1. Washington (18-4, 9-0) — Previous rank: 1
Opponents: USC (W, 75-62), UCLA (W, 69-55)
Player of the week: Matisse Thybulle (15.5 PTS, 5.0 TRB, 2.5 AST, 7.0 STL, 1.5 BLK)
To quote Nigel Tufnel from the movie “This Is Spinal Tap,” “These go to 11.” Washington continues to lay waste to the rest of the Pac-12’s hopes and dreams, defeating USC and UCLA at home to extend its winning streak to 11 games. Another streak hidden within the winning streak (streak-ception anyone?) is the six consecutive games that the Huskies have held their opponents under 70 points. Matisse Thybulle is running away with the defensive player of the year award, but with back-to-back seven-steal performances, maybe it’s time to talk about his player of the year prospects.
2. Arizona State (15-6, 6-3) — Previous rank: 2
Opponents: Arizona (W, 95-88 OT)
Player of the week: Remy Martin (31 PTS, 8 AST)
If that wasn’t the Pac-12’s game of the year, it comes awfully close. Head coach Bobby Hurley got one giant monkey off his back by knocking off Arizona for the first time in his career at Arizona State. There were some very encouraging stat lines all across the board. Remy Martin and Zylan Cheatham stole the show with career highs in points (31) and rebounds (22), respectively, but Rob Edwards’ performance was arguably the most important going forward. Edwards’ 19 points were the most he has scored in his tenure at Arizona State, and it came on solid efficiency.
3. Oregon State (14-7, 6-3) — Previous rank: 5
Opponents: at Colorado (W, 76-74), at Utah (W, 81-72)
Player of the week: Tres Tinkle (25.0 PTS, 7.0 TRB, 3.5 AST)
The Beavers have a relatively outside chance of making the NCAA tournament, but with another impressive weekend under their belt, they might just force themselves into the conversation. It helps to have someone like Tres Tinkle, arguably the front-runner for player of the year and, in the words of Stephen A. Smith, a baaaaad man. With a pair of wins in Colorado and Utah, Oregon State secured its first road sweep since the 2008-09 season. It’s snapping those types of streaks that indicates that something special is potentially brewing.
4. USC (13-9, 6-3) — Previous rank: 3
Opponents: at Washington (L, 75-62), at Washington State (W, 93-84)
Player of the week: Nick Rakocevic (20.5 PTS, 11.5 TRB, 1.5 AST, 1.5 STL)
The Trojans’ trip to the Pacific Northwest can be characterized by slow starts. In the first five minutes against Washington, USC dug itself into a 15-4 hole. Over the next 35 minutes, the Trojans went neck and neck with the Huskies, only being outscored 60-58 in that time frame. On the other hand, in the first five minutes against Washington State, USC established a strong 11-2 lead. Over the next 35 minutes, the Trojans and Cougars both scored 82 points. If the Trojans’ only game of this week was the loss to the Huskies, they could’ve potentially remained in the third spot based on degree of difficulty, but the win over the Cougars was a little too close for comfort.
5. Arizona (14-8, 5-4) — Previous rank: 4
Opponents: at Arizona State (L, 95-88)
Player of the week: Ryan Luther (19 PTS, 9 TRB, 3 AST, 2 STL)
While rival Arizona State has won four of its last five, Arizona has lost four of its last five games and continues to fall. Part of the Wildcats’ recent skid has been due to an injury bug that refuses to leave the team’s collective immune system. Chase Jeter returned after missing the trip to Los Angeles, but Arizona lost another contributor in Brandon Williams, who missed his first game of the season because of a knee sprain. The Wildcats competed despite Williams being out and Jeter not fully being healthy, but injuries derailed the usually steady defensive stalwart as they allowed a season high in points. To make matters worse, here comes the FBI…
6. UCLA (12-10, 5-4) — Previous rank: 7
Opponents: at Washington State (W, 87-67), at Washington (L, 69-55)
Player of the week: Prince Ali (15.0 PTS, 5.5 TRB, 3.0 AST, 3.0 STL)
For the past several weekends, the Bruins have been gifted with an opportunity to prove something to the college basketball world, only to squander said gift. This weekend was more of the same. Given that UCLA had some hiccups handling a measly Washington State team, it was by no means shocking that Washington had its way. The Huskies have handed many teams a similar fate, but if the Bruins truly have prospects who believe they can reach the league, they’ll have to do more than put up a dud against a truly elite squad. UCLA has a pair of midtier squads in Colorado and Utah at home this week. Best not blow this chance, too.
7. Oregon (13-9, 4-5) — Previous week: 8
Opponents: at Utah (W, 78-72), at Colorado (L, 73-51)
Player of the week: Will Richardson (13.5 PTS, 4.5 TRB, 1.5 AST, 2.0 STL, 1.5 BLK)
This had the potential to be the week that the Ducks finally emerged from the doldrums and back into relevancy. Oregon kicked off the trip by narrowly holding off Utah and entered Saturday against Colorado with an opportunity to win three consecutive games for the first time since early December. Alas, that did not happen, as the Ducks were drop-kicked in the throat by the Buffaloes and handed their worst loss of the season by margin of defeat. Just hasn’t been their year. At least Will Richardson had a career-high 19 points. Oregon’s improbable path to the postseason will be all the harder with Louis King and Paul White, the team’s two leading scorers, dealing with minor injuries.
8. Stanford (11-10, 4-5) — Previous rank: 9
Opponent: at Cal (W, 84-81)
Player of the week: Kezie Okpala (30 PTS, 8 TRB, 4 AST, 2 STL)
For all of Cal’s futility over the past two seasons, Stanford has never had an easy time handling the rival. There’s something about the rivalry that gets the competitive juices flowing, and that animosity was palpable Sunday afternoon. The Bears gave their best haymaker. The Cardinal gave their best counter. When the clock hit zero, it was the boys from Palo Alto walking away with the win. Stanford did benefit from a controversial late-game decision (see below), but it wouldn’t have been in a position to win without Kezie Okpala’s milestone night. In what may be his final performance at Haas Pavilion, Okpala had a little something extra for Cal, scoring a career-high 30 points.
9. Utah (11-10, 5-4) — Previous rank: 6
Opponents: Oregon (L, 78-72), Oregon State (L, 81-72)
Player of the week: Jayce Johnson (10.0 PTS, 11.5 TRB)
Tough week for the Utes, who got smacked upside the head by reality. A weekend like this all but solidifies where Utah stands this season — good enough to beat up on low-tier teams, but not enough to compete with the top dogs. Both Gach couldn’t ride the wave of his great performance against Cal into this weekend, going scoreless in 21 total minutes over the two games. It’s hard to put the onus of the losses on one player, especially when the Oregon schools just about averaged 80 points, but if Gach even marginally produced, maybe one of those games would have flipped in Utah’s direction.
10. Colorado (12-9, 3-6) — Previous week: 10
Opponent: Oregon State (L, 76-74), Oregon (W, 73-51)
Player of the week: Tyler Bey (15.5 PTS, 7.0 TRB)
Since Christmas Day, Colorado has been shockingly consistent in the weirdest way possible. Win one, lose two, rinse and repeat. It’s almost eerie. If history is a true indicator, then next week’s trip to Los Angeles will, you guessed it, yield two losses.
11. Washington State (8-14, 1-8) — Previous rank: 11
Opponent: UCLA (L, 87-67), USC (L, 93-84)
Player of the week: Robert Franks (23.0 PTS, 5.5 TRB, 2.5 AST)
Moral victories can’t be taken to the bank, but in the midst of a five-game losing streak and with no end in sight, that’s all the Cougars can hang their hats on right now. Washington State may have lost to USC, but during the game’s final 37 minutes, the Cougars outscored the Trojans, 84-82. If Washington State’s horrendous start to the game is ignored, that’s a win! At least Robert Franks is still looking like an all-conference talent.
12. Cal (5-16, 0-9) — Previous rank: 12
Opponent: Stanford (L, 84-81)
Player of the week: Connor Vanover (15 PTS, 3 TRB, 1 BLK)
This one stings. Forget the fact that this loss came against Stanford. This was Cal’s best opportunity to finally break the monotony of losing and, for the first time in more than a month, bask in the glory of victory. Then, the Bears’ hearts were ripped out. Matt Bradley’s incredible and-one layup that tied the game and provided an opportunity to take the lead was changed from a blocking foul to a charge. That call didn’t completely kill Cal’s chances, but it was the type of emotional gut punch that’s hard to recover from. The Bears landed haymaker after haymaker, but at the final buzzer, the result was all too familiar.