The road to Las Vegas began for the Pac-12 over the weekend, with conference play beginning on Thursday. It was the first of 11 straight weeks with league competition, culminating in the Pac-12 tournament March 11-14 at T-Mobile Arena.
And not surprisingly, the first round of games left us with no real idea of what’s going on. There are eight teams sitting at 1-1 with another two at 1-0 (including the Arizona Wildcats) and two more at 0-1.
Standings don’t always tell the whole story, though. So after each week’s results we will power rank the league, breaking down how they fared in their most recent games and looking ahead to what’s next.
1. Colorado Buffaloes (12-3, 1-1)
The Buffaloes pulled off the weekend’s most notable result, beating preseason conference favorite Oregon on Thursday, but then fell apart Sunday against Oregon State. There were outscored 24-5 by the Beavers over the final 7:56, a feat made worse by the fact it was at home. This was a major missed opportunity for Colorado to establish itself early as a true conference contender, but it still earns the top spot for now.
Up next: Sunday vs. Utah
2. Arizona Wildcats (11-3, 1-0)
The Wildcats romped to a 28-point home win over ASU on Saturday, snapping a two-game losing streak and beating their rivals for the first time in three games. Dominant rebounding and solid defense made up for an offense that’s still trying to maximize its positives (Zeke Nnaji) and minimize its negatives (perimeter shooting).
Up next: Thursday at Oregon, Sunday at Oregon State
3. Oregon Ducks (12-3, 1-1)
The Ducks opened with arguably the toughest road swing in the league, the Rocky Mountain trip, and came away with a split. Losing at Colorado wasn’t a surprise, but going 3 for 18 from 3 (after shooting 41.7 percent from deep in nonconference) was. A bounceback win at Utah prevented the preseason favorites from starting in an 0-2 hole.
Up next: Thursday vs. Arizona, Saturday vs. Arizona State
4. Stanford Cardinal (12-2, 1-0)
A 16-point home win over Bay Area rival Cal marked the seventh time this season the Cardinal held an opponent under 40 percent shooting. Getting the first three league games in Palo Alto gives them a chance to build confidence and hopefully get more efficient on offense. Stanford has averaged 0.87 points per possession in its last four games.
Up next: Thursday vs. Washington, Saturday vs. Washington State
5. Washington Huskies (11-4, 1-1)
The Huskies laid an absolute egg in their conference opener, falling at home to a rudderless UCLA team, but rebounded nicely by holding USC to 40 points on Sunday night. The latter is what’s expected from Washington, both in terms of dominant interior play and stifling zone defense, but if that UCLA result ends up being something other than an anomaly it will be very difficult for this team to contend for a second straight Pac-12 regular-season title.
Up next: Thursday at Stanford, Saturday at California
6. Utah Utes (10-4, 1-1)
The Utes nearly swept the Oregon schools at home but horrible shooting kept them from knocking off the Ducks on Saturday. Timmy Allen carried over his strong nonleague play by averaging 22 points, going to the 27 times in those two games, while Both Gach and Rylan Jones each hit six threes.
Up next: Sunday at Colorado
7. Oregon State Beavers (11-3, 1-1)
With about eight minutes left in Sunday night’s game at Colorado, it looked like the Beavers were going to end the weekend alone in last place at 0-2. Then they rallied from down 11 to win going away in Boulder for the second year in a row, and they did so without Tres Tinkle having a good game, which is even more promising heading into a big homestand.
Up next: Thursday vs. Arizona State, Sunday vs. Arizona
8. USC Trojans (12-3, 1-1)
The fact the Trojans came out of the Washington trip with a split isn’t that surprising, nor that they won at Washington State before losing in Seattle. That USC basically led wire-to-wire in Pullman on Thursday only to shoot 20 percent on Sunday, however, was. All of the promise this team showed during a mostly solid preseason gets thrown out after that uneven weekend.
Up next: Saturday at UCLA
9. Washington State Cougars (10-5, 1-1)
Knocking off UCLA in overtime on Saturday enabled the Cougars to split at home, a positive start for a team that has very few expectations this season. Montana State transfer Isaac Bonton, despite his 31.9 percent shooting and penchant for one-legged fallaway jumpers, makes for a nice compliment to CJ Elleby.
Up next: Thursday at California, Saturday at Stanford
10. UCLA Bruins (8-7, 1-1)
All of the good that came from upsetting Washington on the road on Thursday went away with falling to Wazzu in OT two days later. The Bruins remain a work in progress, as Mick Cronin’s attempt to convert them a defensive-minded unit is coming at the expense of any consistency on offense. Example: Jake Kyman hit seven threes against UW and then played only 14 minutes against WSU.
Up next: Saturday vs. USC
11. Arizona State Sun Devils (9-5, 0-1)
Guard U? Certainly not Share U. The Sun Devils had only two assists on 18 made field goals in the blowout loss Saturday at Arizona, showing no semblance of an offense other than in transition. Having to play its first three Pac-12 games on the road could set the tone for a disastrous second half of the season and severely affect ASU’s chances of playing in a third straight First Four.
Up next: Thursday at Oregon State, Saturday at Oregon
12. California Golden Bears (6-8, 0-1)
A 16-point loss at rival Stanford to open Pac-12 play ran the Golden Bears’ losing streak to four, with defeats in eight of their last 10 after a 4-0 start. Matt Bradley is Cal’s only competent offensive weapon right now, and even that is a stretch.
Up next: Thursday vs. Washington State, Saturday vs. Washington