1. No. 4 Stanford (18-2, 7-1)
The Cardinal are back to their comfortable perch inside the top five nationally after crushing the LA schools and easily handling Utah and Colorado. Chiney Ogwumike nabbed National Player of the Week honors from anyone giving out the award, and with a fairly easy schedule until mid-February, don’t expect Stanford to drop. Though it seems the Cardinal should be equal with Cal, don’t forget they’ve beaten the defending national champions, Baylor, and their only other lost was to then No. 2 UConn.
2. No. 6 California (17-2, 6-1)
The Bears share the same weekly schedule as Stanford and should do just as well. They’re second in the conference, however, because they’ve had to put in far more work getting to basically the same record as the Cardinal. It took Cal some great second halves to win their last few games, especially against Colorado. They’ll have to shore up their shooting on a long-term basis before they really challenge for the top spot.
3. No. 22 Colorado (15-4, 4-4)
The third-ranked team in power rankings is sixth in the division, with an abysmal conference record. But the only reason for the Buffaloes’ poor standings is that they’ve played two top-10 teams twice. Stanford’s run a clinic on them, as they do with most opponents, but the Buffaloes have been more than respectable in 53-49 and 59-56 losses to Cal. Their next two games, against UCLA and USC, should tell us if the wins were an anomaly or the losses were just bad luck.
4. No. 18 UCLA (15-4, 6-2)
The Bruins seem to have the same problems as the Bears in that they enjoy keeping games too close for too long, especially against mediocre opponents. But they also have some magic charm that brings them back to win. After an unconvincing win against ASU, they will square off against Colorado and Utah. Expect a good battle between them and the Buffaloes, as both want to impress the NCAA for better spots in the March tournament.
5. Washington (14-5, 6-2)
The Huskies are the team that stubbornly wants to stay in contention but can never do so. Their entire season can be summed up as notching a few wins, then losing a tough game. They’re on their best winning streak of the year – four in a row – but now travel to Arizona for the weekend. They’re barely above .500 away from home, so dropping one of the weekend’s games is almost sure to happen.
6. USC (8-11, 5-3)
Three difficult losses have plunged the Trojans below .500, but they very easily could’ve salvaged two of those games. Their first loss came in overtime, when Cal mounted a furious comeback down by six with less than two minutes left in regulation. An ugly Stanford drubbing and another blown lead, this time to ASU, brings them to a disappointing middle-of-the-Pac standing.
7. ASU (11-9, 3-5)
The Sun Devils, despite losing three of their last four, are probably better than their record indicates. They’re ranked below USC, which they impressively upset in LA just a week ago, and even lost a close one against No. 18 UCLA. But getting absolutely thrashed by Utah isn’t impressing anybody.
8. Oregon State (9-11, 3-5)
OSU is perennially playing a “little sister” role, in which they keep it close (and relatively entertaining) but always lose the fight.
In January, four of their five losses came by four points or less, including two consecutive overtime defeats to both the Washington schools.
9. Arizona (11-8, 3-5)
The Wildcats must be the easiest team in the Pac-12 to defend because they have never been a threat to upset this season.
They beat the hapless Utes and Ducks but have been slaughtered by everyone else. Recently, the Wildcats lost both to Los Angeles schools by more than 15 points.
10. Utah (10-9, 1-7)
With the hardest early schedule in the Pac-12, the Utes have faced ranked teams in six of their eight conference games. They’ve also lost First-Team All-Pac-12 forward Taryn Wicijowski to injury. With Stanford, Cal and Colorado out of the way, they must be thinking the only place to go is up.
11. Washington State (6-13, 2-6)
The Cougars can’t win on the road and need career games from their best players to win at home against conference opponents.
They’re lucky they don’t face any ranked opponent more than once. Washington State just can’t afford to lose any more games in blowout fashion.
12. Oregon (3-17, 1-7)
They’ve lost plenty of games, and none have been particularly close. Their only divisional win is against their neighbors Washington State, 70-68, on Jan. 25 in the conference pit.
Sometimes, it just look like these Ducks are simply lost on their forest floorboards.
Vincent Tzeng covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].