No. 1 Arizona (6-0 record, Last week: 2; 8 AP, 14 RPI, 17 Sagarin rating, 15 Pomeroy rating) — The Wildcats’ strength of schedule is ranked 82nd in the country and that’s probably being generous. Their best wins are against a Texas Tech (5-1) and Southern Mississippi (6-2), a couple of teams that are ranked 240 and 92 in the RPI. Against Southern Miss, Arizona needed to overcome 27 turnovers at home. Still the Wildcats look explosive at every position. We’ll know more about Arizona after the next two games at Clemson (5-2) and against No. 6 Florida (7-0).
No. 2 Oregon (7-1, 6, –, 29, 68, 72) — The Ducks are off to their best start since they went 8-1 in the 2007-08 season. They’ve also benefited from a relatively easy schedule that ranks 118th. However, Oregon beat a ranked UNLV and lost to No. 11 Cincinnati. Still you got to love the Ducks’ balance. Four starters and the top reserve average double-digit scoring. This team was billed as E.J. Singler’s squad, but he might be the fourth best player on the squad. Keep an eye on talented newcomer Arsalan Kazemi, a 6-7 forward who played three years at Rice.
No. 3 Colorado (6-1, 1, –, 5, 40, 56) — The Buffaloes only loss is to 8-0 Wyoming. Everyone talks about Andre Roberson as a Pac-12 MVP candidate, but CU’s best player could be 6-6 sophomore guard Spender Dinwiddie. He had a career-high 29 points in Wednesday’s win over Colorado State. The Buffaloes may have the best home-court advantage in the Pac-12. They drew 11,708 on Wednesday, which was the largest crowd in school history.
No. 4 Arizona State (7-1, 10, — 78, 102, 144) — Really like the new post-game routine in Tempe, Ariz. where the Sun Devils run around the arena and give hi-fives to fans in the stands. ASU knows it needs to reconnect with a fan base after a couple of down years and this season’s team could be the one to restore some excitement in the program. The Sun Devils average 78 points per game, which is 36th in the nation and the most ever for a Herb Sendek team. Jahii Carson is the fourth-top freshman scorer in the nation at 18.3 points per game. He also ranks second in Pac-12 in assists (5.4) and first in turnovers (4.1).
No. 5 Oregon State (4-2, 4, –, 116, 59, 60) — Another team with four of five starters averaging double-figure scoring, which implies good balance. However, Ahmad Starks is capable of exploding for 30 points. He played 39 minutes in an 84-78 defeat to No. 10 Kansas. Beavers hadn’t played since Nov. 30, which is a long layoff. They finish with seven cream puffs before a Jan. 6 Pac-12 opener against in-state rival Oregon.
No. 6 Utah (6-2, 11, –, 110, 134, 211) — Utah has already tied last season’s win total. The Utes have arguably the third-best win for a Pac-12 team. They throttled Boise State 76-55 Wednesday night. The Broncos won by 13 points at No. 11 Creighton and came within five points of winning at No. 15 Michigan State. Jordan Loveridge doesn’t get the publicity like the Pac-12′s other top freshmen, but he’s averaging 12.1 points and 8.1 rebounds.
No. 7 Stanford (6-3, 8, — 105, 47, 43) — The Cardinal are in the midst of a 13-day layoff to focus on finals. They return Dec. 15 against UC Davis. In their last game, Dwight Powell scored a career-high 29 points in a 71-58 win over Denver. However, the 6-10 junior forward has been one of the most inconsistent players for Stanford. He’s also tallied 27 and 22 points, but has been held to fewer than eight points in four games.
No. 8 Washington (4-3, 7, –, 36, 75, 87) — Looks like guard Scott Suggs (foot) and forward Shawn Kemp Jr. (knee) are ready to return from injuries that have depleted the depth. It will be interesting to see how the Huskies implement Kemp into the rotation. He’s been advertised as UW’s best low-post scoring option and if he’s able to provide consistent scoring in the paint, then that could ignite an offense that averages just 70.3 points, which is the lowest for a Lorenzo Romar team at Washington. C.J. Wilcox is second in the Pac-12 averaging 19.7 points.
No. 9 California (6-1, 5, –, 31, 29, 38) — Things can go downhill for the Golden Bears in a real bad way over the next week. They’re coming off their worst performance this season, an 81-56 embarrassing defeat at Wisconsin. On Sunday they host No. 21 UNLV before No. 16 Creighton pays a visit Dec. 15. Wisconsin can make any team look bad, but there’s been warning signs for weeks about Cal’s lopsided scoring. Against the Badgers Allen Crabbe, the Pac-12-’s leading scorer, had 25 points and Justin Cobbs 11 while everyone else combined for 20.
No. 10 Washington State (5-4, 12, –, 163, 95, 97) — The Cougars have played three games decided by two points or less and they’ve lost every time. There’s two ways to look at that. You can argue WSU has got to learn how to close out games. Or you can say the Cougars have been in every game this season with the exception of a blowout defeat to then-No. 12 Kansas. The good news for WSU, DaVonte Lacy (knee) returned from a four-game layoff and scored 22 points.
No. 11 UCLA (5-3, 3, –, 130, 62, 33) — The Bruins are 2-3 in the past five games and they face a somewhat difficult foe in Texas (5-3) on Saturday. On paper, UCLA should be better than its record. Larry Drew II leads the Pac-12 with an 8.5 assists average. Jordan Adams (17.8 points per game) and Shabazz Muhammad (16.0) are among the conference’s top 10 scorers. Kyle Anderson is tied for fifth in the league averaging 8.1 rebounds. Interesting to note, coach Ben Howland went with a seven-man rotation in the last game, a 78-69 loss to No. 23 San Diego State.
No. 12 USC (3-5, 9 –, 89, 159) — While Arizona loaded the non-conference schedule with cupcakes, the Trojans took a different approach. According this week’s Sagarin ratings, they have league’s toughest schedule, coming in at No. 27 (out of 347 teams). And things don’t get any easier. USC, which is riding a four-game losing streak, hosts No. 14 Minnesota on Saturday. This looks like a typical Kevin O’Neill team. They play hard-nosed defense and they’ll keep the score close, but USC just can’t score enough points to win consistently. The Trojans average 64.3 points, which is 244th in the nation.