Just like that, a close Pacific-12 Conference men’s basketball race for the regular-season league title has become a bit of a boring coronation for the Washington Huskies. With two more victories last week, the team to beat has opened up a sizable lead in the conference standings with a perfect 9-0 record so far.
The Conference of (real NCAA) Champions needs more quality depth, however, to make an impression on the national pundits. The Arizona State Sun Devils and the Oregon State Beavers may be best positioned to make that a reality for the Pac-12 come time for March Madness invites.
So, if you’re game, remember the conference championship tournament is in Las Vegas again; get your tickets here for March 13-16.
Weekly Pac-12 Rankings
Some more jumbling of the numbers this week produced some changes, although all of them were subtle. The Oregon Ducks are hanging by a thread, five games behind the Huskies in the conference standings, while the Arizona Wildcats need to get it together soon if they want to see the NCAA Tournament again.
Here are the updated rankings, with last week’s position noted after the current record.
1. Washington Huskies (18-4, 1): Remember, three of the Huskies’ four losses came against Auburn, Gonzaga, and Virginia Tech, respectively. It does not look like Washington has any serious challengers in conference, now that we are halfway through the league schedule. A victory at Arizona State on Saturday could all but seal the deal.
2. Arizona State Sun Devils (15-6, 3): Overtime wins count just as much as regulation wins, so the Sun Devils will take their 95-88 victory over the Wildcats, thank you very much. They host another big game on Saturday, as noted above. Can Arizona State pull off the upset and give itself a fighting chance for the Pac-12 crown?
3. Oregon Ducks (13-9, 2): How did the Ducks lose by 22 on the road in Colorado? Does not matter now, because if Oregon cannot recover to sweep its home games this week against the Bay Area schools, it is going to be NIT time for the Ducks in 2019. That would be a giant step backward for Head Coach Dana Altman and his Oregon squad.
4. Arizona Wildcats (14-8, 4): Four games behind the Huskies now, the Wildcats need to get it going as soon as possible. With four defeats in the last five games, though, Arizona is only dropping in the conference standings—and fast. Hosting the Huskies on Thursday night is either going to be a passing of the torch or a monumental moment in Tucson.
5. Oregon State Beavers (14-7, 5): Picking up two key road wins in Colorado and Utah leaves the Beavers at 6-3 in conference play, and Oregon State has a very good shot at making March Madness for just the second time since the early 1990s. The Beavers host the Bay Area schools this week, and they should expect to sweep.
6. UCLA Bruins (12-10, 6): With the expected split on the road in the Evergreen State, the Bruins did nothing to help themselves last week—and nothing to hurt themselves, either. The tough part of the schedule is behind UCLA now, as the team has a chance to win the next seven games straight, all in the Golden State.
7. Colorado Buffaloes (12-9, 8): The big over Oregon looks better on paper than it does in real life, thanks to the Ducks’ hot start to the season. The Buffaloes just aren’t that good. With four of their next six games on the road, Colorado will need to brew up some upset magic in order to make a run at an NIT bid in March.
8. USC Trojans (13-9, 7): The Trojans are tied for second in the conference with a 6-3 mark, but do not let that fool you. If USC can win its next six games, which is not out of the realm of possibility, it can play its way back into the March Madness conversation. This where that non-conference SOS needs to pay off for the Trojans.
9. Utah Utes (11-10, 9): Well, the Utes really blew it last week, getting swept at home by the Oregon schools. With those two defeats, Utah is looking at a hard fight for a .500-plus record and a shot at the NIT. But the Utes will be underdogs now in their next five games, so the odds are not good for even that.
10. Stanford Cardinal (11-10, 10): The Cardinal escaped with a three-point win in Berkeley on Sunday, and maybe that is the best thing we can say about Stanford right now. It may not win another game until the last day of this month, when it hosts the Cougars in Palo Alto.
11. Washington State Cougars (8-14, 11): There is not another game left in the season where the Cougs will be favored to win, not even in Berkeley on March 2. Do we say roughly the same thing every week about WSU? Probably. Losing to the Trojans by single digits in Pullman on Saturday was a moral victory, however.
12. California Golden Bears (5-16, 12): The losing streak has reached ten games now, as the Golden Bears dropped a big chance for a nice win at home over Stanford on Sunday. But you can let the other team shoot 28-of-49 from the field on your home court. March 2 remains Cal’s best hope for another win this season.
What to Watch For Next
The Huskies’ road trip to Arizona and Arizona State is the awesome on the schedule this week. The L.A. schools hosting the Mountain universities is the yawn on the schedule this week.
Fearless Prediction(s) of the Week
How good is Washington? We find out this weekend in the toughest conference test of the season for the Huskies. If UW loses both, it may not lose again until the Pac-12 tourney. We say the Huskies get a split, but we have no idea which way that crumbles.
Check back here frequently for new Pac-12 content!