Week 17 Pac 12 Basketball Power Rankings
Cal Still Rolling
At this point there is no denying the fact that Cal is playing the best basketball in the Pac 12. They have won six straight games to vault back into the top four teams in the conference and they have the inside track at a first round bye later this month during the conference tournament.
Compared to the rest of the teams in the conference the Bears are playing a step ahead of all others.
Arizona has faltered recently, losing games that they really shouldn’t and their confidence seems to be wavering a bit. Oregon finally saw injured guard Dominic Artis make his return to the lineup last night and it should give them a spark to finish out the season. UCLA is quietly hanging around and they could have a shot to secure at least a share of the regular season conference championship. And finally Colorado could make the case as the second-hottest, if not the hottest, team in the conference with their play of late.
After having a jumbled group of teams in the middle of the standings things are starting to pan out a bit with teams separating from the pack. Most of the grouping now is right at the top with three teams within one game of first place behind Oregon. This weekend’s games, followed by next week’s contests, shall be very intense and full of intrigue.
Just the games on Saturday should make Pac 12 fans giddy with excitement as Arizona visits UCLA, Cal hosts Colorado in a matchup of two of the streaking teams in the conference and Arizona State and USC do battle to try and keep their small NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
So without further ado, here’s how the Pac 12 stacks up in week 17.
12. Washington State Cougars
Record: 11-17 (2-13)
Last Week: L 73-56 at No. 12 Arizona
Washington State is basically just playing out the season at this point with nothing really to play for besides pride. They have lost eight games in a row but they do get a rematch with in-state rival Washington coming up next, practically the only winnable game remaining on their schedule. Records don’t matter in rivalry games, the Cougars only lost by five in their last meeting earlier this year, so it should be a chance for WSU to scratch out one more win on the season.
This week: Mar 3 at Washington, Mar 6 vs. UCLA
11. Utah Utes
Record: 11-16 (3-12)
Last week: L 64-46 at Cal
Give Utah credit, most of their losses this season have come by a small margin and you can tell that they are close to turning the corner. They rant into the buzz saw that is Cal last night and got blown out but they did play well early on. They are playing a lot of young players and that will only help them moving forward into next season. They still have a chance to cause some problems for their final three opponents and whomever they face in the conference tournament.
This week: Mar 3 at Stanford, Mar 7 vs. Oregon State
10. Oregon State Beavers
Record: 13-16 (3-13)
Last week: L 60-59 vs. Cal, L 85-75 at Oregon
Oregon State has a lot of talent to be this far down in the Pac 12 standings but that is how the season has played out for them. They almost knocked off a red hot Cal team and they were up on their rival last night before a momentum shift turned their fortunes in the wrong direction. It’s hard to fathom why they only have three conference wins but they have a chance to earn at least one more when they take on Utah next week.
This week: Mar 7 at Utah
9. Washington Huskies
Record: 15-13 (7-8)
Last week: W 68-59 at Arizona State
The Huskies actually played well against Arizona State on the road and beat the Sun Devils in Tempe, which is not a particularly easy thing to do. They have an opportunity to end their season on a high note as their final three games are all at home. First up is their rival Washington State and it seemingly should be a relatively easy game for them to win.
This week: Mar 3 vs. Washington State, Mar 6 vs. USC
8. Stanford Cardinal
Record: 16-13 (7-9)
Last week: L 77-66 at No. 23 Oregon, L 65-63 vs. Colorado
The Cardinal are now losers of four of their last five games with the lone win coming over basement dweller Oregon State. They had a chance to move up in the standings but instead they are trending down. It was a tough loss for them last night against Colorado as they were up on the Buffs by double digits at two different points in the game. Stanford should beat Utah this weekend and then they close out their season against Cal.
This week: Mar 3 vs. Utah, Mar 6 at Cal
7. USC Trojans
Record: 13-15 (8-7)
Last week: L 75-59 vs. UCLA, W 89-78 vs. No. 11 Arizona
USC’s overall record is scarred with a slew of non-conference losses but in reality they have been playing solid basketball. They are 5-2 in their last seven games, buoyed by interim head coach Bob Cantu. I’m pretty sure that the interim tag should be removed from Cantu’s name shortly but who knows if USC wants to go after a bigger name hire. Cantu deserves the position and if he’s overlooked it would be a shame because he deserves the promotion for the turnaround he’s led in LA.
This week: Mar 2 vs. Arizona State, Mar 6 at Washington
6. Arizona State Sun Devils
Record: 20-9 (9-7)
Last week: L 68-59 vs. Washington, L 79-74 OT at UCLA
Arizona State let a prime opportunity to try and secure a top-four finish, including a first round bye in Vegas, by losing both of their games last week. The loss to Washington hurts but the UCLA loss may be more costly to their postseason hopes. It could have boosted their resume but instead adds another loss. Their final two games are not easy either as they take on an on-the-rise USC team and then finish the regular season against hated rival Arizona.
This week: Mar 2 at USC
5. Colorado Buffaloes
Record: 19-8 (9-6)
Last week: W 65-63 at Stanford
Colorado secured a big road win Wednesday night over Stanford and it sets them up for a strong finish. The Buffs still have a shot at a top four finish in the league depending on how they do in their final three games, two of which are against the top two teams in the conference. A positive sign for Colorado is their improved play on the road as they have won their last three road contests. The players are starting to gain some confidence outside of Boulder and that will be put to the test against Cal on Saturday. This is arguably Colorado’s most important game of the season and it’s a chance for them to make a serious statement if they can come away with another road victory.
This week: Mar 2 at Cal, Mar 7 vs. No. 24 Oregon
4. Arizona Wildcats
Record: 23-5 (11-5)
Last week: W 73-56 vs. Washington State, L 89-78 at USC
Arizona is slowly seeing their chances at a Pac 12 regular season championship slip away. All five of their losses have come against fellow conference foes and recently it seems that the Wildcats have lost some confidence and started to play too conservative. Their vaunted freshman class has not progressed as quickly as they have needed to and it’s beginning to show down the stretch. Arizona is still one of the most talented teams in the league but they aren’t really playing like it right now.
This week: Mar 2 at UCLA
3. UCLA Bruins
Record: 21-7 (11-4)
Last week: W 75-59 at USC, W 79-74 OT vs. Arizona State
UCLA is quietly moving back up the Pac 12 standings and they have a legitimate shot at the regular season conference championship. For all of the flack Ben Howland gets on a daily basis you have to acknowledge the work he’s done to progress his star freshmen. They have been playing better each game and they have put the Bruins in a prime position capture at least a share of the regular season title. Arguably their biggest game of the season is Saturday night as they have a rematch with Arizona, a team they already beat once earlier this season.
This week: Mar 2 vs. Arizona, Mar 6 at Washington State
2. Oregon Ducks
Record: 23-6 (12-4)
Last week: W 77-66 vs. Stanford, W 85-75 vs. Oregon State
The Ducks got a big boost with the return of Dominic Artis and it should strengthen their play down the final stretch of the season. After struggling to put away rival Oregon State at home the Ducks can take it easy this weekend and watch how the rest of the conference plays out. Good thing for them is that they have almost an entire week to prepare for their huge game at Colorado next Thursday. A win at Colorado would almost certainly put them in prime position to win the regular season championship.
This week: Mar 7 at Colorado
1. Cal Bears
Record: 19-9 (11-5)
Last week: W 60-59 at Oregon State, W 64-46 vs. Utah
Since January 30 the Bears are tied for a Pac 12 best 8-1, including winners of six straight. A lot of those games have come by a small margin but they have also come against the other top teams in the conference. Two wins over Oregon, one over UCLA and one over Arizona proves that they can compete and beat any team in the conference. Their next challenge? Colorado comes in to town on Saturday and the Buffs are one of the only teams in the conference that beat Cal handily this season. It should be one of the better games of the conference season and it has major postseason implications for both teams.
This week: Mar 2 vs. Colorado, Mar 6 vs. Stanford