The Pac-12 men’s hoops race continues to take shape, with California stealing out to a lead with its victory Thursday night at Hec Ed. The Bears, at 6-1, are in excellent shape and can strengthen their position with another road win Saturday at Washington State. Next for Cal after this weekend: Three home games (Stanford, the Arizonas) and at USC, so the Bears are in a great spot.
More than the standings, a better way to view the race is the old plus-minus numbers — road victories minus home losses. It provides a more realistic glimpse at who’s breaking through in the important category of winning on the road while taking care of business at home.
The numbers today:
1 (tie) California +2.
Oregon + 2.
3 (tie) Stanford + 1.
Arizona + 1.
UCLA + 1.
6 (tie) Washington even.
Arizona State even.
9 (tie) Washington State – 1.
Oregon State – 1.
11, Utah – 2.
12, USC – 3.
Some inferences from those numbers:
Washington has a virtual must-win today against Stanford, or it falls below the break-even point. Not only would the Huskies do that nearing the halfway pole, but losing to the Cardinal bumps up Stanford and makes it that much more difficult for the UW to catch the leaders.
Oregon, like Cal, is in excellent shape, already having wiped two road trips off the books (Washingtons, Arizonas). After their UCLA game Saturday, the Ducks (5-2) host Oregon State next week and then go to Utah and Colorado.
Arizona’s standing is a bit illusory; the Wildcats’ two road wins are over USC and Utah, which appear to be the two worst teams in the league.