The stretch run. It’s here. Pac-10 teams have five or six games left on their schedule before the conference tournament.
What’s at stake? Let’s go through the standings in order.
Stanford (22-2, 14-0)
Left on the schedule: At USC, at UCLA, vs. Oregon State, vs. Oregon, vs. Cal.
Outlook: The Cardinal are unbeaten in conference play. Only Washington, yes Washington, has come within 10 points. But whether last weekend’s less-than-stellar level of play for the Cardinal turns out to be the “wake-up call” that coach Tara VanDerveer hopes it will be…we’re about to find out. A potentially tough weekend in Los Angeles will likely set Stanford on a course for the rest of the season.
UCLA (21-2, 11-1)
Left on the schedule: vs. Cal, vs. Stanford, at Arizona, at Arizona State, Washington, Washington State.
Outlook: The Bruins, who have the best record in school history through 23 games, have a chance to stake their claim to a share of the Pac-10 title with a win over Stanford. But this is one of the toughest finishes in the conference, with the Bay Area schools, followed on the road at the Arizonas and then hosting two of the hottest teams in the league. Since the loss at Stanford, UCLA has won six games, five by a margin of 10 points or less.
USC (15-8, 7-5)
Left on the schedule: vs. Stanford, vs. Cal, at Arizona State, at Arizona, vs. Washington State, vs. Washington.
Outlook: The Women of Troy need wins and there are three top-tier teams in the final six games, which equals opportunity. Three more wins ought to do it for USC, which has an NCAA RPI this week of 33.
Arizona State (14-8, 6-6)
Left on the schedule: at Washington, at Washington State, vs. USC, vs. UCLA, at Oregon, at Oregon State.
Outlook: The Sun Devils haven’t won back-to-back games since January 2 and finish with four of six games on the road to close the conference schedule. This is a team, with an NCAA RPI of 35, that needs wins to keep its NCAA hopes realistic. Probably at least four more wins and a double-digit win total in the Pac-10.
Cal (14-10, 6-7)
Left on the schedule: at UCLA, at USC, vs. Oregon, vs. Oregon State, at Stanford.
Outlook: The Bears, who have lost three in a row, are not looking like a postseason team after getting swept at home by the Washington schools and now they go on the road to LA, where getting swept again is a real possibility. Joanne Boyle said the only consistent thing about her team this year has been its inconsistency.
Washington State (8-17, 6-7)
Left on the schedule: vs. Arizona, vs. Arizona State, vs. Washington, at USC, at UCLA,
Outlook: Six conference wins are the most for the Cougars since 2000-2001 and it’s a tough schedule to close the conference with three upper-half teams remaining along with the rivalry game with the Huskies in Seattle. Washington State has won three of four.
Arizona (14-9, 5-7)
Left on the schedule: at Washington State, at Washington, vs. UCLA, vs. USC, at
Washington, at Oregon State, at Oregon.
Outlook: Coming off their first win over ASU since 2005, the WIldcats have matched their win total from last season. But Arizona has lost four of its last five games to slide into the lower half of the conference standings and has a closing stretch that includes four road games (out of six remaining games).
Washington (10-12, 5-8)
Left on the schedule: vs. Arizona State, vs. Arizona, at Washington State, at UCLA, at USC.
Outlook: Tia Jackson said she wanted to see what her team would do when healthy and they are healthy now. What’s happened? The Huskies have won three of their last five games and pushed Stanford to the end of the game at Maples on Saturday.
Oregon (12-12, 3-10)
Left on the schedule: at Oregon State, at Cal, at Stanford, vs. Arizona State, vs. Arizona.
Outlook: It’s not going that well for the Ducks, who have lost eight of nine games and have been without guard Nia Jackson for the past three games because of injury. Oregon will have a very tough finish to the Pac-10 season.
Oregon State (8-16, 1-12)
Left on the schedule: vs. Oregon, at Stanford, at Cal, vs. Arizona, vs. Arizona State.
Outlook: The Beavers have had 16 games this season decided by 10 points or less. They will be a threat to the Ducks, the Bears and perhaps either of the Arizona schools. Here’s betting Scott Rueck’s team picks up another win or two.