Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
The first fortnight of the 2021-22 season is complete. For the Pac-12, it was neither a rousing success nor an abject failure.
There were two first-class wins (UCLA over Villanova and Arizona over Michigan) and a few pleasant surprises — for instance, the overall success of Utah and Washington State.
But the conference also suffered a slew of third-class losses: Washington to Northern Illinois and Colorado to Southern Illinois; Cal to UC-San Diego and Arizona State to UC-Riverside; and Oregon State to just about everyone.
Overall, the Pac-12's nonconference record stands at 45-17. The winning percentage (72.5%) is a tick below the threshold (75%) that history suggests will optimize the number of NCAA Tournament bids.
It does not get easier from here, with a slew of high-profile opponents lined up in holiday tournaments (more Baylor!) and several single-game showdowns in early December (more Gonzaga!).
And take note:
The early round of conference play begins this weekend, with Stanford visiting Colorado, followed by a full load of league games next week.
Those games matter, of course. But what matters more for the Pac-12 at this point is avoiding additional losses to lowly nonconference opponents — losses that will drag down power ratings and potentially squeeze the league on Selection Sunday.
The framework for March is set in November and December.
Based on the results to date, the Pac-12 has some repair work to do.
1. UCLA (5-1)
Last week: 1
Result: Lost to Gonzaga 83-63
Next up: at UNLV (Saturday)
Comment: Despite the lopsided loss to Gonzaga, the Bruins remain an easy call for No. 1. Until they lose again, it will stay that way.
2. Arizona (5-0)
Last week: 3
Result: beat Wichita State 82-78 and Michigan 80-62
Next up: vs. Sacramento State (Saturday)
Comment: Impressive start for Tommy Lloyd, but the Wildcats need Michigan to find its form before Big Ten play begins to give that result as much Selection Sunday fuel as possible.
3. USC (4-0)
Last week: 2
Result: beat Dixie State 98-71
Next up: vs. St. Joe's (Thursday)
Comment: So far, Memphis transfer Rejean 'Boogie' Ellis has been as good as his nickname (17 points per game, 47.1% from 3-point range). If that keeps up, the Trojans are a lock for the top half of the conference.
4. Washington State (5-0)
Last week: 5
Result: won at Idaho 109-61, beat Winthrop 92-86
Next up: vs. Eastern Washington (Saturday)
Comment: The soft competition makes it difficult to properly evaluate WSU. But a double-shot of clarity arrives next week with conference games against Arizona State and USC.
5. Utah (5-0)
Last week: 8
Result: beat Boston College 68-61 and Tulsa 72-58
Next up: vs. Brigham Young (Saturday)
Comment: The Pac-12 takes its final shots at BYU this weekend. In addition to the basketball version of the Holy War, USC plays the Cougars in the Coliseum. As of this moment, BYU is 4-0 head-to-head on the field and 1-0 on the court.
6 Oregon (3-2)
Last week: 4
Result: beat Chaminade 73-49, lost to Saint Mary's 62-50
Next up: vs. Houston (Wednesday)
Comment: The Ducks are doing their best to make the West Coast Conference look good, losing to BYU by 32 and to Saint Mary's by 12. And still to come: Portland and Pepperdine next month. (They couldn't possibly … nah, no way.)
7. Colorado (5-1)
Last week: 6
Result: lost to Southern Illinois 67-63, beat Duquesne 84-76 and Brown 54-52
Next up: vs Stanford (Sunday)
Comment: The pretty-darn-good news: CU is 5 points away from an undefeated record. The not-so-good news: CU is 8 points away (vs. Montana State and Brown) from a losing record.
8. Arizona State (2-2)
Last week: 7
Result: lost at San Diego State 65-63
Next up: vs. Baylor (Wednesday)
Comment: ASU and Connecticut are in different brackets this week in the eight-team Battle for Atlantis, making it unlikely that Bobby Hurley will coach against his brother, Danny — and it could only happen on the final day.
9. Stanford (4-2)
Last week: 10
Result: beat Valparaiso 74-60, lost to Baylor 86-48, beat North Carolina A&T 79-65
Next up: at Colorado (Sunday)
Comment: With five minutes left in the first half, Stanford trailed Baylor by 3 points. In that situation, how is it even possible to lose by 38? Did Baylor's field goals start counting for 4 points? Yikes.
10. Washington (4-2)
Last week: 11
Result: lost to Wyoming 77-72, beat George Mason 77-74 and South Dakota State 87-76
Next up: vs. Nevada (Wednesday)
Comment: The good news: One more win, and the Huskies will have equaled their total from last season. The bad news: Starting next week, they play Arizona, UCLA and Gonzaga in succession.
11. Oregon State (1-4)
Last week: 9
Result: lost to Samford 78-77 and Princeton 81-80
Next up: vs. Wake Forest (Friday)
Comment: The Beavers did so much to enhance the Pac-12's reputation with their performance in March, and they're doing plenty to undermine that reputation with their results in November. Samford? Double yikes.
12. Cal (2-3)
Last week: 12
Result: beat Southern Utah 75-68, lost to Florida 80-60
Next up: vs. Fresno State (Sunday)
Comment: The good news: The Bears made the front page of ESPN's college basketball website! The bad news: The Bears made the front page of ESPN's college basketball website because of a scoring error at Haas Pavilion that cost Southern Utah a victory in regulation. Triple yikes.
Jon Wilner's Pac-12 Hotline is brought to KSL.com through a partnership with the Bay Area News Group.
Jon Wilner has been covering college sports for decades and is an AP Top 25 football and basketball voter as well as a Heisman Trophy voter. He was named Beat Writer of the Year in 2013 by the Football Writers Association of America for his coverage of the Pac-12, won first place for feature writing in 2016 in the Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest and is a five-time APSE honoree. You can follow him on Twitter @WilnerHotline or send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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