Pac-12 Midseason Report Card

The non-conference portion of the season is wrapping up and teams are now looking ahead to conference play. As a whole, the Pac-12 conference has looked solid during the non-conference slate notching wins against top programs like Duke, Kansas, San Diego State, UConn, and Michigan. Thus, the next ten weeks of league play promise to be one the most exciting ever in conference's history.

According to various sites that calculate conference RPI, the Pac-12 is typically ranked third or fourth. It is a clear indication that the Pac-12 has returned to prominence amongst college basketball's elite conferences.

Arizona has garnered most of the attention – and deservingly so – as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation for the past four weeks.

Heading into conference play, three Pac-12 teams (Arizona, Oregon, and Colorado) are ranked in the top 25, while a few other schools have looked like legitimate NCAA tournament teams.

Here's our midseason report card (with grades) for each Pac-12 team:

Arizona: A (midseason grade)

Team MVP: Nick Johnson – The junior guard has taken more of a leadership role this season and has been the most consistent player for the top-ranked team. Johnson has put up impressive stats (16.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 50% FG) playing his natural position of shooting guard this season.

Good News: Arizona head coach Sean Miller has been able to mesh his talented crop of newcomers with the equally talented returners from last season. The results speak for themselves – an unblemished 13-0 record and No. 1 ranking. Arizona has some great non-conference wins against Duke, Michigan, and San Diego State.

Reason for Concern: Miller has been content to go with a very short rotation thus far. In fact, outside of the seven regular rotation players, no Wildcat player averages more than six minutes per game. If Arizona experiences foul trouble or (worse) injuries later in the season, this could come back to haunt them.

Oregon: A

Team MVP: Joseph Young – The junior guard, who transferred from Houston, has been spectacular in his first season in Eugene. He is one of the best scorers in the conference (20.2 ppg).

Good News: Oregon is undefeated (12-0) and currently No. 10 in the nation. The Ducks have a high-octane offense (90.8 ppg) that leads the nation in scoring. A trio of transfers (Young, Mike Moser, and Jason Calliste) has led Oregon's attack this season. The Ducks had solid wins against Georgetown, Illinois, and BYU during non-conference play.

Reason for Concern: The Ducks played most of the non-conference schedule without two key players (Dominic Artis and Ben Carter). Both players have returned from their 9-game suspension for violating team rules. However, it will be interesting to see if head coach Dana Altman can fully implement them back into the rotation without disrupting team chemistry.

Colorado: B+

Team MVP: Spencer Dinwiddie – Not only does he have a legendary mustache, but he also has one of the smoothest games in college basketball. The junior point guard is one of the most versatile players (15.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.8 apg) in the Pac-12. He is also the unquestioned leader of this Colorado team.

Good News: Colorado (11-2) is currently ranked No. 20 in the nation. Led by Dinwiddie, the Buffs have displayed a well-balanced attack this season. They have also been battle-tested, playing one of the strongest non-conference schedules in the entire country. Colorado notched a signature victory against Kansas at home, with a thrilling buzzer-beater from guard Askia Booker.

Reason for Concern: The Buffs are led by the experienced backcourt of Dinwiddie and Booker. However, the rest of the rotation is rather young and inexperienced. In order to achieve post-season success, Colorado will have to rely on young players like Josh Scott, Xavier Johnson, and Wesley Gordon.

Arizona State: B

Team MVP: Jahii Carson – The sophomore point guard has elevated his game to another level this season and is a legitimate All-American candidate. He is putting up monster stats thus far (19.3 ppg, 5.4 apg, 3.8 apg, 50% 3PT).

Good News: Arizona State (11-2) is not relying as heavily on their star point guard this season. The Sun Devils have gotten significant contributions from center Jordan Bachynski and shooting guard Jermaine Marshall, who transferred from Penn State. The Sun Devils are experienced and have a deeper bench this season, which should help them in conference play.

Reason for Concern: Despite the improved play of Bachynski, the Sun Devils are still plagued by poor interior defense and rebounding at times. If Arizona State wants to go dancing in March, they will need to shore up these two areas. In addition, the Devils were only marginally challenged during non-conference play, which means they'll need to capture a few signature wins against their Pac-12 foes.

UCLA: B

Team MVP: Kyle Anderson – The sophomore guard/forward has filled up the stat sheet this season (14.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 6.7 apg). "Slow Mo" is one of the most versatile players in the country and a stabilizing force for the Bruins.

Good News: UCLA (11-2) has two of the best players in the conference in Anderson and shooting guard Jordan Adams. The Bruins have also received a big boost from freshman Zach Levine. UCLA is stacked with firepower on the perimeter, which should help them with the recent rule changes, which favors ball handlers against hand checking.

Reason for Concern: Much like the Sun Devils, UCLA suffers from suspect interior defense and rebounding. The Wear twins and Tony Parker need to play tougher if this team wants to make a run in the postseason. The Bruins did not capture a quality win during the non-conference schedule and struggled mightily against quality opponents like Missouri and Duke.

Utah: B

Team MVP: Jordan Loveridge – The sophomore forward slimmed down this offseason and is playing like a beast (17.3 ppg, 9.4 rpg). He is a dual-threat player, capable of hurting opponents from the perimeter or inside the paint.

Good News: Utah (11-1) is off to their best start since the 1997-98 season. The play of Loveridge was probably expected, but the emergence of Delon Wright and Brandon Taylor has been a pleasant surprise for the Utes. Wright, a junior college transfer, has adjusted quite nicely to Division-I competition, averaging 14.9 points per game. Utah easily beat their in-state rival, BYU, during non-conference play.

Reason for Concern: Utah's strength of schedule is atrocious and easily the worst in the Pac-12. As a result, their record is somewhat misleading heading into conference play. However, we will give them credit for only having one narrow loss (Boise State) and handily beating a BYU team that defeated Stanford and almost upset Oregon.

Stanford: B-

Team MVP: Chasson Randle – The junior was forced to into the starting point guard role after Aaron Bright went down with a season-ending injury. Randle has risen to the challenge, posting career-high numbers (18.7 ppg, 3.3. rpg, 51% FG).

Good News: Stanford (9-3) is the most experienced squad in the Pac-12 and has enough talent to make some noise this season. The Cardinal have been led by a quartet of upperclassmen (Randle, Dwight Powell, Anthony Brown, and Josh Huestis). Brown has successfully returned from an injury that sidelined him nearly all of last season. The Cardinal had an impressive road win at Connecticut, who was a top-ten team at the time.

Reason for Concern: Stanford has been inconsistent this season. They look like a legitimate NCAA tournament team on some nights, and look awfully shaky on other nights. They got pounded by Pittsburgh on a neutral court and narrowly escaped with a home win against a bad Bucknell team. They will need to play more consistently if they have aspirations of making the Big Dance.

California: C

Team MVP: Justin Cobbs – The senior point guard is guiding California's attack this season. The floor general is leading the team with 14.2 points per game and 6.0 assists per game, which ranks fourth in the conference.

Good News: California (9-4) has a balanced attack this season, with all five starters scoring in double figures. The Bears had a nice win early in the season against a solid Arkansas team. They also battled valiantly against Syracuse, who is currently ranked No. 2, before losing that close matchup. The big man duo of David Kravish and Richard Solomon has improved dramatically this season.

Reason for Concern: The Bears are the consummate hot-and-cold team, so you never know which squad is going to show up. In addition to being inconsistent, California also lacks a go-to player this season. The loss of Allen Crabbe has hurt the Bears more than some expected.

USC: C

Team MVP: Byron Wesley – The junior wing has thrived in the new up-tempo system under head coach Andy Enfield. He is putting up career high numbers this season (17.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg).

Good News: USC (9-4) is going into conference play on a roll, winning five of their last six games, including a road win against a solid Dayton team. They have gotten contributions from multiple sources (five players average more than nine points per game). Newcomers Pe'Shon Howard and Nicola Jovanovic have been pleasant surprises for the Trojans.

Reason for Concern: Despite a decent start, the Trojans are probably a few years away from contending. They have some nice players on their roster, but not the ideal cast of characters to lead Enfield's run-and-gun style of play. Until he is able to coach his own recruits, this will be a watered-down version of "Dunk City."

Oregon State: C-

Team MVP: Roberto Nelson – We always knew he was a capable scorer – and now he's proving it to everyone. The senior guard is leading the conference with 21.4 points per game. He's also dishing out 4.1 assists per contest.

Good News: Oregon State (8-4) has won five of their last seven games. The Beavers are led by a couple of seniors (Nelson and Devon Collier). The tandem is the highest scoring duo in the Pac-12. Oregon State had a nice win at Maryland early in the season. They are looking forward to the return of their versatile forward, Eric Moreland, who should be eligible by the second week of conference play.

Reason for Concern: The Beavers lack a true point guard to orchestrate the offense. Nelson was thrust into that role when Ahmad Sparks unexpectedly transferred to Illinois this past offseason. Nelson has done a decent job of running the team, but his natural position is shooting guard.

Washington: D+

Team MVP: C.J. Wilcox – The wing player decided to come back for his senior season – and the Huskies are thankful. He is the second leader scorer in the conference averaging 20.5 points per game.

Good News: The Huskies (8-5) have plenty of firepower in their backcourt. In addition to Wilcox, Washington is getting big production from a trio of guards (Nigel Williams-Goss, Andrew Andrews, and Darin Johnson). Washington is also happy to see junior forward Desmond Simmons return from a knee injury. His return should bolster a weak Huskies' frontcourt.

Reason for Concern: As mentioned above, Washington is pretty thin up front. Aside from senior forward Perris Blackwell, who is having a nice season, the Huskies have gotten minimal production from their big men. They have struggled to rebound and defend the paint. The future looks bright for Washington, but this is definitely a rebuilding year.

Washington State: D

Team MVP: DaVonte Lacy – The junior guard has stepped out of Brock Motum's shadow and is now the go-to guy in Pullman. He is leading the team in scoring (18.9 ppg) and averaging 4.7 rebounds per contest.

Good News: The Cougars (7-5) are feisty bunch of players. What they lack in talent, they make up for in effort. Junior guard Royce Woolridge is having another solid season and freshman Que Johnson has provided additional scoring for the Cougars. Washington State had an impressive victory earlier in the season against a solid Purdue team.

Reason for Concern: Quite simply, the Cougars don't have enough talent to compete a high level in the Pac-12 this season. They don't shoot ball the very well, have trouble rebounding, and their defense is merely average. In addition, the Cougars have no inside game. This all translates to a long season for Cougar fans.

It's always tough to hand out midseason awards because the real season hasn't even begun. However, we'll attempt to do so.

Keep in mind, these awards are a reflection of what has already unfolded, not predictions for the rest of the season.

Without further ado, here's our version of the Pac-12 honor roll:

Best Player: Jahii Carson, Arizona State

Best Freshman: Aaron Gordon, Arizona

Best Defensive Player: T.J. McConnell, Arizona

Best Newcomer: Joseph Young, Oregon

Best Comeback Player: Anthony Brown, Stanford

First Team:

Kyle Anderson, UCLA

Jahii Carson, Arizona State

Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado

Nick Johnson, Arizona

Joseph Young, Oregon

Second Team:

Jordan Adams, UCLA

Aaron Gordon, Arizona

Jordan Loveridge, Utah

Mike Moser, Oregon

Chasson Randle, Stanford


Sun Devil Source Top Stories