The Pac-12 Conference in the 2012-13 season is markedly improved over last year's embarrassing showing.
Two teams are currently ranked in the Top 10 of the AP poll, the No. 8 Arizona Wildcats and No. 10 Oregon Ducks. Two additional teams, the UCLA Bruins and Arizona State Sun Devils, also received mention from AP voters.
After this week's early slate of games, the conference standings have muddied up a bit with Stanford's lambasting of Oregon and USC's overtime win over UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.
The Ducks are still a game ahead of the Wildcats and Sun Devils atop the conference; UCLA is a half-game behind the Arizona schools.
The top three teams are on the road this weekend, while UCLA has a break until Thursday, Feb. 7, when it hosts the Washington schools.
Let's take a look at the conference standings and where each team ranks.
Record: 18-2, 6-2 Pac-12
Key Wins: No. 5 Florida, No. 17 SDSU
Tough Losses: Oregon 70-66, UCLA 84-73
Strength of Schedule: 5
The Wildcats struggled offensively against Washington Thursday night, shooting just over 35 percent from the field and committing 17 turnovers. They only scored 23 points in the first half and trailed by five going into the intermission.
As is standard operating procedure for Miller's Wildcats, it only took the team eight minutes in the second half to regain the lead. The final 12 minutes of the game were standard Cardiac Cats with neither team leading by more than five points. The Huskies missed three shots in the final minute, and the 'Cats secured the 57-53 victory.
Next up for the Wildcats is taking on the Washington State Cougars on the Palouse.
Record: 18-3, 7-1 Pac-12
Key Wins: No. 4 Arizona, No. 24 UCLA
Tough Losses: UTEP 91-84 (3OT), Stanford 76-52
Strength of Schedule: 86
The Ducks had a tough game Wednesday night in Maples Pavilion, losing to Stanford by 24 points. The Ducks struggled out of the gate and only scored 22 points in the first half.
This was the second game without starting point guard Dominic Artis, who is out indefinitely with a left foot injury.
The Ducks take the short trip to Berkeley to take on the Golden Bears at 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.
Record: 17-4, 6-2 Pac-12
Key Wins: Colorado, UCLA
Tough Losses: DePaul 78-61, Arizona 71-54
Strength of Schedule: 115
The Sun Devils escaped Pullman on Thursday night with only their second victory in 10 years. Let that sink in. Washington State has never had a dominant basketball program—unless they are hosting the Sun Devils.
It looked like deja vu all over again when Coach Sendek's crew started 2-of-16 from the floor, including 0-of-10 from beyond the arc. Despite the horrible shooting, the Devils only trailed by two at the half. Sendek must have had a moving halftime speech, as the Sun Devils roared back and defeated the Cougars 63-59.
Next up for the Sun Devils are the Washington Huskies, who are nursing a four-game losing streak after winning their first four in conference.
Record: 16-6, 6-3 Pac-12
Key Wins: No. 7 Missouri, No. 6 Arizona
Tough Losses: Cal Poly 70-68, Arizona State 78-60
Strength of Schedule: 28
The Jekyll and Hyde of college basketball is back. The Bruins were slated to challenge the Wildcats for the Pac-12 crown this season with the addition of Shabazz Muhammad and others in a vaunted recruiting class.
They lost three non-conference games, then went on a 10-game win streak before losing three of their last four. The one win was a dominant showing over a Top Five team in Arizona.
Next up for the Bruins is hosting the Washington schools next Thursday and Saturday.
Record: 14-6, 4-4 Pac-12
Key Wins: No. 16 Baylor
Tough Losses: Wyoming 76-69, Washington 64-54
Strength of Schedule: 7
The defending Pac-12 Conference Tournament Champion won 10 of its first 12 games and was 6-0 at home going into conference play. The Buffaloes had defeated No. 3 Arizona in Tucson with a last-millisecond three-point shot—until it was reversed by the officials.
This took the wind out of the sails for coach Tad Boyle and his Buffs, as they went on to lose three of their next four games. It seems as if the Buffaloes have finally moved beyond the loss to Arizona, as they have won the past three games in convincing fashion.
The Buffaloes embark on a three-game road stretch with games at Utah and the Oregon schools.
Record: 13-8, 4-4 Pac-12
Key Wins: No. 10 Oregon
Tough Losses: Belmont 70-62, USC 71-69
Strength of Schedule: 47
The Cardinal are having a revival of sorts this week. They defeated the Utah Runnin' Utes by 31 and followed that up with a 24-point beatdown of the No. 10 Oregon Ducks.
After losing four non-conference games and four of their first six conference games, it seemed as though the Cardinal were left out to dry. If the last two games are any indication, head coach Johnny Dawkins' squad is back and ready to take on the big boys.
Next up for Stanford is hosting Oregon State on Sunday, then going on the road to the Arizona schools, the most important road trip remaining on the schedule.
Record: 9-13, 4-5 Pac-12
Key Wins: UCLA
Tough Losses: UC Irvine 61-54, Cal 72-64
Strength of Schedule: 11
USC has played a tough schedule as evidenced by their 11 S.O.S. rank. They lost three non-conference games to ranked teams in San Diego State, New Mexico and Minnesota. At least they are trying.
They put forth a gritty effort against Arizona State, nailing three three-point baskets in the final 22 seconds to send the game to overtime. They lost in the last minute to Oregon and defeated UCLA at Pauley Pavilion. In four overtime games, they are 2-2, and that's gritty.
Next up for the Trojans is hosting the Washington schools next Thursday and Saturday.
Record: 12-9, 4-4 Pac-12
Key Wins: Colorado
Tough Losses: Albany 63-62, Utah 74-65
Strength of Schedule: 35
The Huskies are reeling right now. They are in the midst of a four-game losing streak after winning their first four in conference, and Lorenzo Romar needs to right the ship.
The Huskies held close to the Arizona Wildcats on Thursday night, even leading by five at the end of the first half. It seems as if they crumbled under the pressure, missing horribly from the field as they couldn't close in the final minute.
The next two games for the Dawgs will not be any easier, as they host the Arizona State Sun Devils and then travel to Pauley Pavilion to take on the UCLA Bruins.
Record: 12-8, 4-4 Pac-12
Key Wins: N/A
Tough Losses: Washington 62-47, Washington State 67-54
Strength of Schedule: 69
The Golden Bears have done well against poor teams and struggled against the good ones. Their eight losses come from teams in the RPI Top 100, and their 12 wins against teams with an RPI of 101 or higher.
They overcame a 12-point deficit on Thursday night to beat Oregon State by three, 71-68. They have yet to get a key win, and they will have plenty of opportunities in their next four games when they face the top four teams in the conference.
They host Oregon on Saturday, then travel to the Arizona schools and host the UCLA Bruins on Valentine's Day.
Washington State Cougars
Record: 11-10, 2-6 Pac-12
Strength of Schedule: 120
Oregon State Beavers
Record: 11-10, 1-7 Pac-12
Strength of Schedule: 99
Utah Runnin' Utes
Record: 9-11, 1-7 Pac-12
Strength of Schedule: 79