As crazy as it sounds, the Pac-12 hoops season is already nearing its midpoint. The conference has been up and down throughout the year, with no certainty as to which team will ascend to the top of the standings. In this article, I’m going to quickly recap each team’s season thus far and take a quick look at what’s next.
Washington 12-9 (2-6)
– The Huskies entered this campaign with high expectations with the addition of two five-star recruits in Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels. The team has vastly underperformed and currently stands at 2-6 in-conference with losses to UCLA, Cal, and Utah. They’re still arguably the most talented team in the Pac-12, but their record indicates otherwise. Barring a massive turnaround, it seems unlikely that they’ll qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Washington State 13-9 (4-5)
– The Cougs have looked much better this season under new Head Coach Kyle Smith. His coaching style emphasizes defense, which has already been reflected on the court. Their star player is forward CJ Elleby, who is likely to be selected in the upcoming NBA Draft if he chooses to leave WSU early. They currently stand at 3-5 in-conference and have impressive wins against Oregon and Oregon State. Postseason plays seems unlikely, but this team has improved tenfold this year.
Oregon 17-4 (6-2)
– The Ducks were one of two teams along with Colorado who were projected to win the conference at the beginning of the season. So far this year, they have not disappointed. They are led by senior point guard Payton Pritchard, who is a court general, playmaker, and all-around leader. They have three clutch overtime wins against Arizona, USC, and Washington. They seem like a lock to make the NCAA Tournament, and maybe even a run to the Final Four.
Oregon State 12-8 (2-6)
– The Beavers were projected to have a solid year in-conference and maybe even make the big dance, but they’ve significantly underwhelmed. Tres Tinkle, Kylor Kelley, and Ethan Thompson make a formidable trio, but they’ve not found a way to get it done. Losses to UCLA, Washington State, and Utah have hindered their season. They are unlikely to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, and Head Coach Wayne Tinkle may be on the hot seat.
Cal 9-10 (3-3)
– The Golden Bears were projected by many pundits to finish dead last in the conference, but they’ve refused to accept that fate. Even though their overall record isn’t impressive, their 3-3 mark in Pac-12 play shows vast improvement. New Head Coach Mark Fox has implemented a defensive-minded approach that seems to be paying dividends. Guard Matt Bradley is their best player, but it seems unlikely that he’ll be able to guide them to postseason play.
Stanford 15-4 (4-2)
– Up to this point of the season, the Cardinal have been the surprise team of the Pac-12. Many sportswriters projected them to have a down year, but Stanford refused to cooperate and has risen to the top of the conference. Point guard Tyrell Terry and forward Oscar da Silva are the two-headed monster leading the group. Head Coach Jerod Haase has done a truly phenomenal job this year. If the Cardinal can avoid an end of season collapse, they’ll likely be selected to the NCAA Tournament.
UCLA 10-10 (3-4)
– There was a lot of skepticism about the hiring of new Head Coach Mick Cronin, before the Bruins year ever began. He is a proven winner, but he’s never found success in the NCAA Tournament, which is expected at UCLA. So far, his gritty hard-nosed style has proven valuable in “The City of Angels” grabbing three early conference victories. Guard Chris Smith is emerging as the best scorer on their team and forms a nice duo with forward Jalen Hill. However, postseason play seems unlikely.
USC 16-4 (5-2)
– Entering this season, it was the same old question about the Trojans…they obviously have the talent to win, but can they put it all together? Up to this point of the year, they’ve looked like one of the best teams in the conference. Forwards Onyeka Okongwu and Nick Rakocevic form one of the most dangerous frontcourts in the Pac-12. Guard Jonah Mathews adds much needing scoring from the backcourt. At the beginning of the season, I wasn’t sure about this team, but now I feel like they can make a deep NCAA Tournament run.
Arizona 13-6 (3-3)
– The Wildcats have been one of the most confusing teams in the Pac-12. Some moments they look like the best team in the conference, while at others they look mediocre. They beat Colorado and took Oregon to the wire in an overtime loss, but they have also gotten blown out by Oregon State. Zeke Nnaji, Nico Mannion, and Josh Green form one of the most talented trios in-conference, but consistency is lacking. I have no idea whether this team will qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Arizona State 12-8 (3-4)
– After back-to-back runs to the NCAA Tournament, this could be the year where the Sun Devils fall short. It’s not so much a case of their talent level dropping, it’s the fact that the conference has improved as a whole. After a rocky start to Pac-12 play, they’ve recently found their stride with two wins in a row, including an impressive 22 point come from behind victory against rival Arizona. Point guard Remy Martin is the undeniable leader of the team and has scored 20 points or more in seven straight games.
Colorado 16-4 (5-2)
– The Buffs were picked by many pundits to win the Pac-12 at the beginning of the season. So far, they’ve lived up to the billing. They may not be the most talented team in the conference, but they are certainly one of the most experienced. However, their consistency is lacking. They’ve beaten the likes of Oregon and Dayton but also lost to Oregon State. McKinley Wright IV and Tyler Bey form a great duo that could propel the team into the second week of the NCAA Tournament.
Utah 12-7 (3-4)
– The Utes lost many key pieces in the offseason, yet they’ve found a way to remain competitive, and a lot of credit goes to Head Coach Larry Krystkowiak. Utah looked dead to rights early in Pac-12 play but was able to turn it around last week with an impressive win against Washington, followed by a victory against WSU. Forward Timmy Allen is the Utes’ best player averaging 19 points per game. Sharp shooting guard Rylan Jones adds another scoring option. It is unlikely that Utah qualifies for postseason play.