All about the Pac-12: Mediocrity reigns
We’re into February, so our conference breakdowns are going to change up a bit this week.
We’ll look at the conferences as a whole and break down each team’s NCAA tourney hopes. We’ll also take a look at the three best games in the league in the next week.
In the postseason hunt
Note: Unlike in the other “Big Six” leagues, the Pac-12 has no NCAA lock and, right now, no one looking good for an at-large bid. The teams we’re listing in this category are the ones that have a shot at the regular-season title.
Arizona: The Wildcats won at Cal on Thursday and will be looking to beat Stanford on Saturday to remain squarely in the league title chase. The win over California is the Wildcats’ only RPI top-50 victory, and they already have eight losses overall and four in league play.
California: Losing at home to Arizona isn’t the best way to make a case that you should be in the running for an at-large bid. The Golden Bears have dropped two of their past three, not good in a league as mediocre as this one. They own road wins over Oregon and Washington, but they have zero RPI top-50 victories.
Colorado: A team expected to finish near the bottom of the league instead is tied for second. But of the Buffs’ 14 victories, just two are over teams in the RPI top 100. Colorado is 2-4 on the road and has five road games left.
Oregon: The Ducks still have road games left against Oregon State (which beat them in Eugene), Cal, Stanford and Colorado, along with home games against Colorado and Washington. Oregon has won five of its past six, which is scintillatingly good basketball in the Pac-12.
Stanford: The Cardinal have lost three of four, but are just two games out of first place and have home games remaining against Arizona, Cal and Oregon, as well as a road game against Colorado. Stanford is much more likely to play spoiler than to win the league, but it is dangerous at home (12-1).
Washington: Here’s your first-place team, for right now at least. The best part of the Huskies’ remaining schedule: There is no game against Cal (the teams played once this season and the Golden Bears won). But there is a trip to Oregon, and that could be the deciding factor in whether the Huskies wear the regular-season crown. The Huskies won at Arizona but lost at Colorado.
[NCAA forecast: Mike Huguenin projects the NCAA tourney field of 68]
Wait until next year
Arizona State: Nothing the Sun Devils have done thus far make them seem a threat to play the spoiler role. Their offense is anemic and they have zero top-100 wins.
Oregon State: The Beavers can score and they already own wins over Cal and Oregon. They have return games against both, and they also welcome in Washington and Colorado in the final month. In short, they could prove bothersome to a team trying to win the league title.
UCLA: This was expected to be a big season for the Bruins, but it hasn’t turned out that way. UCLA has beaten Arizona and Colorado at home, but is 1-5 in league play on the road, with the only win over woeful USC. Cal, Stanford and Washington still have to play at UCLA.
USC: The Trojans have won twice since the end of November. They are bad, especially offensively. If a Pac-12 title challenger loses to USC … well, that team doesn’t deserve to win the league crown.
Utah: This was supposed to be a difficult season for first-year coach Larry Krystowiak, and it has been just that. The Utes have won just five times, and only one of those victories is over a team in the RPI top 200. Any victory over a Pac-12 challenger would be a stunner.
Washington State: G Faisal Aden’s season-ending knee injury robs the Cougars of their best offensive player. Arizona and Washington still have to play in Pullman, and Washington State does have spoiler potential.
[Forde Minutes: College basketball is ready to take center stage]
Top 3 games this week
Arizona at Stanford, Saturday, 3 p.m., Fox Sports Net: Arizona looks to follow up on its upset of Cal with a victory over the Cardinal. These teams are tied for fifth in the league at 6-4, and the loser risks falling too far behind to catch up, even in this “balanced” league.
Oregon at Colorado, 10 p.m., Saturday, ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain/ROOT Sports Northwest/Fox College Sports Central: These are two of the three teams tied for second, and this is the first of two games between the teams. Road wins have been hard to come by in this league, but the Ducks have three of them. Five of the Buffs’ remaining seven games after this are on the road.
Washington at Oregon, Thursday, 11 p.m., Fox Sports Net: The Huskies won the first meeting by 16 in Seattle, and a season sweep of the Ducks would be big. Oregon has five tough games left, and this is one of two at home.
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