If you thought the Pac-12 was a cluster in football and basketball this year, just take a look at this year's baseball standings with just only weeks left in the regular season.
First and tenth are separated by three games. Seven of the eleven teams are at .500 or better. Nine of the eleven are within a game of .500.
It's gonna be a crazy finish.
The strangeness gets going right at the top. Washington and Utah were not supposed to be competitive this year, and frankly, neither were very competitive in their non-conference schedule either. The Utes have gone just 5-16 in non-Pac-12 games this year, yet somehow, they've put together an 11-7 record within the conference. With a non-conference record like that, you'd think Utah would have to win the conference to make the postseason.
Utah was picked to finish last in the conference, and Washington 8th. Yet here we are, with both on top of the Pac-12 with a month left. The only conference series the Huskies have lost was to Oregon State. They've taken down the likes of Arizona, ASU, Oregon, UCLA and Cal. But when I tell you UW is at Utah to close out the year, I'm guessing you didn't think there was the potential of the conference being on the line in Salt Lake City over that weekend. Man, that would be weird.
The true cream of the crop may rise this weekend though. Six of the seven teams at .500 or better play each other to start May. Utah goes to Pullman to play Washington State as the lone exception.
This particular weekend also comes at an interesting time for the conference. For the longest time, it seemed that maybe three teams would make an NCAA Regional, and not a single one would host. In this week's projections, D1Baseball has five teams from the conference in, as well as Baseball America (Washington, Arizona, Oregon State, Cal and Arizona State). Both sites are also projecting the Huskies as a Regional host.
USC hosts Washington, while Oregon visits ASU this weekend. Those, along with the UA/OSU series, have huge postseason implications.
The conference has also seen an uptick in the RPI in recent weeks. There are still no teams in the Top 30, but Arizona (33), Washington (35), Oregon State (37), Cal (40), and ASU (56) give the Pac-12 more teams in the Top 60 than it has had since early in the year. The Beavers have gone 6-3 since losing a series to Washington State, and ASU has won eight of their last nine weekend games to put themselves back in contention.
A few weeks ago, Arizona head coach Jay Johnson joked with me that this could be a year where every team in the conference finishes 15-15. He may not be far off, but some teams certainly have a huge opportunity in front of them over the course of this first weekend of May.
This conference will need a few teams to separate themselves to improve their postseason chances, and frankly, Utah needs to fall a bit. All of those things can start happening this week. It's going to be a fun month.