The Conference of (real NCAA) Champions kicked off its league schedule for men’s basketball last week, and it is clear from the early results that some of the usual suspects are again atop the Pacific-12 standings early.
Arizona and the Los Angeles schools all swept their opening games, and overall three teams are now in double digits wins. Two of the old-school metrics for making the NCAA Tournament were 20 wins and a .500 record in conference play, although the new-fangled committee looks at things differently now.
Still, the Wildcats, the Trojans, and the Bruins are off to a good start, and that is great news for the Pac-12. Also, do not overlook the Oregon State Beavers, as we explain below.
Weekly Pac-12 Rankings
The weekend had some interesting developments, including the Beavers knocking off the Oregon Ducks in Eugene as we predicted. But the Ducks suffered a big blow in finding out Bol Bol is out for the season.
Here are the updated rankings, with last week’s position noted after the current record.
1. Oregon Ducks (9-5, 1): Despite both the loss of Bol for the year and a home loss to the Beavers on Saturday, the Ducks stay atop our rankings—for now. But Oregon is going to be hard pressed now to live up to its preseason expectations without its best player. Bol is irreplaceable in the lineup.
2. Washington Huskies (10-4, 4): Ahead by just five points at halftime against the Washington State Cougars, the Huskies turned it on in the second half to crush WSU in the Apple Cup matchup. Washington may end up being the best team in the conference, although there are obviously a lot of games left to be played in 2019.
3. Arizona State Sun Devils (10-4, 2): Dropping a home contest to Utah was not the way the Sun Devils wanted to start off the Pac-12 schedule, but they recovered to defeat Colorado. Still, it’s not a good split at all. If it had been on the road, maybe. ASU may play this kind of inconsistent ball all season, just like it did last year.
4. Arizona Wildcats (11-4, 3): Needing overtime to beat the surprising Utes, the Wildcats completed their home sweep against the newest Pac-12 schools. That result may say more about Utah than it does about Arizona. Why do we ever doubt the Wildcats? They’re on top of the league standings, just where they usually are.
5. Oregon State Beavers (9-4, 6): Making a statement in Eugene was a nice start, but now the Beavers will face the two L.A. schools in Corvallis this week. If OSU really wants to make some noise, pulling off that home sweep would do the trick. After that, the Beavers go on the road to the Arizona schools, so the next four games will reveal a lot.
6. UCLA Bruins (9-6, 7): Maybe firing the head coach was the right idea. Then again, all the Bruins did was beat the Bay Area schools at Pauley Pavilion last week. In itself, that’s not saying a lot right now. However, wins are wins, and home wins are necessary if any Pac-12 team wants to make it to March Madness.
7. USC Trojans (9-6, 8): The Trojans pulled off the same two victories as the Bruins, although they did it in less impressive fashion, in terms of scoring margin. That overtime loss to Santa Clara is now fully in the rear-view mirror. Remember, this USC team played some very good non-conference opponents. It should pay off for the Trojans soon.
8. Colorado Buffaloes (9-5, 5): On the other side of the spectrum, the Buffaloes played absolutely zero good non-conference opponents, and it showed in their losses on the road to the Arizona schools last week. While Colorado kept it closer in Tucson, the Buffs got walloped in Tempe. That’s not a good sign.
9. Utah Utes (7-7, 10): The Utes came within a point of sweeping the Arizona schools on the road, dropping the second game in overtime. That was a surprising showing for a squad that lost every non-conference game it played against a good team by large margins. Lessons learned? Maybe Utah can make a good showing in 2019 after all.
10. Stanford Cardinal (7-7, 9): Losing by a combined 33 points on the road to the L.A. schools is not the way the Cardinal needed to kick off conference play. Now, Stanford hosts the Arizona schools this week, and another bad showing could bury the Cardinal in the basement for a long time to come.
11. Washington State Cougars (7-7, 11): The Cougars have now lost four in a row, and they hit the road for two more games this weekend against Colorado and Utah, respectively, the good news is that back end of the league slate will be chock full with home games. The first two home games are against the Bay Area schools, too.
12. California Golden Bears (5-9, 12): The Golden Bears fared a little better than the Cardinal did against the L.A. schools on the road, but that is nothing to shout about right now. As we stated last week, the watch is on for not only a winless conference season but for the job of Head Coach Wyking Jones, sadly.
What to Watch For Next
Wednesday games this week in the Bay Area! The Arizona schools will want sweeps, and they should be able to get them on the road. The L.A. schools hit the road up I-5 to Oregon, and the way those four games pan out could determine which schools get the early jump in Pac-12 play … and expectations for the NCAA Tournament.
Fearless Prediction(s) of the Week
Can the Utes keep it up against Washington on Thursday night, at home? We think they have a chance to do so, since the Huskies may be a bit rusty after opening the Pac-12 schedule with a single-game week. Says here Utah gets the upset.
Check back here frequently for new Pac-12 content!