1. Oregon (23-6, 12-4) — The Ducks are the best team in the Pac-12 as long as Dominic Artis is healthy, but he only saw 12 minutes in a win at Oregon State. Oregon should get its first conference title since 2002 if its point guard’s foot injury is no longer a problem. Damyean Dotson also has a hip injury, but is expected to play.
2. Cal (20-10, 12-6) — Cal’s defense had held locked down opponents to 33.7 percent shooting through a seven-win streak, but couldn’t stop Stanford in their season finale. Allen Crabbe and the Cardinal’s Dwight Powell also started a scuffle that ended with the ejection of two players and three assistant coaches — including Mark Madsen.
3. UCLA (22-8, 12-5) — The Bruins lost to Washington State for the first time in 20 years. Washington State was missing its second- and third-leading scorers. Oh, and UCLA forward Travis Wear re-aggravated his sprained right ankle. A share of the Pac-12 title is within reach if Oregon loses, but what an awful night for this team. Continue reading
1. Arizona (23-4, 11-4) — Visits from the Washington schools didn’t provide the stiffest challenges, but Arizona took care of both the Huskies and the Cougars with ease last week. Defense is an issue at times, with coach Sean Miller describing it as “terrible” after beating WSU 73-56. The Wildcats allowed Washington State to shoot 52.2 percent in the second half, and would have been in more trouble had the Cougs shot better than 14 of 28 at the line.
2. Cal (18-9, 10-5) — Conference-leading scorer Allen Crabbe has gone a bit cold lately, but Justin Cobbs ensured that a Bear would be named Pac-12 Player of the Week for the third straight time. In his past six games, Cobbs is averaging 16.6 points on 53.4-percent shooting, his best stretch since November. Cal plays its last three games at home and is at least slightly favored in each.
3. UCLA (20-7, 10-4) — The Bruins’ offense is syncing again three bumpy weeks, helped in part by better ball movement and shot selection. They’ve made 6 of 12 from beyond the arc in each of their past two games. UCLA is likely without forward Travis Wear (sprained foot) for at least another game, which is a troubling prospect as it prepares to host ASU and Arizona. Continue reading
1. Arizona (21-4, 9-4) — The Wildcats have settled into the teens in national polls and rankings, which is where they probably belonged most of the season. Sean Miller tinkered his lineup during a rough mountain trip — 13-point loss to Colorado, four-point win over Utah — and may leave glue guy Kevin Parrom in the starting five.
2. Cal (16-9, 8-5) — If the Bears had lost to USC, Mike Montgomery probably would have served a one-game suspension for pushing star guard Allen Crabbe. They won, so the push was folded into the “motivation” narrative, even though Crabbe shot 1-of-6 immediately after. Cal is playing its best ball of the season, but an NCAA tourney bid isn’t safe yet; the team never does well in the conference tournament and could lose two more games before then.
3. Oregon (21-5, 10-3) — Oregon’s win over Washington marked the first time the Ducks had more assists (10) than turnovers (9) since point guard Dominic Artis injured his foot in late January. The team returns home after surviving the trip north unscathed, but may be Continue reading
1. Arizona (20-3, 8-3) — Did anyone care that the Wildcats lost to Cal? Arizona is still No. 9 in the AP Poll, 7 in RPI, 14 in Sagarin and 15 in Pomeroy. Top-10 teams have suffered worse stumbles this year.
2. UCLA (18-6, 8-3) — Sweeping the Washington schools at home wasn’t overly impressive, but no one in the Pac-12 looks solid right now. The Bruins may be inconsistent, but they dismissed WSU with relative ease and snapped out of a three-game shooting slump — shooting over 60 percent for the first time since 2010.
3. Arizona State (18-6, 7-4) — Is ASU due for a fall? The Sun Devils have allowed each of its last three opponents to shoot at least 47 percent from the field. In the nine games prior, they held six opponents to below 40. Jordan Bachynski has vanished since his 22-and-15 outburst against UCLA, averaging 5.8 points and 4.0 rebounds since. Continue reading
1. Arizona (19-2, 7-2) — The Wildcats did their part and swept the Washington teams on the road for the first time since 2005. Then, luck stepped in and put them atop the Pac-12. Oregon dropped two games and looks far more vulnerable in the conference race, though it holds a head-to-head tiebreaker. Arizona’s biggest question mark is a middling assist-turnover ratio of 1.0.
2. Oregon (18-4, 7-2) — Oregon was supposed to be most balanced team in the conference, but devolved as freshman point guard Dominic Artis (foot) sits indefinitely. The Ducks have committed 65 turnovers in three games without Artis, including 22 at Cal. Continue reading
1. Oregon (18-2, 7-0) — The Ducks have a clear path to the Pac-12 title, but starting point guard Dominic Artis is out indefinitely with a foot injury. The freshman was averaging 10.2 points, 2.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists before missing Oregon’s win over Washington.
2. Arizona State (16-4, 5-2) — ASU isn’t the second-best team in the conference, but it’s probably the hottest. A dominant win over UCLA proved Arizona State’s contender status, but will its short rotation wear out? In the Sun Devils’ last two games, four players logged at least 81 combined minutes.
3. UCLA (16-5, 6-2) — An initially triumphant road trip turned out to be a wash after the brutal loss to Arizona State. At their best, the Bruins can knock off top teams, but inconsistency will likely keep them on the edges of the top 25 for the season.
4. Arizona (17-2, 5-2) — The lack of a true playmaker hurts Arizona at times (see Mark Lyons’ 0 assists against UCLA) but the Wildcats are arguably still the conference’s most talented team. They played Continue reading
1. Arizona (15-1, 3-1) — The Wildcats were bound to lose a game eventually, so having that come against Oregon doesn’t really change the fact that they still look like the best team in the conference. Arizona does have a troubling habit of playing down to some of its opponents, but no one else in the Pac-12 has been as impressive overall. Freshman forwards Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett had one of their best games in beating Oregon State, combining for 20 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks.
2. Oregon (14-2, 3-0) — It’s a shame that Oregon and Arizona won’t meet again in the regular season. The Ducks don’t have major weaknesses, though they still might be undone by youth in a tough road game. They’re a little prone to turnovers, but are probably the most balanced team in the Pac-12. Oregon leads the conference with a +15.1 scoring margin. E.J. Singler is still shooting 37.6 percent from the field after topping 45 in each of his first three seasons.
3. UCLA (14-3, 4-0) — This young squad still lets teams back in late, but Continue reading
With the first round of conference games over, here’s a look at where all the teams stand. This will be a continuous post-weekend feature leading up the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas.
1. Arizona (14-0, 2-0) — This team is still the Pac-12′s best shot at a Final Four berth, but a narrow home win over Utah makes the Wildcats look shakier. (The victory over Colorado also featured a controversial finish, but Arizona still fought back from a 16-point deficit before dominating overtime.) Guards Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson have struggled to find their shots in the past three games — 18 of 72 over that span — but both are still getting to the line and converting. Solomon Hill is playing his best ball of the year, averaging 18.3 points and 6.7 rebounds since Christmas. Small forward Kevin Parrom might also be the best sixth man in the country.
2. UCLA (12-3, 2-0) — The Bruins had the benefit of a six-game homestand in pulling off their best winning streak since 2008-09. Seven straight wins is still impressive, but UCLA needs to prove it can finish well on the road too if it wants a shot at conference championship. Knocking off Utah shouldn’t be too difficult, but facing an angry Colorado team will be a good primer for the visit to Arizona on Jan. 24. The good news is that UCLA’s offense can get even better with even some modest defensive improvements. The Bruins rank 245th in the country in forced turnovers.
3. Oregon (12-2, 1-0) — The spots after Arizona are still fluid, and the Ducks do have a slight chance at beating the Wildcats at home on Thursday. Oregon isn’t particularly bad at anything, balancing arguably the conference’s best defense with a diverse offense. The Ducks’ leading scorer, freshman Damyeon Dotson, averages just 11.1 points per game. Continue reading