The Pac-12 is heading into its final stretch of nonconference play with multiple significant wins it found difficult to nab in recent years. Colorado (9-0) is the latest, jumping into the AP poll at No. 25 after a 70-66 upset against then-No. 8 Louisville (9-2) on Friday. It’s the Buffs’ first national ranking since 2008. The pac-12 hasn’t had four teams ranked nationally in the AP poll since 2006.
No. 1 Stanford (9-0) continues its reign as the nation’s best for the fifth consecutive week while No. 8 California (7-1) and No. 12 UCLA (7-1) remain in the polls. The Cards and Bruins combined to defeat modern-day powers Texas, Baylor, and Oklahoma. Add Washington State’s upset against then-No. 19 Ohio State on Saturday, Colorado’s win and Cal’s projected win against No. 19 Kansas (9-1) on Friday and it appears the Pac-12 could get more than two teams in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009.
“By the end of the season, when all the dust settles and we get closer to that Pac-12 tournament, we should probably have five teams ranked,” said Washington State coach June Daugherty, whose team plays No. 14 Louisville on Tuesday. “In the last five years, it’s (the conference) the strongest I’ve seen preseason.”
The Pac-12 still rates low in RPI calculations, however. One has the Pac-12 sixth among 33 conferences, a notch above the West Coast Conference. The Pac-12 has a 71-34 combined record in nonconference play.
Washington is off to 7-2 start, which matches its opening stretch in second-year coach Kevin McGuff’s inaugural season last year. UW plays at Georgia Tech on Friday and although the Yellow Jackets are 4-5 so far this season, the ACC is regarded as the third-best conference nationally.
A Huskies win in Atlanta could keep the their tournament hopes alive. Or at least help the Pac-12 continue to shed some light that the West is more than just Stanford.
“Last year, I felt the conference as a whole actually didn’t get enough credit,” said Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb, whose team was swept by USC last season but the Trojans didn’t advance to the NCAA tournament despite tough nonconference scheduling and third-place finish in Pac-12 standings.
“Because we (the conference) didn’t have a signature win against Stanford, per se, we weren’t necessarily credited for having wins against all of the other teams in the conference,” Gottlieb continued. “You hope this year that if somebody beats UCLA that it’s a quality win…The strength of the league overall means that everybody’s resume looks better come March. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out in terms of who upsets who. But it’s no question the strength (teams) are showing in nonconference helps everybody because there’s just a general level of respect for the competition we’re playing against.”
RANK ‘EM: The national rankings are out. The Pac-12 nearly shattered my national poll. I was waiting on the Louisville game to see if Colorado was legit. I’m still wondering but the win and undefeated record speak volumes. The Buffs have a tough conference opening against Stanford and Cal, so it could be a quick glimmer in the limelight. The Pac-12 would also have to have some upsets in conference play to validate its annual mantra that it deserves more than two NCAA tournament teams.
My Week 6 National Rankings
1 Stanford (9-0)
2 Baylor (8-1)
3 Connecticut (8-0)
4 Duke (8-0)
5 Notre Dame (6-1)
6 Kentucky (8-1)
7 Tennessee (7-1)
8 Georgia (11-0)
9 North Carolina (11-1)
10 California (7-1)
11 Kansas (9-1)
12 UCLA (7-1)
13 Maryland (7-2)
14 Purdue (10-1)
15 Penn State (9-2)
16 Dayton (10-0)
17 Texas (6-2)
18 Louisville (9-2)
19 Florida State (8-0)
20 South Carolina (10-0)
21 Delaware (5-2)
22 Nebraska (8-3)
23 Miami (7-2)
24 Ohio State (7-3)
25 Colorado (9-0)
TV ALERT: The big game Tuesday is No. 3 Baylor hosting No. 10 Tennessee on ESPN at 5pm (PST). The Bears defeated the Vols in an Elite Eight matchup en route to Baylor’s undefeated NCAA championship run. The matchup was the finale for legendary coach Pat Summitt. Baylor is 4-2 all-time against Tennessee.
The Pac-12 has a another entertaining slate that needs a premium cable package to view. In addition to WSU’s game against Louisville, Stanford playing at South Carolina could prove a lot about the undefeated Gamecocks (10-0). The matchup is set for 4:30pm (PST) on Fox Sports South. The Cards turnaround to play at Tennessee on Saturday at 1pm (PST).
Cal’s game against Kansas is another goodie. It will be live streamed on the Pac-12 site at 7pm (PST).
THE LOCALS: Seattle U. held its Christmas party on Monday before traveling to Utah. SU (3-5) plays at BYU (6-4) on Thursday. Across the mountain, Gonzaga (6-4) couldn’t send Ohio State (7-3) home with two losses from Washington schools. Late mistakes led to a 65-60 loss on Monday. The Zags host Idaho (3-7) on Thursday.