Washington (13-8, 5-3) is fourth in the Pac-12 standings and the Huskies could move into a second-place tie before they play Saturday at Washington State.
UCLA (16-4, 5-2) and California (14-6-5-2) are currently tied for second place. The Bruins play Thursday at Oregon and Sunday at Oregon State, while the Golden Bears host Arizona State on Wednesday and No. 1 Arizona on Saturday. It wouldn’t be surprising if UCLA and Cal dropped one or two games this week.
Washington certainly has an easier road this week and could finish the first half of the Pac-12 season in enviable position. The Huskies are going to be heavy favorites to knock off their in-state rival, which has a four-game losing streak and appears to be in a tailspin without injured star DaVonte Lacy (ribs).
Looking ahead the second-half of the Pac-12 schedule is favorable for Washington in terms of racking up wins, staying at the top of the conference standings and potentially reaching the 20-win plateau.
However, the schedule may be a blessing and a curse as it pertains to capturing quality wins that’ll impress the NCAA tournament selection committee.
The Huskies are No. 71 in the RPI and they’re 2-4 against teams in the top 50 of the RPI. UW’s best wins are against Oregon and Colorado and both teams are slumping and in danger of falling out of the NCAA tournament.
Ideally, Washington needs a big win on the road against a quality opponent to boost its RPI.
However, due to the unbalanced schedule will not take a trip to Los Angeles to face UCLA and USC. Making matters worse, Washington won’t get another whack at No. 1 Arizona and Arizona State at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Not having to face Arizona and UCLA certainly helps the Huskies in the conference race, but it could hurt their chances for a NCAA tournament at-large berth. But then, who would have thought we’d be calculating NCAA tournament odds when the Huskies were 6-5 last month?
MONDAY MORNING LINKS:
— Arizona struggled early, falling into an early 10-point hole as they struggled to figure out Utah’s variety of defenses. The Wildcats eventually managed to decipher what the Utes were doing and wore them down with relentless defensive pressure and a dominating performance on the glass for a 65-56 win. Nick Johnson scored 22 points and Aaron Gordon finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds for Arizona (20-0, 7-0).
— Utah (14-6, 3-5) remained winless on the road. Delon Wright had 19 points and Jordan Loveridge 13.
— David Wear scored a career-high 18 points, Kyle Anderson finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and five assists and UCLA never trailed en route to a 76-64 victory over California. Bryce Alford scored 13 points, Jordan Adams had 12 and Normal Powell added 11 and to give the Bruins five players in double figures for the seventh time this season. UCLA improved to 16-4, 5-2.
— Jordan Matthews scored 18 points and Justin Cobbs had 14 to lead Cal, which dropped its second straight conference game after beginning Pac-12 play 5-0. The Golden Bears (14-6, 5-2), who lost to USC on Wednesday, never led at any point in their two games this week.
— Jason Calliste came off the bench and scored 20 points to help Oregon blow past Washington State 71-44. Joseph Young added 10 points as Oregon (14-5, 2-5 Pac-12) stopped a five-game skid.
— It’s the fourth time Washington State has been held to 50 or fewer points. Que Johnson had nine points for the Cougars 8-12, 1-7), all coming from behind the arc and no other WSU player scored more than seven points. WSU only made two field goals inside of the 3-point line, going 10 of 40 from the field, 8 of 26 from behind the arc. The Cougars also made just 64 percent of their 25 free throw attempts.
— Chasson Randle scored seven of his 17 points in overtime, and Stanford beat USC 79-71 to avenge two close losses to the Trojans last season. Josh Huestis had 16 points and Dwight Powell added 14 for the Cardinal (13-6, 4-3 Pac-12), who won for just the second time in its last 18 road games against UCLA and USC. The Cardinal has gone 0-9 against the Bruins and 2-7 against the Trojans in Los Angeles since the beginning of the 2005-06 season.
— Once USC fell behind early in the extra period, it was over. Byron Wesley led the Trojans (10-10, 1-6) with 18 points. J.T. Terrell and Pe’Shon Howard added 13 each and Strahinja Gavrilovic scored a career-high 12 for the Trojans.
And finally, here’s the top 25 ballot I submitted to the Associated Press.
1. Arizona (20-0)
2. Syracuse (19-0)
3. Florida (17-2)
4. Michigan State (18-2)
5. Wichita State (21-0)
6. San Diego State (18-1)
7. Kansas (15-4)
8. Louisville (17-3)
9. Cincinnati (19-2)
10. Michigan (15-4)
11. Villanova (17-2)
12. Oklahoma State (16-3)
13. Wisconsin (17-3)
14. Duke (16-4)
15. Kentucky (15-4)
16. Texas (16-4)
17. Oklahoma (16-4)
18. Saint Louis (18-2)
19. Pittsburgh (18-2)
20. Iowa State (15-3)
21. Creighton (17-3)
22. Iowa (16-4)
23. UMass (17-2)
24. Ohio State (16-4)
25. Memphis (15-4)
In – Texas, Creighton and Memphis
Out – California, Baylor and Kansas State