This year's edition of the Pac-12 has most definitely been much more fun and exciting than in recent years. With a slew of talented teams climbing the polls, the premier conference of the West is primed to provide us with several teams who could make runs deep into March Madness this season.
Let's take a look at the Pac-12's top contenders.
UCLA is one of the younger, more talented teams in the conference. With Freshmen Shabazz Muhammad and Jordan Adams leading the scoring attack, and the Pac-12 leader in assists Larry Drew II (8.1 per-game average), the Bruins could make a deep run into the conference and NCAA tournaments.
UCLA, a team more talented than most teams they've played, has struggled this year to close out games that should be easy wins.
Having only beaten cellar-dwelling UC Irvine (in overtime), Texas and Utah by seven combined points, the talented but inexperienced boys from Westwood could run into some trouble from a Cinderella team come tourney time.
The Bruins showed a lot of potential in their game against the 21st-ranked Oregon Ducks on Jan. 19, but couldn't eke out the win. Their matchup against sixth-ranked Arizona, in the desert this Thursday, Jan. 24, should show us exactly what the Bruins are made of.
What UCLA lacks, Arizona has.
The 16-1 Wildcats are led by senior forward and guard Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons, who happen to be the top two scorers for Sean Miller's senior-laden squad.
Although Arizona, one of the premier programs of the West, didn't make the cut for March Madness last season, the team did win 23 games and make it to the Pac-12's championship game.
Arizona has already proven that it can win big games against big opponents. The Wildcats have quite the resume this season, having beaten two ranked foes in Florida and San Diego State, as well as their much-improved arch-rival Arizona State.
Their only setback? A loss to conference-leading and nationally ranked Oregon, in Eugene.
The Wildcats will look to keep their dead-eye shooting a priority, as they lead the conference in three-point percentage, and draw upon the experience of their seniors and coach as March approaches.
With strong rebounding, a potent offense and those awesome jerseys, Oregon is quickly becoming a national fan favorite.
What makes Oregon so good? What makes the Ducks the favorites to win the Pac-12?
With five players averaging at least 10 points per game—and none of them averaging more than 12 points per game—the Ducks have become one of the hardest teams to guard in the conference.
Not only are they a balanced, fast-paced scoring team, but the Ducks are also the conference's best rebounding team with 39.8 rebounds per game.
With the hard part of their schedule out of the way, the Ducks appear to be ready to claim the coveted Pac-12 conference crown and to ruffle some feathers come March.