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