See you in March
The Wildcats are a cut above the rest of the crop this year. Despite what the conference standings may say, this isn't even close (and no, I'm not biased). Strength of schedule is the name of the game here.
The Wildcats loaded up their non-conference slate with plenty of formidable opponents. The upset win over then-No. 2 Duke on the road set the tone for the season, as Arizona faced a total of five ranked opponents and escaped an Alabama squad that received votes that week. While Arizona was testing itself against the top competition in the country, no other team in the conference had faced more than two ranked opponents. The Wildcats, despite the initial hiccup in Pac-12 play against Stanford, showed what kind of team they truly are and still have a shot at a No. 1 seed come March.
Last weekend: The Wildcats looked phenomenal in every aspect as they rolled over the next two best teams in the conference. The Wildcats were firing on all cylinders in the first half against Colorado and throttled the Buffs with a nearly-50-point win. Arizona moved up to No. 8 in the AP Poll after the wins.
Next week: Arizona will only play one game against an upstart Washington State squad on the road in Pullman next weekend.
Oregon has shown its mettle over the course of the season. The Ducks started the season off against SEC competition when Georgia (now 11-3) came to town. The Ducks held a convincing 82-71 lead when the final buzzer sounded, setting the tone for a very solid rest of the season.
The lowest point of the season came in back-to-back losses to Santa Clara (now 11-6) and No. 17 Alabama (now 9-5 but also gave Arizona some trouble), both by 8 points each. Oregon responded by winning eight of the next nine games that included a 3-point OT win against Michigan and a pair of 21-plus-point wins against UTEP and Cal Baptist. The last hiccup the Ducks encountered was an 83-63 loss to Syracuse (now 10-4) at home. Oregon is now riding a 5-game win streak including last weekend.
Last weekend: Coming off a pair of wins by less than 10 points against USC (82-74, 8 points) and UCLA (64-59, 5 points), the Ducks spared no theatrics this weekend either. Oregon needed a layup from Jermaine Couisnard with 12 seconds left to escape Washington with a 74-72 win, and a great defensive effort held off the Washington State comeback.
Next week: The Ducks only have one matchup to prepare for, as they will be hosting Cal next weekend.
Utah is a strong team, and even its losses are high-caliber. Gabe Madsen and Branden Carlson are genuine shooting threats while Carlson also brings a big 7-foot presence to the key. The Utes handled business against the first three non-conference opponents before facing a real test in No. 6 Houston. Given that Houston is the only school in the Poll that's still undefeated at 14-0 and has since risen to No. 2, we know what happened there.
The Utes also fell in the next matchup against St. John's, who currently sits at 11-4, before getting hot. They won their next eight consecutive games, which included a road win against St. Mary's (who currently sits at 11-6), a win over in-state rival and No. 14 BYU, a 22-point win over a rising Washington State squad. Utah seems to do everything in bursts, whether it be winning or losing
Last weekend: Utah dropped both its games in the desert and dropped to 2-2 in conference play. Arizona State, a team previously thought to be much worse, served up an 82-70 loss for the Utes and sent them to Tucson stunned. Though they played Arizona phenomenally in the first half, they faded down the stretch of the second half and secured their second pair of back-to-back losses on the season. They'll be looking to get back on track against Stanford and Cal.
Next week: The Utes will look to get back on track against Stanford and Cal, two teams that are underperforming in the Pac-12 this year.
The Buffaloes, led by the dynamic trio of Cody Williams, Tristan Da Silva, and K.J. Simpson, are a dynamic squad that has kept winning despite being hampered by injuries. Colorado rolled over its first four non-conference opponents, which were all mid major schools, before a 77-71 OT loss to Florida State served as a wake up call. They got back on track with a convincing 85-68 win over Iona.
The second true test of the season came against in-state rival and then-No. 20 Colorado State (now No. 13 and 13-2 on the season) on the road in Fort Collins. Colorado fell just 5 points short on a 30-point day from Simpson. The Buffaloes responded by winning the next six straight games, including a 90-63 throttling of No. 15 Miami and a 2-0 start to Pac-12 play against Washington and Washington State by a combined 11 points.
Last weekend: Colorado looked like a vastly inferior team against Arizona, with a brutal 97-50 loss coming out of it with Williams and Da Silva sidelined due to nagging injuries. They followed that up with a 76-73 loss against an Arizona State team that was a mixed bag during non-conference play but has settled in during Pac-12 play.
Next week: Colorado will beheading to Berkeley for a midweek showdown against Cal. Once the weekend rolls around, USC will be heading to Boulder.