In ascending order …
12. (Last week: 10) USC (Record: 5-12, 0-4 Pac-12. RPI: 172)
Recent results: Lost 57-46 to Arizona, Lost 62-53 to Arizona State
The bad news continues in Los Angeles. Already decimated by injuries, USC may not have forward Aaron Fuller due to a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He’s the Trojans’ leading rebounder (6.2 rpg) and second-leading scorer (10.8 ppg). USC struggles to generate points so losing Fuller would be a major blow. At 6-6, he’s also one of their tallest players and their next opponent is UCLA, which has perhaps the most talented front line in the Pac-12.
Up next: Sunday vs. UCLA
10. (11) Arizona State (5-10, 1-2; 200)
Recent results: Lost 75-58 at UCLA, Won 62-53 at USC
Arizona State has made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Two players have been suspended by the team and one was suspended by the NCAA. The Sun Devils leading scorer Keala King has been kicked off the team. Star freshman point guard Jahii Carson was ruled ineligible by the NCAA Clearinghouse. Kind of feels like things are spiraling out of control in Tempe, Ariz. “We can’t make any trades or pull up anybody from the D-League,” said coach Herb Sendek. “We simply have to go with who’s available. We’ve kind of been in a jam since the beginning of the season at that position.” Without King and Carson, Sendek will turn to junior Trent Lockett, a natural shooting guard, to run the team. Junior Chris Colvin, who transferred from Iowa State, started early in the season, but has not played in four of the past seven games. Freshman walk-on Max Heller appears to have moved past Colvin on the depth chart.
Up next: Thursday vs. Oregon, Saturday vs. Oregon State
No.11 (12) Utah (4-11, 1-2; 272)
Recent result: Lost 57-53 to Washington, Beat Washington State 62-60 OT
In road games, Utah has allowed an average of 80.9 points per game. In two home games last week, the Utes surrendered 58.5 points. “Early on we were having difficulties guarding the basketball, guarding pick-n-roll and we kind of put that fire out,” coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “Then the next week it was about getting the help side guy (on track). … Just early on you’d never get to those third, fourth and fifth stages of defense when you’re in the 911 situation. What we’re seeing now is guys understanding some rotations and responsibilities. Those early breakdowns aren’t killing us because we’ve managed to learn through repetition now.”
Up next: Thu. at Stanford, Sat. at California
9. (6) Washington State (9-7, 1-3; 140)
Recent result: Lost 71-60 at Colorado, Lost 62-60 OT at Utah
Washington State stormed into Pac-12 play with a six-game winning streak, but is 1-3 since. The conference-opening home defeat to Oregon is probably worse than the loss at Utah considering Pac-12 teams are 5-17 in league road games. Coach Ken Bone shook up the lineup last week and started an all-freshmen back court with Davonte Lacy and Dexter Kernich-Drew at Colorado. Bone benched guard Reggie Moore in favor of Kernich-Drew. Leading returning scorer Faisal Aden (concussion) and Abe Lodwick (foot) have recovered from injuries, but have yet to return to the starting lineup. Junior Brock Motum has emerged as the leading scorer averaging 15.3 points per game. He’s tallied 27 points twice and has a 26-point game.
Up next: Sun. at Washington
8. (3) Oregon State (11-5, 1-3; 132)
Recent results: Lost 103-101 4OT to Stanford, Beat Cal 92-85
After a dramatic triple overtime defeat at home to Arizona last season, California lost three consecutive games. “I’m not worried about that game in the short term at all,” coach Craig Robinson. “It was an event that these guys will look back on and be glad that they participated in.” OSU’s starting back court Jared Cunningham and Ahmad Starks are averaging a combined 31 points per game.
Up next: Thu. at Arizona, Sat. at ASU
7. (8) UCLA (9-7, 2-2; 135)
Recent results: Beat ASU 75-58, Beat Arizona 65-58
If Josh Smith and the Wear twins ever mesh cohesively on the court, UCLA will be dangerous.
Up next: Sun. vs. USC
6. (7) Colorado (11-4, 3-0; 64)
Recent result: Beat WSU 71-60, Beat UW 87-69
Not jumping on this bandwagon just yet. There may be a knee-jerk reaction to hand Colorado the Pac-12 crown, but the Buffaloes have had a favorable schedule to this point. They’re the only team in the conference that has not played a road game and so far, they’ve looked fantastic at home. That’s no major accomplishment in the parity-riddled Pac-12. CU’s first real test is this week.
Up next: Thu. at Cal, Sat. at Stan.
5. (4) Arizona (11-5, 2-1; 55)
Recent results: Won 57-46 at USC, Lost 65-58 at UCLA
Only teams with Pac-12 road wins occupy the first five spots in the rankings. That’s how we roll this week. The Wildcats beat the worst team in the rankings so they’re No. 5. Still believe Arizona needs to find a play maker who can create easy shots for forwards Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry.
Up next: Thu. vs. OSU, Sat. vs. Oregon
4. (9) Washington (10-6, 3-1; 92)
Recent results: Beat Seattle University 91-83, Won 57-53 at Utah
Who would have thought that a four-point win at Utah would actually be considered a significant achievement. The Huskies are feasting on bad teams. Nothing wrong with that. Better to win these games than lose them. Coach Lorenzo Romar needs to settle on his starters. Three starting lineups in as many games.
Up next: Sun. vs. Washington State
3. (5) Oregon (11-5, 2-2; 71)
Recent result: Lost 77-60 to Cal, Beat Stanford 78-67
Oregon was the first Pac-12 team to win away from home. The Ducks’ conference-opening win at Washington State may prove to be a bonus as the league race winds down. The Ducks are difficult to decipher. The win, then they lose. The pattern repeated itself on the road and at home. Coach Dana Altman blames the inconsistency to a roster that includes three transfers. “At times I’ve been pleased and at other times you can see there’s not five guys working together out there.” he said. “Midway through the season like we are now, I would have hoped that we would have been further along than what we are. … I like the direction that we’re going, we’re just not getting there fast enough.”
Up next: Thu. at ASU, Sat. at Arizona
2. (1) Stanford (13-3, 3-1; 77)
Recent results: Won 103-101 4OT at OSU, Lost 78-67 at Oregon
Got to love the way Stanford found a way to win at Oregon State. It was the first four overtime game in school history. Josh Owens logged 49 minutes and finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Chasson Randle came off the bench and tallied a game-high 24 points in 44 minutes.
Up next: Thu. vs. Utah; Sat. vs. Colorado
1. (2) California (13-4, 3-1; 37)
Recent results: Won 77-60 at Oregon; Lost 92-85 at OSU
The game of the week in Thursday in Berkeley, Calif. when California hosts Pac-12 leader Colorado. Sophomore forward Richard Solomon (foot) returns, but freshman David Kravish remains in the starting lineup.
Up next: Thu. vs. Colorado, Sat. vs. Utah