Cody James Martin:
1. Arizona (14-4)
2. Utah (13-5)
3. Stanford (11-7)
4. Washington (11-7)
5. UCLA (9-9)
6. Oregon (9-9)
7. Colorado (8-10)
8. USC (7-11)
9. California (7-11)
10. Arizona State (6-12)
11. Oregon State (5-13)
12. Washington State (5-13)
Coming into the conference season, I was expecting UCLA and Washington to be hanging around near the top of the conference when it was all said and done. After the first weekend, that looks less likely. Even though it was just the first weekend, both teams were swept on the road and that goes a long way towards the mentality of the teams as the season progresses.
I think Arizona is the best team in the conference, but the team weaknesses have been exposed and those are some pretty major holes to fix. By the time the tournament rolls around, the Wildcats will have fixed some of them, but it is going to take its lumps along the way.
What Utah has been able to do so far this year has been building for the last few years. It is in a great position and there is no doubt that the Utes are tournament bound. I don't want to get too carried away, but if the Utes have less than four losses in conference play, they could be looking at a two or three seed this year.
The surprise team of the year had been Lorenzo Romar's Huskies. At this point last year, we were discussing just how warm his seat was and now he has his team garnering national attention. If UW can rebound from a disastrous trip to the Bay Area, the Huskies will be tough to beat down the stretch. Rebound strong and they will be back on track, but it could be a bumpy season at times for the Huskies.
Stanford has been playing well with some good wins and a few unexpected losses, but overall they have been just above average. Stanford got off to a good start in the conference season, but some tough games are coming up on the schedule and I wouldn't be surprised if the Cardinal fell behind in the standings for a few weeks before roaring back late.
UCLA and Oregon are the break even teams for the conference, but both are sort of enigmas right now. UCLA is all sorts of a mess, but they have enough talent that you just know that there will be a few teams in conference that the Bruins will beat. The Ducks are in the same boat, where they seem to have a good game followed by a poor outing. I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt here, but if a few balls bounce the opposite way, Oregon could end up in the bottom half of the conference.
It's somewhat of an average year in the Pac-12, which leaves it with exactly half of the conference with losing records. Colorado is on the decline fast and Tad Boyle needs some reinforcements desperately during a down year. The Buffs picked up two wins at home, but I wouldn't call them good wins. They need to beat an above average team in order to gain some of their lost respect back. USC is on the rise with Jordan McLaughlin at the point, but the Trojans are still a couple years away. California can beat some tough teams, but I'm still not sold on Cuonzo Martin having immediate success in the Pac-12.
That leaves the bottom feeders of the conference. Arizona State has shown some ability to win games this season, but I haven't seen enough to think they are going to be any type of contender. As usual, Washington State and Oregon State are at the bottom of the conference, but look to be improving. Both teams have new head coaches and have already looked better than they have in past years.
1. Utah 15-3
2. Arizona 14-4
3. Washington 13-5
4. UCLA 11-7
5. Cal 11-7
6. Oregon 9-9
9. ASU 6-12
10. USC 5-13
11. WSU 5-13
12. OSU 2-16
This won’t go over well, but I think Utah is the best team in the conference and the team with the best chance to go far in the tournament.
Jakob Poeltl and Jordan Loveridge is the best post combination in the conference and one of the better tandems in the league. Everyone knows how good Delon Wright is, but Brandon Taylor and Dakarai Tucker provide quickness and scoring ability while Brekkott Chapman is emerging as an inside out force for the Utes.
Arizona without question is the most talented team and while it’s hard to bet against a Sean Miller coached team in conference, there are some concerning issues for this team.
With the exception of Stanley Johnson, there isn’t a player on this team that seems to want the ball in the final moments. Arizona’s style means there will be a multitude of close games, so this aspect will be interesting to follow.
It’s also apparent how much this team needs Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on the court. Last year’s team was probably the best defensive team in school history, but losing its two best defenders has really hurt.
Washington is the surprise of the conference. Going into the season, this team appeared to be a middling Pac-12 squad with a better future due to the dynamic recruiting class coming in next season.
Expectations have changed though, as the Huskies have one of the most reliable backcourts in the conference and a developing underrated frontcourt. This is a good thing for the Pac-12 because the conference is better when the Huskies are good.
UCLA has been very disappointing and unfortunately much of this can be pinned on coach’s son. He is capable, but is much better as a sixth man/hired gun. He is woefully out of element as a key part of the equation. The Bruins still bear watching because there are multiple NBA players on this roster.
Similar to Steve Alford last season, Cuonzo Martin walked into a good situation at California. The talent on this team is very good, especially on the perimeter. Tyrone Wallace might be the best player in the conference while Jordan Matthews is dangerous and everyone knows how talented Jabari Bird is. This team is still very thin and can lose to any team, however.
Oregon has been a pleasant surprise this season. For all the problems this program has gone through, one thing is evident, Dana Altman can coach and he lets his best players make plays. In this case, that means Joseph Young. With a few nice young players around him, this team plays like the 1999 Arizona team led by Jason Terry.
Stanford is one of the most talented teams in the conference. Unfortunately, the Cardinal are one the poorest coached teams as well.
Colorado has been a disappointment this season, but much of that has to do with the inconsistent play this team gets from its guard spots. Look for Colorado to play better in conference.
ASU is better than expected, but still lacks talent. USC has some nice young talent and the future looks very bright, but the Trojans figure to have a difficult time competing this conference season.
Washington State and Oregon State stink, although Davonte Lacy and Gary Payton are very good.
1. Arizona: 16-2
2. Utah: 13-5
3. Washington: 12-6
4. Stanford: 11-7
5. Oregon: 11-7
6. California: 10-8
7. UCLA 9-9
8. Arizona State 9-9
9. USC 8-10
10. Oregon St 5-13
11. Colorado 4-12
12. Wash St 2-15
Arizona is the clear frontrunner for the Pac-12 regular season crown again. I consider the tough loss to UNLV a much-needed wake up call. This Arizona team might not be as talented as once imagined, but it is definitely the best team in the conference.
Before the season started, most national media websites had Utah finishing in the middle of the conference, but Delon Wright has the Utes playing on another level right now and I fully expect him to carry his team into conference play read to prove their doubters wrong.
The Huskies are another team that has surprised most throughout the early stages of the season. They took a questionable loss at the hands of Stony Brook, but they have something great in the works. The Pac-12 is tougher than most initially thought and it will be interesting to see Utah and Washington battle for second place.
Stanford was a bit of a wildcard for me. I was not high on them before the season started, but they battled nationally ranked Texas and escaped with a victory in overtime. I’m not too sure if they’ll play that well on a nightly basis and to be frank, Utah and Washington are just better right now.
I love the new-look Golden Bears. Cuonzo Martin has them playing at a new level, but this is not their year. They will be competitive, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they lost games they were capable of winning – it’s a part of the growing process. Cal shows flashes of brilliance, but I don’t feel they did a lot against their non-conference schedule. Granted, they played tough teams, but their most impressive win came against an overrated Syracuse team.
Coming into the bottom end of the standings is UCLA, Arizona State and USC. UCLA had potential to be better but unfortunate circumstances hit freshman Jonah Bolden and he is not eligible. Kevon Looney is their standout player, but he can’t carry the load every night for a depleted Bruins team. Arizona State and USC have the potential to make some big games interesting, but they ultimately do not have enough to be a serious threat to the top three teams.
1. Arizona (16-2)
2. Utah (15-3)
3. Washington (10-8)
4. Stanford (10-8)
5. UCLA (10-8)
6. California (10-8)
7. Oregon (9-9)
8. Colorado (8-10)
9. Arizona State (7-11)
10. USC (7-11)
11. Oregon State (3-15)
12. Washington State (3-15)
I think the class of the conference is clearly Arizona and Utah. I expect both teams to win out at home, which means the biggest game of the season for both is probably when the other school is visiting. Arizona may have lost to UNLV, but I believe this team is going to get better each time out. I also consider the fact that up until the first game of the Pac-12 season, the Wildcats had not started their best lineup. That lineup is already good enough to win the conference, but now that it will be playing together more, it will be even more comfortable with each other.
Utah is one of my favorite teams to watch in the conference. Sure, Delon Wright is great and any knowledgable Pac-12 fan has already heard of him and knows what he can do. The biggest difference from last season is the presence of Jakob Poetl, who might wind up being a top ten pick. He can match any big man in the Pac-12 and it makes the Utes a lot better because of it. This is a well coached team that has already been challenged and, like Arizona, will only get better as the season goes on.
Beyond those two, the Pac-12 is wide open and it is going to be a mess. The Huskies lost two games to start the conference season, but on paper matches up pretty well with the majority of their opponents. Robert Upshaw has emerged as one of the better big men in the country and if the Huskies can find consistent guard play, they will be just fine.
I'm not a big Stanford fan and a good part of that has to do with its head coach. Still, it is a talented team with veteran guards that should be able to win at home and not lose to many of the bottom tier. Stanford likely is not going to beat the better teams in the conference, but it doesn't have to in order to finish fourth or so.
The Bruins can't be this bad, can they? We will probably find out this week, but this team is too talented to completely flame out. My guess is that UCLA is going to beat a team or two it probably shouldn't and will actually be the favorite in the majority of the rest of its games this season.
California's loss to Washington State is likely to go down as the worst in the Pac-12. The team has been extremely inconsistent and the hope is that Jabari Bird will fix that. The issue is that we don't know how good Bird will be once he gets back or even when that will occur. Tyrone Wallace simply is not good enough to do it all by himself.
Oregon and Colorado are pretty similar. Both teams will be strong at home and have some talent, but not enough to challenge for the conference. There's no real depth to either squad and they will likely hurt both in the later part of the season.
I think Arizona State is better than Arizona made it look. The guards have to learn how to play together and there needs to be some cohesion, but I think that happens and ASU is pretty competitive in most games.
Oregon State and Washington State are better than last season, but that isn't saying much. The Cougars may not win another Pac-12 game, but they deserve credit and proved anything can happen. Oregon State is one year away from being much better than people think, but this season will be rough.