The final week of the regular season has arrived and the Pac-12 race involves just three teams now, with one squad bowing out after getting swept on the road.
With two teams streaking at the right time and the other receiving a key component back from injury, the next few days should be very interesting. Here is how the conference breaks down with just a handful of games remaining.
Dominic Artis returned against Oregon State this past week, which should provide the Ducks with a nice boost as the postseason looms. Defeating their rival wasn’t surprising in the least, but now the Ducks must go on the road and have a successful week against Colorado and Utah.
The Buffaloes have been inconsistent this year, but are going to be tough to beat on their home floor. The Utes, on the other hand, have been one of the league’s bottom-feeders, but they have also battled much more than the average 11-17 squad usually does.
The Bruins have continued to look impressive recently and are heading into the postseason as a team no one really wants to face. After sweeping the Arizona schools, UCLA has won six of seven and are tied with Oregon for first place in the Pac-12.
Due to the Ducks' victory over the Bruins earlier in the season, UO currently holds the tiebreaker, so UCLA needs some help this week in order to steal the regular season conference championship away.
The Bruins face two teams that have been struggling mightily in Washington and Washington State, but the road can be unpredictable and UCLA has been inconsistent at this point of the season in recent years.
While the Bruins have been hot lately, no team is riding higher than Cal at this point in time. With the victories over Utah and Colorado last week, the Golden Bears extended their winning streak to seven games and have also won nine of their last 10.
In late January, Cal stood at 3-4 in Pac-12 play and looked like a team destined to be on the outside looking in when the season ultimately ends. Thanks to the coaching of Mike Montgomery and the play of Allen Crabbe, the Bears now have an outside shot at taking the Pac-12 regular season title and the number one seed in the conference tournament.
The Wildcats are sputtering and have dropped four out of their last seven. The offense has disappeared at times and the defense has struggled to gain the consistency that allowed it to be so successful earlier in the campaign. There will be no Pac-12 title for UA this season, but a victory over Arizona State this weekend could serve as a boost heading into the conference tournament.
The mistake-ridden play of the seniors lately has set the team back and has surfaced at the worst time possible. Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill must continue to assert themselves and produce, but that must be done while minimizing turnovers, bad shots, and poor ball movement.
Colorado's turbulent regular season comes to an end this week and it will likely finish somewhere between fifth and seventh in the Pac-12. It could be a team to watch in the conference tournament, as it has played better basketball in recent weeks. CU has picked up eight victories in its last 11 games, including wins over Arizona and Oregon during that time frame.
In a surprise week, the Trojans picked up a sweep over the Arizona schools and have now won six of their last eight games. For a team that looked dead in the water heading into conference play, USC has surprised many and is a team that scares most of the conference when it comes to facing it in the Pac-12 Tournament.
With its last two conference games coming against the two struggling Washington schools, Southern California has a good opportunity to finish 11-7 against Pac-12 competition this season after entering the conference schedule with a 5-8 record in out of conference play.
Sunday’s victory over rival Washington State gave the Huskies back-to-back wins for the first time since mid-January. Despite their struggles this season, the Huskies have really good weapons, such as C.J. Wilcox, and could look to spoil someone’s postseason. Winning games hasn’t been easy to come by for UW, however, and with UCLA coming to town this weekend, it faces another tough opponent who still has something to play for.
8. Arizona State
A team that once looked like a surprise contender for the Pac-12 championship, ASU has gradually come back down to earth and now stands in the middle of the pack.
The Sun Devils have some interesting pieces, so making a surprise run in Las Vegas isn’t out of the question, but they’ll have to play much better than they did in Los Angeles last week. ASU has lost five of its last seven and is struggling more now than at any other point this season.
Losers of four of their last six, the Cardinal now stand at 8-9 against Pac-12 competition and doesn’t have the appearance of a squad that can make a run in the conference tournament. Stanford has sort of just hung around in the lower-middle portion of the standings all season long and that appears to be where they will finish. Color me shocked if they make any sort of noise in the Pac-12 Tournament.
It hasn’t been an easy season for the Utes, who have been able to battle hard against tough teams all season long. This past week, unfortunately, was not one of those competitive weeks for Utah basketball. The Utes were spanked by 18 points by both Stanford and California, leaving them at an ugly 3-13 in conference play.
11. Oregon State
This hasn’t been a season to remember for the Beavers, who dropped their fourth straight contest last Thursday. They have had one bright spot this season in Roberto Nelson, who scored 31 against Oregon, and could make Oregon State a much better squad next season.
12. Washington State
The Cougars' losing streak has reached nine and they have continued to look complacent with their position. Luckily for Wazzu fans, the bleeding stops soon.