Three weeks are all that’s left in the regular season, yet the Pac-12 is as wide-open as ever.
Six teams are within a game of first place. Four are tied at the top with four conference losses, the other two are right below them with five.
We are in store for a wild finish, so here is a look at the top six teams and why they will/won’t win the regular-season championship. Note that there are no tiebreakers when it comes to the regular-season championship. There are co-champions instead.
Colorado Buffaloes (20-6 overall, 9-4 Pac-12)
KenPom national ratings: No. 17 overall, No. 38 offense, No. 13 defense
Remaining schedule: vs. USC, vs. UCLA, at Cal, at Stanford, at Utah
Toughest game remaining: at Stanford (52% win probability)
Why they will win the Pac-12: The Buffaloes have a favorable schedule, with only two games left against teams with winning conference records. Both are at home. Colorado’s offense has easily been the best in the Pac-12 since conference play began, posting an offensive rating of 108.2, more than three ticks better than second-place Oregon. Combine that with a top-15 defense in the country and Colorado is the total package.
Why they won’t: Three of Colorado’s final five games are on the road, where it is 4-4. The good news is all three road games are versus teams in the bottom half of the conference.
Oregon Ducks (20-6 overall, 9-4 Pac-12)
KenPom national ratings: No. 25 overall, No. 9 offense, No. 75 defense
Remaining schedule: at ASU, at Arizona, vs. Oregon State, vs. Cal, vs. Stanford
Toughest remaining game: at Arizona (32% win probability)
Why they will win the Pac-12: Senior guard Payton Pritchard is not only the best player in the conference, he is a tried and true veteran who has proven he will step up in big moments. Plus, 3-point shooting can cover up a lot of deficiencies and Oregon is shooting the ninth-best percentage in the country.
Why they won’t: That road trip to Arizona could be killer. Not only are the Wildcats tough but the Sun Devils are arguably the hottest team in the conference, entering Thursday’s matchup on a five-game winning streak. Oregon’s shoddy defense makes the Ducks extremely vulnerable when they have off shooting nights. The Ducks hovered around 30 percent from 3 in their road losses to Stanford, Oregon State and Washington State.
Arizona Wildcats (18-7 overall, 8-4 Pac-12)
KenPom ratings: No. 13 overall, No. 17 offense, No. 25 defense
Remaining schedule: vs. Oregon State, vs. Oregon, at USC, at UCLA, vs. Washington State, vs. Washington
Toughest remaining game: at USC (60% win probability)
Why they will win the Pac-12: If you believe in win probability, then Arizona should be your pick to win the Pac-12 title. The Wildcats are the projected favorite in all six of their remaining games, per KenPom’s metrics. That is true for Colorado as well, but Arizona’s lowest win probability is 60%. CU’s is 52%. It helps that four of Arizona’s last six games are at home. Arizona is also the best team in the conference, according to metrics like KenPom and NET.
Why they won’t win the Pac-12: Saturday’s tilt against Oregon will be critical and the Ducks have had the Wildcats number lately, winning four straight in that series. Arizona has been shooting terribly from 3 lately, making just 27 percent of its triples over its last seven games. The Wildcats are also very inconsistent and have struggled in close games, going 1-5 in contests decided by five points or less.
Arizona State Sun Devils (17-8 overall, 8-4 Pac-12)
KenPom ratings: No. 58 overall, No. 134 offense, No. 32 defense
Remaining schedule: vs. Oregon, vs. Oregon State, at UCLA, at USC, vs. Washington, vs. Washington State
Toughest remaining game: at USC (37% win probability)
Why they will win the Pac-12: ASU is the hottest team in the Pac-12, winning five straight and seven of its last eight. Like Oregon, the Sun Devils have a veteran guard to lean on in dicey moments, that being Remy Martin, who is averaging 20.4 points on 48 percent shooting during ASU’s winning streak and made the game-winner in a big win over USC.
Why they won’t win the Pac-12: ASU doesn’t really do anything at a high level, besides force turnovers. ASU is sixth in both offensive and defensive efficiency in conference play. Meanwhile, four of ASU’s last five wins have been decided by five points or less. And while there is something to be said for winning close games, some of those are bound to go the other way at some point.
USC Trojans (19-7 overall, 8-5 Pac-12)
KenPom national ratings: No. 55 overall, No. 127 offense, No. 29 defense
Remaining schedule: at Colorado, at Utah, vs. Arizona, vs. ASU, vs. UCLA
Toughest remaining game: at Colorado (21% win probability)
Why they will win the Pac-12: If you think defense wins champions, then the Trojans are a darkhorse. They have posted the best defensive efficiency since the start of Pac-12 play, holding their opponents to 43.4% percent shooting from 2 and 28.5% shooting from 3.
Why they won’t the Pac-12: Four of USC’s five remaining opponents are on this list, so that’s a very difficult schedule to end with, especially when you consider they are 1-3 against those teams. The Trojans’ offense struggles too often, posting an offensive efficiency below 90 in six of their 13 conference games, losing five of them.
UCLA Bruins (15-11 overall, 8-5 Pac-12)
KenPom national ratings: No. 99 overall, No. 65 offense, No. 158 defense
Remaining schedule: at Utah, at Colorado, vs. ASU, vs. Arizona, at USC
Toughest remaining game: at Colorado (13% win probability)
Why they will win the Pac-12: The Bruins are starting to jell under first-year coach Mick Cronin, winning seven of their last nine. That includes two of the most impressive wins in the conference, beating Colorado in Westwood and Arizona in Tucson. UCLA’s improved continuity and ability to beat anyone means they cannot be ruled out even though the numbers say they are the worst team on this list by a pretty wide margin.
Why they won’t win the Pac-12: Just like USC, UCLA has a tough schedule, but even more so since its rivalry game is on the road. The Bruins are not favored in any of their final five games according to KenPom’s win probabilities, so they are the long shot on this list.
Who will win the Pac-12 regular-season championship?
This poll is closed