The Pac-12 is slowly steadying itself entering the third week of conference play, but conference cannibalism has whittled the ranked teams down to just one. It seems some teams have completely changed from the end of nonconference play into Pac-12 play, whether it’s for the worse (Oregon) or the better (Cal). And somewhere in the middle of that scale is Washington, who can’t figure out if it’s a good defensive team or a dismal one.
1. No. 1 Arizona (18-0, 5-0 Pac-12)
Arizona State didn’t give the Wildcats much of a test this past week, so the Wildcats are still sitting pretty at the top of the Pac, and the nation for that matter. Their defense is still the best in the conference, and if it stays that way, they could be in for a long run during March.
2. California (14-4, 5-0 Pac-12)
The Golden Bears hammered the Huskies and then comfortably beat Washington State this week. They’ve won eight of their past nine and climbed steadily up the rankings with consistent and impressive play from Justin Cobbs and Richard Soloman, who leads the conference in rebounding.
3. UCLA (14-4, 3-2)
The Bruins slipped up against Utah, but took down Colorado comfortably this past week. Sophomore Kyle Anderson has been impressive in conference play so far, as he is fourth in the Pac-12 in points scored, second in rebounds, and second in assists for Pac-12 games.
4. Stanford (12-5, 3-2)
I had the Cardinal at No. 10 last week and with two wins over Washington State and Washington, it jumped all the way up to No. 4. I’m not sure if I even follow my own logic on this jump, but Stanford definitely has some top-flight talent in Chasson Randle and Dwight Powell.
5. Colorado (15-4, 4-2)
The Buffaloes are going to miss Spencer Dinwiddie big time for the rest of the season. They miss his aggressive nature in driving into the lane to get free throws and his sharp-shooting from the perimeter. They were able to beat USC easily, but who hasn’t been able to do that so far? And with Tre’Shaun Fletcher spending the next six-to-eight weeks on the bench with a knee injury, things aren’t getting easier for Colorado.
6. Utah (14-4, 3-3)
The Utes scored the big upset of the week in the Pac-12 by knocking off UCLA. Jordan Loveridge and Delon Wright form one of the most lethal backcourt combinations in the conference as the pair combine for more than 30 points a game and are eighth and 10th in the Pac-12 in scoring, respectively. Utah is the only school with two players in the top-10 in scoring.
7. Washington (11-8, 3-3)
Last week I wrote that my gut told me the No. 4 spot may have been too high for the Huskies. Well, my head should have listened. The UW sure hit the ground with a thud after going 0-2 in the Bay Area. Being tall in basketball is a talent, and that’s something the Huskies don’t have much of at this point.
8. Arizona State (13-5, 2-3)
The Sun Devils are still a large step behind their in-state rivals after they got clobbered by Arizona this past week. So far, they don’t have much to their Pac-12 resume besides two wins over the two worst teams in the conference. And in the grand scheme of things, those pretty much count for nothing.
9. Oregon State (10-7, 2-3)
The Beavers took advantage of their in-state rival’s slide and sent the Ducks back to Eugene, Ore., with a rivalry loss this past week. Roberto Nelson is a dynamic scorer that will surely give the UW defense fits this coming week.
10. Oregon (13-4, 1-4)
Oregon’s fall from grace was fast and furious, probably even worse than the UW’s wreck in the Bay Area. It could be argued that the Ducks should be winless in Pac-12 play, given that their only win was against Utah when the Utes squandered a late lead before losing in overtime.
11. Washington State (8-10, 1-5)
DaVonte Lacy’s return to the court will be a welcome sight for the Cougars who are missing their dynamic junior. The Tacoma, Wash., native returned for one game after an emergency appendectomy, but was sidelined again earlier this month with a rib injury.
12. USC (9-9, 0-5)
While Andy Enfield’s hire at USC was splashy at the time because he was riding the high of bringing a Cinderella into the Sweet 16, he and the Trojans have sunk to the bottom of the conference already. The Trojans have been completely overwhelmed in Pac-12 play so far, losing their conference contests by an average of 22.5 points.
Reach Sports Editor Thuc Nhi Nguyen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @thucnhi21
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