona and Stanford up next.
8. WASHINGTON STATE 9-2, 2-2 (8)
Last week: 71-60 win at California; 75-60 loss at Stanford
This week: At UCLA, Thursday; at USC, Saturday
The Cougars have shown they’re no longer scraping the bottom of the conference under second-year coach Kyle Smith. They could show even more with a win this week.
9. UTAH 4-5, 1-4 (9)
Last week: Home vs. Oregon State postponed; 79-73 home loss to Oregon; 65-58 home loss to Colorado
This week: Home vs. Stanford, Thursday; home vs. California, Saturday
Good teams win close games at home. It’s hard to imagine the Utes making a run at a top-half finish in the Pac-12.
10. OREGON STATE 5-4, 1-2 (10)
Last week: Games at Utah and Colorado postponed
This week: Home vs. Arizona, Thursday; home vs. Arizona State, Saturday
The Beavers get back to the court with a pair of difficult home games. With just two practices under its belt in nearly two weeks, OSU will have to play up to its potential to remain close to .500 in conference.
11. CALIFORNIA 6-7, 1-5 (11)
Last week: 71-60 home loss to Washington State; 84-78 home win vs. Washington
This week: At Colorado, Thursday; at Utah, Saturday
The Bears got their first conference win, beating the Huskies while shooting 55.4% from the floor without Cal’s best player, Matt Bradley, due to injury. That effort will be hard to replicate this week with Bradley still expected to be on the sideline.
12. WASHINGTON 1-9, 0-5 (12)
Last week: 91-75 loss at Stanford; 84-78 loss at California
This week: At USC, Thursday; at UCLA, Saturday
The Huskies had a chance at a win last week in Berkeley. This year’s results don’t give much hope for another chance for at least a few weeks.