After another wild week of play in the Pac-12, there has been a bit of a shakeup in the standings. A week after looking like the clear-cut favorite to win the conference, the Pac-12 leader was swept on the road by two squads who have played very inconsistently thus far.
On top of that, another team appears to be getting hot at the right time, making the coming weeks very interesting.
Here is how the teams break down at the halfway point in the Pac-12 schedule.
The Wildcats went on the road to Washington and swept a pair of road games last week. They look to be finding their stride at the right time as they have been able to completely close the gap between them and Oregon. UA’s freshmen are becoming more acclimated and are developing into viable contributors down the stretch.
Thanks to a few slip-ups by conference rivals over the past week, the Wildcats have positioned themselves for a big run down the stretch. Now the team the rest of the conference needs to be weary of going forward is Arizona, who seems to be only improving with time.
Everything was fine in Eugene a week ago. The Ducks held a two game advantage over three squads and possessed a favorable schedule going forward. Fast forward seven days and not everyone is as optimistic about Oregon’s chances to win the conference.
The Ducks were surprisingly blown out by a Stanford squad last week that played, by far, its best game of the season. UO had a chance to hold onto first place with a game against Cal, but the Golden Bears were able to knock off Oregon in stunning fashion.
The Ducks still have a relatively weak schedule the rest of the way, but getting swept by two middle-of-the-pack squads casts a shadow of doubt over their ability to hold off teams like Arizona, Arizona State and even UCLA, especially without the services of Dominic Artis.
3. Arizona State
The Sun Devils blew a chance to make it a three-way tie for first place in the conference when they lost to Washington over the weekend. ASU was able to get off on the right foot last week by defeating Wazzu and had an opportunity to come away with the road sweep, but the Huskies were able to hold off the Sun Devils after a furious comeback attempt.
After blowing out the previously undefeated Ducks, the Cardinal receives a big boost in this week’s rankings. The Stanford team that showed up last week against Oregon is capable of beating anyone in the conference, but the Cardinal’s play against Oregon State reminded everyone just how inconsistent they can be.
Stanford ultimately defeated OSU to move above .500 in Pac-12 play and now has everyone’s attention in the conference. The Cardinal’s efforts last week indicate they could be dangerous in the Pac-12 Tournament, but at just two games out of first place, they also stand within striking distance of the conference leaders. A road trip to Arizona should show just how serious the Pac-12 should take Stanford.
The Golden Bears also came away with a home sweep of the Oregon schools as well. After a crucial comeback victory over the Ducks, Cal now stands at 5-4 and just two games out of first place half way through the schedule.
A big win over UO could become the launching pad for a successful finish, but the Bears have a tough road trip this week with road games against two tough schools from the state of Arizona. Like Stanford, Cal has a chance to prove its worth this week.
The Bruins inconsistency has reared its ugly head once again, this time coming to the forefront thanks to a home loss at the hands of arch-nemesis USC. UCLA was flying high a little over ten days ago after defeating Arizona in Tucson, but two straight losses have set the Bruins back once again.
Losing to a squad like USC at Pauley Pavilion should have UCLA worried. Arizona is starting to roll and Arizona State shows no sign of slowing down. With Oregon still in the picture (not to mention holding a share of first place as well) the Bruins are going to need to wake up or they risk falling back to the middle-of-the-pack.
UW split a pair against the Arizona schools last week. The Huskies led the Wildcats big early, but C.J. Wilcox struggled, no one else could step up offensively, and their lead dissolved in an eventual loss to UA. Wilcox struggled for the second straight game against ASU, but thanks to the play of his supporting cast, UW was able to hold off a very strong Arizona State squad.
While the Trojans aren’t going to threaten any of the top teams in the conference, a road victory over UCLA makes their season at least somewhat respectable. Defeating a cross-town rival is always great for bragging rights and it shows the team is still playing hard, despite the fact that the season isn’t going very well for USC.
The Pac-12’s biggest disappointment continues to be just that. The Buffaloes’ loss to Utah exemplifies just how bad it has become for CU, who entered the Pac-12 schedule with conference title hopes. Dropping their fifth game in conference play destroys any hope Colorado had at the regular season crown and CU will likely struggle to make the big dance barring a run in the conference tournament.
The Utes have had a rough season in 2012-13, but the victory over Colorado at least gives them bragging rights over their mountain rivals. Utah took advantage of a struggling, inconsistent Buffaloes squad and was able to pull off its second victory against Pac-12 competition.
11. Washington State
The season keeps getting worse for Wazzu, who was swept by the Arizona schools last week. The Cougars kept the game with ASU close, but they were completely picked apart by a much more proficient UA squad. Washington State is simply talent deficient at this point and it continues to show as the campaign progresses.
12. Oregon State
The Beavers were swept by the Bay Area schools, leaving them with the worst conference record in the Pac-12. Oregon State has been in just about every game it has played against Pac-12 opponents, but OSU has ended up on the wrong side of each affair with the exception of one.