In ascending order …
No. 12 (Last week: 10) Utah (Record: 5-18, 2-9 Pac-12; RPI: 265)
Recent result: Lost 76-58 to Oregon State, Lost 79-68 to Oregon
Following the loss to Oregon State, coach Larry Krystkowiak said: “We looked very scared and out of sorts.” Playing ‘scared’ is on the players. Being ‘out of sorts’ is on Krystkowiak. Utah has lost by double digits in six of the last seven games. Krystkowiak is looking for players who will play hard and has turned to walk-on guards Alex Mortensen and Kyle Perkins.
Up next: Thu. at ASU, Sat. at Arizona
11. (12) USC (6-18, 1-10; 222)
Recent results: Lost 69-41 at Washington, Lost 60-53 at Washington State
USC is bad, but at least the Trojans are trying to be competitive. They’re third in points allowed at 61.8 points per game and they do a decent job defending the three-pointer. However, USC isn’t very good due to injuries. In Pac-12 games, the Trojans are last in scoring offense (51.4), field goal percentage (37.4), three-point percentage (24.5), free throw percentage (59.4), rebounding (25.5) and assists (8.5).
Up next: Thursday vs. California, Sunday vs. Stanford
10. (11) Arizona State (7-16, 3-8; 213)
Recent results: Lost 68-47 at Cal, Lost 68-44 at Stanford
Junior guard Trent Lockett (ankle) who has missed the past seven games is expected to return Thursday. In 17 games with their star, the Sun Devils State averaged 64 points and 33.1 rebounds. In the past seven games they’re down to 52.2 and 27.2.
Up next: Thu. vs. Utah, Saturday vs. Colorado
9. (7) Washington State (12-11, 4-7; 165)
Recent result: Lost 63-60 to UCLA, Beat USC 60-53
These are dangerous times for Washington State which is in jeopardy of falling into the irrelevant category. Injuries are starting to take their toll on the Cougars who lost Faisal Aden (knee) for the year. DaVonte Lacy sprained his ankle Saturday and was scoreless in 21 minutes while guard Mike Ladd (thumb) returned last week after missing five games. Brock Motum has averaged 28.3 points in last three games (34 at Arizona State, 26 against USC, 25 against UCLA). . . He has scored 20-plus points in seven games this season and in his last three. .. Over the last seven games, Motum is averaging 21.6 points and 7.7 rebounds while shooting 53-of-87 (.609) from the field and 38-of-44 (.864) from the line.
Up next: Thu. at OSU, Sat. at Oregon
8. (4) Stanford (16-7, 6-5; 94)
Recent results: Lost 56-43 to Arizona, Beat Arizona State 68-44
Difficult to believe Stanford was No. 1 in the rankings a few weeks ago. It’s been a hard fall for the Cardinal. Stanford is 1-4 in the past five games. The Cardinal have also used four different starting lineups in the past five games. Obviously coach Johnny Dawkins hasn’t been able to find group that works. Josh Owens is the only player who has started every game while Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle have missed just one start. Stanford’s greatest asset – a deep versatile bench – has also been its biggest weakness. Feels like it’s time for Dawkins to shorten the rotation, pick a solid starting five and 2-3 reserves and make a push to finish among the top four in the regular-season standings.
Up next: Thu. at UCLA, Sun at USC
7. (9) UCLA (13-10, 6-5; 130)
Recent results: Won 63-60 at WSU, Lost 71-69 at UW
UCLA’s perfect conference home record gets a test this week when the Bay Area schools visit Los Angeles. Not sure anyone in Pac-12 has answer for Joshua Smith if he plays the way he did last week when he averaged 21.5 points and 7.0 rebounds. He shot 17-of-22 (.773) from the !eld in posting a career-best 24 points at Washington and 19 points at Washington State. He increased his field goal percentage to 59.6 percent, which ranks third in the league. UCLA, the preseason Pac-12 favorite, needs to win out to realistically preserve a chance to win the title. No Pac-10 conference winner has ever had six defeats. A five-loss team has won the title twice. Cal did it in 2010 and UW and USC tied for first in 1985.
Up next: Thu. vs. Stanford, Sat. vs. Cal
6. (8) Oregon State (15-8, 5-6; 121)
Recent results: Won 76-58 at Utah, Lost 82-60 at Colorado
Oregon State is fifth in the nation in scoring (81.1) and second in steals (10.30) in large part due to junior guard Jared Cunningham who leads the Pac-12 in scoring (18.0) and steals (2.8). There’s only been five players who have led the conference in both categories and each one has won the Pac-10 Player of the Year award. OSU is 3-1 at home. The Beavers are long and athletic, but they allow a Pac-12 worst 49.2 percent shooting to opponents.
Up next: Thu. vs. WSU, Sun vs. UW
5. (2) California (18-6, 8-3; 48)
Recent results: Beat ASU 68-47, Lost 78-74 to Arizona
Big fall in the rankings for California, but the Golden Bears are 2-2 in the last four games, including a 77-75 loss at Washington State. It also appears as if they’ve maxed out their potential. Jorge Gutierrez plays hard and Cal is efficient offensively, but the Bears don’t appear as if they’re getting better. Their lack of depth may come into play in the second half of the season. Allen Crabbe (foot) and Harper Kamp (finger) are also dealing with nagging injuries.
Up next: Thu. at USC, Sat. at UCLA
4. (5) Colorado (16-7, 8-3; 72)
Recent result: Beat Oregon 72-71, Beat Oregon State 82-60
At home Colorado is is 13-1, 7-0 in conference and 31-3 in two years under coach Tad Boyle, who received a two-year contract extension last week. Unfortunately, the Buffaloes have just two more home games this season. Andre Roberson leads the Pac-12 in rebounding, averaging 11.2 boards which is fifth in the nation. His +3.2 rebound margin over the league’s next rebounder (Washington’s Aziz N’Diaye and Arizona’s Solomon Hill are at 8.0 rpg) is the widest margin for a rebound leader since 1982 when California’s Mark McNamara (12.6 rpg) had a +4.0 margin over Stanford’s John Revelli (8.6 rpg).
Up next: Thu. at Arizona, Sat. at ASU
3. (1) Oregon (16-7, 7-4; 83)
Recent result: Lost 72-71 at Colorado, Won 79-68 at Utah
Not going to penalize Oregon too much for its defeat at Colorado. If the game was played in Eugene, Ore. or on a neutral court, the outcome is probably different. Coach Dana Altman has been involved in basketball for 35 years and said he’s never been a part of a game that was decided on a last-second foul. The Ducks are still in the hunt for the regular-season title while another makes it problematic to win the title. Senior guard Devoe Joseph shot 1 for 13 and had four points against Washington on Dec. 31. In the past nine games, he’s scored in double digits and is averaging 18.0 points.
Up next: Thu. vs. UW, Sat. vs. WSU
2. (6) Arizona (16-8, 7-4; 64)
Recent results: Won 56-43 at Stanford, Won 78-74 at California
Arizona can’t afford another stumble down the stretch. Thursday’s game against Colorado has significant Pac-12 title ramifications. With junior wing Kevin Parrom (broken foot) out for the season, freshman forward Angelo Chol is being asked to play more minutes. He logged 20 last Saturday, which was the most since the season opener. Chol isn’t a big factor offensively, but he blocked four shots in his last outing. Arizona held Stanford to 25.4 percent shooting (16-of-63), which is the lowest figure since Dec. 2, 2000 when the Wildcats limited Saint Mary’s to just 25.0 percent shooting (15-of-60) in a 101-41 UA win.
Up next: Thu. vs. Colorado, Sat. vs. Utah
1. (3) Washington (16-7, 9-2; 74)
Recent results: Beat USC 69-41, Beat UCLA 71-69
Washington has a league-best five-game winning streak. The Huskies have also won 12 of the last 14 games. They’ve won low-scoring games (57-53 at Utah and 60-54 at ASU) and they’ve won high-scoring games (95-80 vs. OSU and 91-83 vs. Seattle U.). They’ve won close games (71-69 over UCLA) and they’ve had a few blowouts (69-41 over USC). The gist of the matter is, Washington is winning in a variety of fashions. In the past, UW used a pressure defense that forced turnovers to fuel its transition game and generate points. This season, the Huskies are less run-n-gun, but they’re every bit as lethal. Washington is second in the Pac-12 in scoring (76.1 points per game), blocked shots (4.4), rebound margin (plus 5.8) and third in steals (6.6).
Up next: Thu. at Oregon, Sun. at OSU