The Pac-12 race is still up in the air with just two weeks of basketball games remaining. Four teams are vying for the Pac-12 regular season title as well as the top seed in the Pac-12 tournament. The potential return of a key player could spark one of the contenders, but without his presence, their chances remain in question.
With important games littering the remainder of the schedule, the fight for number one is bound to become even interesting. Entering the home stretch, there are several teams clustered together at the top of this week’s rankings.
Thanks to a sweep of the Washington schools, UA was able to regain the top spot in this week’s rankings. The Wildcats won rather easily in each contest and looked like an improved ball club compared to what they looked like just a month ago. They face a tough road test this week in Los Angeles and it’s a chance for Arizona to make a statement, especially in its matchup with UCLA.
The Ducks are still without Dominic Artis and they continue fight inconsistency in his absence. Their offense struggled mightily in their loss to Cal, failing to reach the 50-point mark and shooting just 27.6 percent from the floor.
Oregon hopes to get Artis back this week and it would be a big boost if it happened. If not, UO will likely find itself in a battle with Arizona and UCLA at this time next week.
The Bruins’ only contest last week was against rival USC and it was able to win in convincing fashion. UCLA must now face a couple of tough opponents in Arizona State and Arizona with the game against the Wildcats holding a lot of meaning in the Pac-12 race.
If the Bruins can come away with a season-sweep of UA, it will make their tournament resume a whole lot more attractive to the selection committee when it comes to seeding.
The Golden Bears' victory over Oregon moves them just a game back of first place with three games remaining. They have now won five in a row and seven out of their last eight, as they have found a way to move into the Pac-12 race late in the season.
Cal’s last three games are at home against Utah, Colorado and Stanford, so it’s quite possible for the Bears to steal the regular season conference crown if one of the three squads ahead of them slip-up.
5. Arizona State
The loss to Washington stuck a fork in the Sun Devils’ chances of leapfrogging the teams ahead of them in the Pac-12 race. With three road games remaining (and two of them against UCLA and Arizona), the likelihood of jumping the four teams in front of them is slim-to-none at this point.
Arizona State was in the battle just a few weeks ago, but going 3-4 over its last seven contests hindered ASU’s chances at taking over first place before the end of the season.
The win over Utah moved the Buffaloes to 8-6 in conference play. Two of their remaining four contests are against Cal and Oregon, which should give them a good idea of just where they stand heading into the conference tournament. They have played much better in recent weeks, but the Buffs’ inconsistency tends to surface from time to time.
With two straight losses, the Trojans are now 7-7 against Pac-12 competition. While a .500 record isn’t going to turn many heads nationally, it is much better than anyone expected the Trojans to be at this point of the season. They have a really tough matchup with Arizona coming up, but after that, the schedule could allow USC to come away with a winning record in conference play.
After losing four of their last six, the Cardinal have fallen back towards the bottom of the standings and now sit at 7-8 in Pac-12 play. Positioning for the conference tournament is all Stanford has left and without a run to the conference tournament title, it will be left out of the big dance.
While UW has struggled since mid-January, it seems to have Arizona State’s number. The Huskies are 3-8 over their last 11, but two of those victories came at the Sun Devils’ expense.
If Washington could play Arizona State every game, it could win the Pac-12. Unfortunately for UW, there are 10 other squads to face and its success has been very limited against those teams in recent weeks.
The Utes lost their lone game of the week at the hands of Colorado last Thursday. They battled hard once again, but ultimately came up short in the second half, just as they have all season long. Utah continues to be much more competitive than their record indicates and is going to give anyone they play in Las Vegas a strong effort.
11. Oregon State
The Beavers fought hard last week against the Bay Area squads, but ultimately came up short in both affairs. OSU finishes its disappointing season out on the road as its last three affairs are away from Corvallis.
12. Washington State
Losers of eight straight, Wazzu continues to be the bottom-feeder of the Pac-12. The Cougars have struggled to stay competitive lately as they await the conclusion of the season.