Arizona’s ascension to the top of the national polls and the inclusion of No. 13 Oregon and No. 20 Colorado in the top 25 has improved the national perception of the Pac-12.
More importantly, the conference ranks third behind the Big 12 and Big Ten in average RPI.
Basketball statisticians Jeff Sagarin and Ken Pomeroy each rank the Pac-12 fifth in the nation, which is a significant improvement considering the league was ranked ninth at the end of last season in both rating systems.
Most NCAA tournament prognosticators believe the Pac-12 will send at least five teams to the Big Dance for the second consecutive year.
Not only does the Pac-12 boast three ranked teams, the league has considerable star power.
Arizona State’s Jahii Carson is one of the early favorites to win the Wooden Award. Arizona’s Aaron Gordon is considered among the top five freshmen in the nation. Oregon State’s Roberto Nelson is third in the nation with a 24.7 scoring average, ASU’s Jordan Bachynski is second with 4.5 blocks per game, UCLA’s Jordan Adams is third with 3.5 steals and Utah’s Delon Wright is fourth shooting 69.7 percent from the field.
Between 5-10 Pac-12 players are projected in the 2014 NBA draft, including Colorado’s Spencer Dinwiddie, Washington’s C.J. Wilcox and UCLA’s Kyle Anderson.
On the court, the Pac-12 is proving it’s among the best in the country.
Arizona (11-0) and Oregon (10-0) are two of 12 unbeaten Division I teams. The Ducks are second in the nation averaging 89.3 points and UCLA is third at 89.1.
Meanwhile Colorado was involved in one of the most dramatic finishes of the season when Askia Booker drained a last-second three-pointer to defeat then-No. 6 Kansas 75-72 on Dec. 8.
It’s been a great month for the Pac-12 and the conference is currently enjoying a winning streak unlike any in recent memory. Pac-12 teams have combined to win 20 straight games that includes victories over Michigan, Illinois, Boston College and BYU.
By almost every measurable, the Pac-12 has proved it’s returned to prominence.
However, the conference still comes up short against the top teams in the country. The Pac-12 is 3-5 against ranked teams.
The Pac-12 has four remaining non-conference games against ranked teams starting tonight when Stanford plays at No. 10 Connecticut. UCLA plays No. 8 Duke on Thursday at New York’s Madison Square Garden. No. 20 Colorado takes on No. 7 Oklahoma State on Saturday and Washington hosts UConn on Sunday.
It’s not critical for the Pac-12 to perform well against the ranked teams, but a good showing this week is more evidence the conference is as strong as it was during the 2008-09 season when it sent seven teams to the NCAA tournament.
TONIGHT’S PAC-12 SCHEDULE:
Stanford (7-2) at No. 10 Connecticut (9-0), 6 p.m. ………………. ESPN2
San Francisco State (3-2) at Washington State (5-4), 7 p.m. …… Pac-12 Networks
Towson (7-4) at Oregon State (5-2), 7 p.m. ……………………….. Pac-12 Networks
Picks: UConn, WSU and OSU
Season tally: 77-16