No. 1 Arizona (12-0 record, Last power ranking: 1; AP: 3, RPI: 11, Sagarin rating: 6, Pomeroy rating: 10) — The Pac-12 is 4-15 against ranked teams and the Wildcats have half of the wins. Arizona is clearly the class of the conference and they can still get a whole lot better. Too often they’re careless with the basketball. They average 15.1 turnovers, which is the second most in the league. Arizona’s Jan. 3 Pac-12 opener against Colorado should be a good one. The Buffaloes won their series last season 2-1, including a 53-51 win in the Pac-12 Tournament title game.
No. 2 Colorado (9-2, 3, –, 4, 20, 46) — Coach Tad Boyle worried the non-conference schedule was too difficult before the season. He doesn’t feel that way now. The Buffaloes played half of their non-conference games on the road, which helped them in the RPI. Going 4-2 on the road didn’t hurt either. CU has two guards (Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker) capable of taking over games and putting up big scoring numbers while forwards Andre Roberson and Josh Scott are solid double-double producers. They’re not flashy, but they’re steady.
No. 3 Oregon (10-2, 2, –, 56, 40, 32) — Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi has three double doubles in the past five games. During the stretch he’s averaging 9.8 points and 12 rebounds. The Ducks have held four of the past five opponents under 60 points. They’ll face a stiff test New Year’s Eve when they visit Nevada (8-4) in the final non-conference tuneup. Eight of Oregon’s opponents have RPIs that are over 150.
No. 4 Oregon State (9-2, 5, –, 138, 72, 87) — Eric Moreland might be the third or fourth option for the Beavers, but he was good enough to win the Pac-12 Player of the Week award on Monday. Ahmad Starks also won the award. Neither are OSU’s first or second-leading scorers, which proves the Beavers are an explosive team. Roberto Nelson has filled in nicely for departed star Jared Cunningham. OSU has the Pac-12′s second-longest winning streak at five.
No. 5 UCLA (9-3, 11, –, 79, 66, 29) — The key to the Bruins’ newfound productive chemistry is the ability of the four-guard lineup to get rebounds against bigger teams. UCLA has seemingly fully embraced giving the team to its trio of talented freshmen (Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson). Larry Drew II is outstanding as a floor general and leads the Pac-12 with an 8.5 assists per game average. The Wear twins need to focus on rebounding because it’s unlikely Anderson can collect 17 boards like he did in the 91-78 win over Fresno State.
No. 6 California (8-3, 9, –, 42, 46, 53) — Missouri transfer Ricky Kreklow was supposed to challenge for a starting job and give the Golden Bears a third scorer. However, he’s played in just four games due to a foot injury. He’s not the key to the season, but Cal needs more help from role players. Allen Crabbe (20.4 ppg.) and Justin Cobbs (16.5) average more than half of its points.
No. 7 Arizona State (10-2, 4, –, 63, 83, 127) — Anyone believing in the Sun Devils? If you’re still not convinced they’ve turned it around maybe its because they’ve played a relatively soft schedule. ASU has played just one true road game, winning 77-62 last week at Texas Tech. But its best win is beating 7-3 Cal State Northridge 87-76 at Wells Fargo Arena. The cupcake schedule has allowed the Sun Devils to develop point guard Jahii Carson who is third among freshmen in scoring.
No. 8 Stanford (8-4, 7, –, 52, 42, 36) — The Cardinal haven’t beaten a team with a RPI lower than 105. The 70-62 home loss to Belmont on Nov. 18 still stings. The schedule has proved to be a bit too challenging. Stanford is 0-3 against ranked teams. Junior forward Dwight Powell has good height at 6-10, but even at 235 pounds he’s not much of a banger inside. But he’s emerged as the Cardinal’s best scoring option. He has at least 20 points in four of the past six games.
No. 9 Washington (8-4, 8, –, 97, 109, 106) — The Huskies have won their last four games and they’re four points away from a seven-game winning streak, but we’ll learn about them after their game Saturday at Connecticut. The game against UConn begins a stretch of five road games. In fact, UW plays just three home games in January and two are against Colorado and No. 3 Arizona.
No. 10 Washington State (8-4, 10, –, 169, 85, 90) — Much like Washington, the Cougars are three points away from a seven-game winning streak. They should have no problems with Idaho State, which is their last tune-up before a Pac-12 opener against UW. Brock Motum is averaging 19.9 points and DaVonte Lacy is at 11.3. No one else is averaging more than nine.
No. 11 Utah (7-4, 6, –, 119, 104, 173) — Four of the top five scorers are newcomers. Transfer Jarred DuBois leads the Utes with a 14.1 scoring average and freshman forward Jordan Loveridge is second at 12.8. Utah is better than it was last season when it finished 6-25. The Utes have won more games, but the schedule has been filled with cream puffs, including two Division II teams.
No. 12 USC (4-8, 12, –, 206, 160, 202) — Unless things turn around in a big way for the Trojans, coach Kevin O’Neill will be out of a job at the end of the season. He pinned USC’s 6-26 finish last season on injuries. This season, the Trojans are struggling once again. They’re last in the Pac-12 in scoring (62.6 points per game). O’Neill put a lot of faith in senior Jio Fontan, but he’s averaging 8.4 points, 5.3 assists and 2.8 turnovers.