Non-conference games are over with and Pac-12 play starts in just a few days. The conference has faired pretty well and has held their ground as all 12 teams have a winning record, with #1 Arizona and #10 Oregon being the only two teams to boast undefeated records. Let’s take a look at the current top six teams in the Pac-12 to see who can dethrone Arizona from the #1 spot and hand them their first loss of the season.
#10 Oregon (12-0) lost four of their key players last season but that doesn’t seem to have affect their play thus far. The 2013 Pac-12 Tournament winners return Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson and Jonathan Lloyd. As if those three weren’t good enough, the Ducks have added UNLV transfer Mike Moser and Houston transfer Joseph Young, who both lead the team in scoring. Speaking of scoring, it seems as if their basketball team took a few pointers from their football team as the Ducks lead the nation in points per game, scoring over 90 points each night. With a win in South Korea against Georgetown (8-3) and another win against Illinois (10-2), this team is certainly capable of winning the Pac-12 and making a deep run in March. The Ducks have to fly south to Tucson on February 6th for their first meeting and will close their season hosting the Wildcats on March 8th.
Utah seems to be the surprise so far sitting at 11-1 with their only loss coming from Boise State (10-3), a much improved ball club this year. But when you look at their schedule, there isn’t much to be impressed with as they have only played three teams with winning records; BYU (8-6), Fresno State (7-6) and Boise State (10-3). The rest of their schedule consists of opponents with an RPI of 150+ which could hurt their chances of making the tournament in March.
Arizona State (11-2) could win quite a few games and even pull off an occasional upset to finally get into a tournament not called the NIT. A nice win at home against #25 Marquette proved that ASU can make some moves against tournament caliber teams. However they got rolled by #20 Creighton (10-2) and suffered an embarrassing loss to Miami (7-5) in the Wooden Legacy Tournament. The addition of Penn State transfer Jermaine Marshall at shooting guard gives ASU a pretty good backcourt with Jahii Carson, dominating at the point. Throw in 7’2 Jordan Bachynski, who is averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds, along with five blocks a game and ASU could make some noise during Pac-12 play. On January 16th, the Wildcats host ASU, the first game of 2014 for the ZonaZoo.
#20 Colorado (11-2) is a scary team this year in the Pac-12 despite losing Andre Roberson to the draft and Sabitino Chen, a sigh of relief for Arizona fans. The Buffs started the season off with a loss to #25 Baylor (10-1) and have only lost once since then, which came against #7 Oklahoma State (11-1) in the MGM Grand Showcase in Las Vegas last week. During their 10 game win streak, they stunned #6 Kansas (8-3) with a sweet buzzer beating three pointer. Colorado hosts Oregon on January 5th which could tell us a lot about both teams and set the tone for Pac-12 play.
And of course, we cannot forget about the defending Pac-12 Champion UCLA Bruins (11-2).They lost freshman sensation Shabazz Muhammad to the draft but return Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson for their sophomore campaign. They prove to be one of the most efficient teams in the nation as they rank 13th in scoring, 5th in assists and 2nd in field goal percentage. UCLA suffered their first loss at Missouri (11-1), with their second coming from #7 Duke (10-2) in a game that was much closer than the score showed. UCLA might have caught a break this season as they avoid a trip to Tucson this year, the Wildcats will travel to Los Angeles on January 9th to take on the Bruins in their only meeting of the season.
To see my breakdown on Arizona through non-conference play, click here.