1. UCLA (16-2)
2. Arizona (14-4)
3. Oregon (14-4)
4. USC (13-5)
5. California (10-8)
6. Colorado (10-8)
7. Utah (8-10)
8. Stanford (7-10)
10. Arizona State (5-13)
11. Oregon State (3-15)
12. Washington State (1-17)
At this point it is difficult seeing anybody but UCLA winning the conference. The offense is the best in the country and you have to give credit to Steve Alford for being able to convince his guys to play defense. UCLA won’t go undefeated because as good as it is, there will eventually be an off night. However, this is one of the best teams in the country.
Oregon struggled a bit in the preseason and we may have undervalued the guys the Ducks lost, but this is still a good team. It has the athleticism and versatility to make a deep run in March and I think Altman is a good enough coach to get everything on the right track.
I picked Arizona to tie with Oregon with the belief that Allonzo Trier will be back at some point. If he is not, I probably drop Arizona a spot. The most impressive aspect of Arizona for me is that Sean Miller has it improving defensively and that is not an easy thing to do with such a young team. There will be some rocky moments, especially on the road, but I’m putting some faith in Sean Miller here.
USC has been one of the surprises of the early season, but it also has not had much competition. We will probably find out a lot more right away when the Trojans play Oregon. The talent is definitely there offensively and the main question is based on what the Trojans can do defensively.
Beyond those four, I’m think it is going to be a mixed bag of sorts. Cal just isn’t that good right now and it doesn’t have a good enough coach to surprise.
Colorado had its good and bad moments before Pac-12 play and I don’t see much changing. The Buffs have the capabilities to upset some teams and could easily lose to some bad ones as well.
Utah is hoping Sedrick Barefield can keep scoring like he did in his second game back and Kyle Kuzma stays healthy and plays well, but there just isn’t much beyond that.
Washington is frustrating. Give most coaches one of the top five players in the country and they probably aren’t struggling to beat Cal Poly. Fultz is good enough to put the Huskies on his back a few times this season, but UW literally doesn’t even try to play defense.
The next three are irrelevant for the most part. ASU is going in the right direction, but that team doesn’t defend either. Oregon State and Washington State are going to be a complete mess this season.
1. UCLA (15-3)
2. Arizona (13-5)
3. Oregon (13-5)
4. USC (12-6)
5. Cal (10-8)
6. Colorado (9-9)
7. Utah (9-9)
8 Washington (8-10)
9. Stanford (7-11)
10. Arizona State (6-12)
11. Oregon State (3-15)
12. Washington State (3-15)
The conference really lays out in a top tier, a bottom tier, and then Oregon State and Washington State this season. The top four teams could all beat each other on any given night, but it really comes down to how consistent each team has been across the season as a whole so far.
UCLA is undefeated and clearly the most talented team in the conference. With that being said, the NCAA season is long and it is difficult to see the Bruins being able to make it through the season unscathed as some might suggest. Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf are stars and as long as they are shining, UCLA wins the conference.
Arizona and Oregon are more similar in terms of situation than some would think. Both teams are missing players and have yet to really put together a performance that showcases the true potential. Without Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Allonzo Trier, Arizona is going to be in some serious trouble down the stretch. Meanwhile, the Ducks have had Dillon Brooks back for some time, but he really hasn’t seemed to be at full strength. Chances are that Arizona will get at least one player back and Oregon will see Brooks improve as the season goes on, but those two are the clear runners-up at the moment.
USC is a strange team because while I think the makeup of the roster is intriguing, I’m not sold on the Trojans quite being elite yet. They only have one standout win (SMU) and have struggled to play defense at times. It hasn’t failed them yet, but there are bound to be a few games in the near future where a few extra possessions of defense would have turned the game the opposite way.
After the top four, there is quite a drop off for the next six teams. California and Colorado are solid teams and both could easily make the tournament, but they could also easily stumble and punch tickets to the NIT as well. The Golden Bears have had similar ups and downs that the Buffs have, but are the more talented team and over the course of a season, talent generally has the slight edge.
Utah could be taking a major step back this season under the West Coast Coach K. There isn’t a lot of evidence to suggest that the Utes have been able to replace the pieces it lost from a year ago, but things point to a rocky conference year for them.
In a perfect world Washington discovers this amazing thing called defense and the Huskies rise to the top of the conference while Markelle Fultz dominates his way up NBA draft boards. This isn’t a perfect world and Washington is still the same under performing team as ever, but the talent is there to win games and that is what will happen.
Stanford is in the first year under new Head Coach Jerod Haase and expectations are up in the air. The Cardinal are a respectable 8-5 in non-conference play, but have been handled easily by any good teams that they have played against. Travis Reid is putting together a solid campaign and should prove to be a pest for a few other teams this season.
Arizona State is still on the rise under Bobby Hurley., The Sun Devils still have plenty of offensive weapons to steal an extra game or two out from underneath the conference big dogs. The only question mark with ASU is defense. If the Sun Devils find some, they could be better than expected.
Finally, Oregon State and Washington State are the two worst teams in the conference and it’s not close. Even before Tres Tinkle was injured for the Beavers, the team was struggling and will continue to do so. As for the Cougars, I’m not sure there will be a more exciting time than when Ernie Kent started the game against Idaho on the opposing bench after winning an All-Access pass in a charity event over the summer.
1. UCLA (18-0)
2. Oregon (16-2)
3. Arizona (14-4)
4. USC (13-5)
5. Cal (12-6)
6. Utah (9-9)
7. ASU (8-10)
8. Washington (8-10)
9. Stanford (7-11)
11.Oregon State (6-12)
12. Washington State (3-15)
UCLA has by far the best talent in the conference and after watching them score 97, the most points on Kentucky in John Calipari’s tenure, it’s clear to me that nothing is getting in the way of the Bruins winning every game except themselves. Lonzo Ball has been everything that one could ask for and has turned into arguably the most exciting player in the college basketball. Factoring in the contributions of Lonzo Ball, superstar forward TJ Leaf and exceptional depth at every position, it should be clear that the talent on this team is equipped to beat anyone in the country and I would put my money on it.
Oregon has dealt with adversity throughout the nonconference season with the absence of Dillon Brooks, but it has managed to win by double digits in the last nine of their 13 games played. The Ducks return four out of five starters and their defensive presence in the frontcourt under Chris Boucher and Jordan Bell will carry them farther than most anticipate. Dana Altman has proven to me that he is an elite coach and with the players constructed on this roster it seems silly not to think that Oregon is destined for a major run.
With only seven scholarship players currently available and the unknown status of Allonzo Trier, it’s extremely hard to think that Arizona is better than the third best team in the Pac-12 right now. The absence of Parker Jackson Cartwright made finishing the non conference schedule on a high note much more difficult than originally expected and it’s been proven that there are simply not enough current players on the court to complete at a high level. Things are only going to get harder for Sean Miller if Trier is not available and the front court of Dusan Ristic and Chance Comanche continue to not meet higher expectations.
USC has been a fascinating story so far and Andy Enfield continues to grab my attention. The Trojans took a major hit in the offseason losing six players, including Julian Jacobs and Nikola Jovanovic, whom both opted to enter the NBA draft but ultimately did not get selected. Many expected it to take a major step back and that has simply not been the case. Stellar performances from Jordan Mclaughlin and Elijah Stewart continue to lead the way and it seems that this team is a year shy from turning into one of the reckoning forces of the Pac-12.
Cal is the most overrated of the top five schools but there’s no discrediting what Ivan Raab and Charlie Moore have shown offensively. The Golden Bears are averaging 71 points per game and that will be their strong suit. Expect Cal to pull an upset or two but Cuonzo Martin continues to prove that his teams are nothing more than a few different role players good at one or two particular things, such as three-point shooting from Jabari Bird, but nothing more.
Utah will certainly take a step back without Jakob Poeltl and the role of Kyle Kuzma will only continue to increase. If he is able to contribute on a consistent basis and use aggressive defense to dictate the whole team’s style of play, Utah will win some competitive games.
While Washington possess the most NBA ready prospect in college basketball, there is absolutely nothing but incompetence surrounding Markelle Fultz. The Huskies have not played hard and it seems that the majority of the players have already given up on the season. Marquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray did not return, which leaves Fultz was a mediocre supporting cast at best. Lorenzo Romar is an exceptional developer of talent, but his ability to coach a team to greater things continues to be nonexistent.
Stanford and ASU are the last two teams worthy of discussion. Bobby Hurley has the Sun Devils headed in the right direction and it will spark some noise with the talents of Tra Holder and Torian Graham if improvement continues on defense. Additionally, Stanford is playing under first year coach Jerod Haase and if the Cardinal can generate answers on offense to supplement Michael Humphrey and Reid Travis, Stanford will be in a better position to compete next year.
You won’t be disappointed that I excluded Colorado, Oregon State and Washington State from this conversation.
1. Oregon (15-3)
2. UCLA (14-4)
3. USC (13-5)
4. Arizona (12-6)
5. Cal (9-9)
6. Stanford (8-10)
7. Utah (9-9)
8. Washington (8-10)
9. Colorado (6-12)
10. ASU (6-12)
11. Oregon State (5-13)
12. Wazzu (3-15)
I know everyone is off the Oregon bandwagon. Everyone but me that is. This team has all the pieces to compete at the absolute highest level and similar to Arizona in comparison to UCLA, I will take Altman all day every day over Alford in a situation like this.
UCLA is probably the most talented and perfectly constructed team in the nation. The Bruins are loaded at every position and probably have the highest upside of any team in the country. It says here the Pac 12 will have two final 4 participants and the Bruins will be one.
It’s scary to think about what USC could have been this year if they hadn't lost Jacobs and Jovanovich. That typed, this team is loaded and Enfield has done it the right way. All his kids are mid level 4 star players from the LA area that provide a fun combination of shooting, ballhandling and athleticism. This team is dangerous come tournament time.
I want to put Arizona higher on this list, but I can’t. I have no idea what the deal with Trier is and Arizona’s bigs- i.e.- Ristic haven’t made the improvement I thought they would. But, as long as Sean Miller is at Arizona, the Wildcats will be competitive and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if the Cats finish better than fourth in the conference.
Cal is probably the last Pac-12 team with a shot of making the tournament. Mainly because Ivan Rabb and Charlie Moore, as weird as that sounds, is the best inside outside combination of the remaining teams. Factor in a few Jabari Bird scoring outbursts and Cal might be good enough to slither into the tournament.
Stanford has a couple pieces but I’m not sure Humphrey is quite ready to make that next level move to push towards NCAA tourney contention
I learned my lesson last season that Utah will never suck as long as Coach K is there, but I have a feeling this is the year where the lack of NBA talent on the roster catches up with him.
Washington is fascinating. Even though Romar is a horrific coach, if Murray and Criss had returned, a lineup of Fultz, Murray, Thybulle, Criss and Dickerson is probably the most talented starting 5 in the country. They didn’t return though, so Washington figures to be terrible this year, but next year, if a frontline of Porter, Dickerson and Thybulle doesn’t get Washington into the tournament it’s hard to imagine Romar sticking around.
Colorado, ASU, Oregon State and Wazzu aren’t worth my time