Although the Pac-12′s future may be bright, the conference is not fairing too well in many of its marquee non-conference match-ups. Arizona, undefeated and ranked #8, coming off a nice win at Clemson last night, will be the conference favorite. Colorado, one of the contenders was blown up at Kansas 90-54. Oregon and Arizona State (both 8-1) are playing well. Their losses were both to ranked teams, Cincinnati and Creighton, respectively. California is 6-1 with a 25-point loss at Wisconsin last week. They will face UNLV later today. Oregon State is playing well but must make up for the loss of center Angus Brandt to a season-ending knee injury.
As of today the non-conference record stands at 71-30. Among the 30 losses are some bad ones: Stanford to Belmont, UCLA to Cal Poly, Utah to Sacramento State, Washington State to Pepperdine and Washington to Albany. The Huskies, Stanford and USC have notably underachieved so far his season.
And then there is the biggest story, UCLA. Thought by many to be a Top-10 team leading into the season helped by an outstanding freshman class, they have already lost three games. Losing to Cal Poly is unacceptable, losing to #15 Georgetown and #17 SDSU are defeats they can swallow. However, adding insult to injury are two players leaving the program in G/F Tyler Lamb and C Josh Smith for lack of playing time. Not to mention highly touted frosh Kyle Anderson's disappointing seven point and eight rebound average. The Bruins defense has been terrible. We'll give them the benefit of the doubt as Shabazz Muhammad gets into better game shape and everyone gets used to playing together. But the expectations in Westwood are high and Ben Howland needs to have the team play close to their expectations or there may be calls for a coaching change.
Having a great season are Cal's Allen Crabbe (22 ppg) and Justin Cobbs (18 ppg), together averaging 40 points per game. Arizona's frosh frontcourt (Jerrett, Ashley, Tarczewski) are averaging 20 points, 15 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks as a unit and it certainly looks like the Wildcats are the class of the conference. Colorado will likely be a handful in conference play. They have a nice line-up in Spencer Dinwiddie (16.2 ppg/4.2 rpg), Andre Roberson (11.6 ppg/11.4 rpg), Askia Booker (14.2 ppg) and Josh Scott (12.8 ppg) with 6'9 frosh forward Xavier Johnson off the bench. Oregon looks to be jelling with an infusion of new talent led by freshmen guards Dominic Artis (10.3 ppg) and Damyean Dotson (11.3 ppg) joined by 6'11 Juco Waverly Austin and 6'7 Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi (9.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 3.4 spg).
There are some big games coming up that can help the conference achieve a higher RPI ranking. Arizona will get #6 Florida, Cal vs. #21 UNLV, and #25 NC State vs. Stanford. The Pac-12 needs to put up a good fight as they've already taken losses to eight top 25 programs in #16 Creighton, #11 Cincinnati, #9 Kansas, #10 Gonzaga, #13 Illinois, #14 Minnesota, #15 Georgetown, and #17 SDSU. They've only had two top-25 wins (Oregon over UNLV and Colorado over Baylor). Additional non-conference losses may relegate the conference to only two-three NCAA bids this year.
Current Pac-12 Power Rankings
1. Arizona, 2. Oregon, 3. California, 4. Colorado, 5. Oregon State, 6. UCLA, 7. Arizona State, 8. Stanford, 9. Washington, 10. Washington State, 11. Utah, 12. USC