It is rare that the biggest news of the week in the Pacific-12 Conference men’s basketball world comes from the bottom of the standings, but that is what happened last week as the 11th-place Washington State Cougars pulled off a stunning road sweep in Arizona, beating both the Sun Devils and the Wildcats by a combined 35 points.
The Conference of (real NCAA) Champions is unpredictable, although the Washington Huskies still hold a three-game lead in the league standings with just seven games to play. Arizona State, Oregon State, and Utah are tied for second place, so the final four weeks of the regular season promise to be most exciting as teams jockey for March.
Don’t forget: The conference championship tournament is in Las Vegas again, and you can get your tickets here for March 13-16.
Weekly Pac-12 Rankings
There are some volatile changes this week in our rankings that had nothing to with the Cougars, as Colorado made a big move up while the Beavers dropped a bunch despite staying within shouting distance of the Huskies. Numbers is numbers.
Here are the updated rankings, with last week’s position noted after the current record.
1. Washington Huskies (19-5, 1): After dropping Arizona on Thursday night in Tucson, the Huskies finally saw their winning streak come to an end with a loss in Tempe on Saturday. No big deal, as Washington maintained its conference lead. The Huskies are heavily favored to win the remaining Pac-12 games on the schedule, as well.
2. Oregon Ducks (15-9, 3): Four games back in the standings, the Ducks nevertheless have “recovered” from the loss of their best player now. They’ve won four of their last five and face a challenge on the road in Corvallis on Saturday in the second part of the Civil War series this season. Win that, and Oregon could still make the NCAAs.
3. Arizona State Sun Devils (16-7, 2): The Sun Devils inexplicably lost by 21 points to the Cougars on Thursday night before recovering nicely to beat the Huskies on Saturday. This fits the schizophrenic behavior of ASU we have come to expect in the last few seasons. You just never know which team is going to show up.
4. Colorado Buffaloes (14-9, 7): Five games behind the Huskies in the standings, the Buffaloes nevertheless are rising in the conference. They pulled off the road sweep in Los Angeles last week, pulling out two single-digit victories against UCLA and USC, respectively. Colorado now hosts the Arizona schools this week, and if it can deliver another sweep, anything is possible for March postseason opportunities.
5. Arizona Wildcats (14-10, 4): Losers of five straight games now, it might be time to stick a fork in the Wildcats’ hopes for March Madness. Once 5-1 in league play, Arizona is now going to struggle to finish at .500 in the Pac-12 standings. The Wildcats still have road trips head to the Mountain schools and the Oregon schools.
6. UCLA Bruins (12-12, 6): With six losses in the last eight games, the wheels have come off the Bruins’ season. Maybe if UCLA got its act together, it could win its last seven Pac-12 games, but we are not betting on it. However, it is surprising to see both Arizona and UCLA struggling so much this season despite good coaching and talented rosters.
7. Oregon State Beavers (15-8, 5): Losing by 23 points to Stanford at home after a 1-for-12 effort from downtown hurts the Beavers more in these rankings than in real life. But it still was a ridiculous and unacceptable loss for Oregon State, considering the conference standings. It could turn out to be a very regrettable defeat.
8. USC Trojans (13-11, 8): Dropping two winnable home games by single digits last week gives the Trojans a bleak outlook for the rest of the season now. USC will have to pull off a road sweep in the Bay Area this week if it wants to keep a shot at the NIT intact for March. No team that wants the postseason can afford losses to Cal or Stanford now.
9. Utah Utes (13-10, 9): In winning both games in L.A. by a combined eight points, the Utes stayed alive in the Pac-12 chase behind the Huskies. Like Colorado, Utah could now really benefit from beating the Arizona schools this week in Salt Lake City. After that, it is a road trip to the Washington campuses that could decide the Utes’ ultimate fate.
10. Stanford Cardinal (12-11, 10): There are nine teams in the Pac-12 separated by just two games in the league standings, bottoming out with Stanford at 5-6 in conference play. But the Cardinal is not going to shoot 28-for-52 every game like it did in Corvallis last week. Can Stanford pull off a home sweep this week against the SoCal schools? We’ll see.
11. Washington State Cougars (10-14, 11): The Cougs beat the Sun Devils by making 27 free throws in the game, while ASU made just 19. The Sun Devils also made just 5-of-33 shots from downtown. Doh! Meanwhile, the Wildcats shot 31.1 percent from the floor against WSU while making just 11-of-20 free throws. Yeah, the Cougars got lucky.
12. California Golden Bears (5-18, 12): Losing both games in Oregon by single digits was a moral victory for the Bears, who saw their basement status in the Pac-12 cemented by the WSU upsets in Arizona. Could Cal go 0-18 in league play? It is entirely possible, which is sad for a program that won 21 games in 2016-2017, just two seasons ago.
What to Watch For Next
Both the Apple Cup and the Civil War rivalries conclude for the year this week, as WSU hosts Washington, and OSU hosts Oregon. The Huskies should roll, but look for a very competitive game on Saturday in Corvallis between the Beavs and the Ducks.
Fearless Prediction(s) of the Week
We think Oregon State will make a statement at home against Oregon in the Civil War, led by leading conference Player of the Year candidate Tres Tinkle. He is shooting almost 59 percent from two-point range this year, by the way.
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