1. Arizona 16-2 *
2. Oregon 13-5 *
3. UCLA 12-6 *
4. Colorado 11-7 *
5. Washington 11-7
6. Stanford 10-8 *
7. Utah 10-8
8. Arizona State 9-9
9. USC 8-10
10. California 4-14
11. Washington State 2-16
12. Oregon State 2-16
For the second year in a row, I am picking Arizona to run away with the Pac-12 title. The difference between this year and last year is the leadership on the team.
Arizona is still relying on two true freshmen to contribute, but has Nick Johnson and T.J. McConnell, who have stepped up in big games to lead the Wildcats to victory.
With the continued progress of the players off the bench and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson's contribution as a "sixth starter" I believe that Arizona may have this one locked up before the final weekend.
Oregon, UCLA and Colorado are the three teams that can challenge for the title should Arizona slip up.
The Ducks are undefeated heading into conference play and are trending up. Dana Altman has found a way to harbor several transfers and build them into a conference contender. His only issue may be cohesiveness down the stretch when the pressure is on.
UCLA is a team that is full of talent and has shown that it is capable of beating up on the other teams that are less talented. The problem with the Bruins is defense and that UCLA doesn't play it very well.
Heading into conference play, UCLA has only played one true road game, a loss at Missouri. It was the Bruins' second lowest scoring total of the season. If UCLA can't score on the road, the defense may not be able to step up and earn a victory.
Colorado has played a strong schedule and hasn't lost since the opener, but I'm not sold on the Buffs. Askia Booker is one of the most overrated players in the conference and Spencer Dinwiddie can't carry the team when there are lapses in execution. Colorado can contend for the title, but needs much more out of Booker and Josh Scott in order to do so.
Beyond that, the middle of the conference is a giant log jam. Washington holds the same record as Colorado, but is on the outside of the title conversation because I think that 11-7 is the best that the Huskies can do and I think Lorenzo Romar will find a way to turn a disaster of a non-conference slate into something that will save his job for at least one more year.
Stanford has shown that they can win big games, but I don't think Johnny Dawkins and the Cardinal are at the next level just yet. Utah is a team that is turning the corner and won't challenge for a title anytime in the next few years, but will pull off a few upsets to shake up the standings.
Arizona State is one more playmaker away from being in the title discussion, but some unfavorable scheduling and Jahii Carson's tendency to try to do everything himself in crunch time leads me to believe it will finish in the middle of the pack.
Southern Cal is my surprise for the season. It is early in the Andy Enfield era, but I think that USC can be productive against a few of the bottom tier teams in the conference. While an 8-10 record isn't great by any means, it is a start for a program that was left in a bad place by former Head Coach Kevin O'Neil.
1. Arizona 17-1*
2. UCLA 13-5*
3. Oregon 12-6*
4. Colorado 11-7*
5. Stanford 11-7*
6. Arizona State 10-8
7. Utah 9-9
8. California 9-9
9. USC 8-10
10. Washington 5-13
11. Washington State 2-16
12. Oregon State 1-17
At this point in time Arizona is clearly the best team in the country and, barring injury, there is no reason to think that any squad will surpass them. This squad is special.
It could be the most gifted UA team ever and possesses the talent to become the best. Even on an off night this team's length and athleticism allows for the Cats to control each games pace. To me, Florida and Kansas are the only teams with the potential chemistry and ponies 1-7 to play with Arizona.
If UCLA had a shot blocker/inside scorer I would put the Bruins among those teams as well. The trio of Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and Zach LaVine are as skilled as any in the conference. Combined with an emerging Norman Powell, the Bruins look the part on perimeter. Unfortunately for the Bruins, the Wears are no good and provide no danger to opponent drives to the hoop.
UCLA and Oregon seem to project as teams with similar potential, although I think Oregon will be the better tournament team. With so many quick, dynamic athletes already in the fold, look for the Ducks to emerge as a top 10 program in the next year or so.
Tad Boyle was obviously an excellent hire for Colorado. He is a great talent evaluator and plays an attractive style of basketball. His poaching of Los Angeles area talent is especially notable. Personnel-wise this team is very similar to Stanford. Expect similar results. Sidenote, I will really miss watching Sabatino Chen play.
The heat was justifiably on Johnny Dawkins to produce this season and so far, Stanford has delivered. It took awhile for Dawkins to assemble a talented roster and while the loss of Aaron Bright is huge, the Cardinal still project as a dangerous NCAA tournament team.
1. Arizona 16-2*
2. Oregon 14-4*
3. Colorado 13-5*
4. UCLA 12-6*
5. Stanford 11-7*
6. Arizona State 9-9
7. California 9-9
8. Utah 8-10
9. Washington 6-12
10. USC 5-13
11. Washington State 3-15
12. Oregon State 2-16
At this point, there is little reason to think that Arizona won't win the conference. As good as Oregon has been, Arizona has plenty of size and has proven more up until this point.
The biggest issue with Arizona right now is depth and you have to wonder if that is going to affect the Wildcats down the stretch. If Arizona loses the conference, there is a good chance it is because the rotation is only at six.
The Ducks are very well-coached and I think have the next best chance of winning the conference. It would not surprise me at all if the game in which Arizona travels to Oregon winds up being for the conference title.
The Ducks have the guard play and seem to do well together. In addition, Oregon is one of the few teams in the conference that can match Arizona's overall athleticism.
Colorado has looked pretty good early in the season and teams like the Buffs are going to do well because they defend. Add in an improving Josh Scott and solid depth and Colorado is going to pose some problems in the conference.
I have UCLA lower than some because I just don't like how it defends. The talent is there and if Tony Parker can consistently play well, the bruins are very good.
The issue is on defense and the glass, where the Bruins have struggled and I don't think they are fixable problems unless the Wear twins wake up as different players.
Stanford has the potential to surprise in the Pac-12 and possibly the country. It shoots the ball well and if Chasson Randle can keep it up, the Cardinal are going to be much better for it.
Arizona State, Cal, and Utah will battle it out for the next three spots. I really like how Utah has looked so far, especially with the play of Jordan Loveridge and Delon Wright. The Utes have not played anybody, but there's something to be said for being third in the country in points, second in assists, and first in field goal percentage.
Arizona State will need another player to step up, but Carson and Jermaine Marshall are going to make the Sun Devils dangerous.
Cal is a decent squad, but is going to struggle with teams with size and that can score. The Golden Bears just don't have the horses this season.
Basically, I think the conference is split in two and the next group of teams will struggle. USC has not looked good in the early part of the season, but will likely upset a team or two.
This is Romar's worst team in recent memory and Washington State and Oregon State are just about what they are every year as of late.