With half the conference in the AP Top 25 and a stalemate at the top, the final weeks of the Pac-12 regular season are setting up to be ones for the ages. Here’s where things stand now:
Minus their shocking 72-67 loss to Washington, the Cardinal have been the best team in the conference all season long. Led by the trio of Haley Jones, Cameron Brink and Hannah Jump, the objectives for Stanford are clear: win the conference, earn a No. 1 seed and win the tournament. They are in a great position to do all of this, but Utah might have something to say about it.
The team that started the season as a pleasant surprise has ended up being a Pac-12 giant. With Alissa Pili being a dominant forward averaging 20.5 points per game and Gianna Kneepkens dropping 15 a night as a guard, it’s looking like Utah will have a chance to win the conference two Saturdays from now when they face Stanford in the final game of the regular season.
Don’t look now, but the Buffaloes are coming. After some early-season losses, Colorado has picked up impressive wins over UCLA, Arizona and Utah to end up with an 11-3 conference record. There are still two challenging games left: Arizona on Sunday and Stanford next Thursday. Still, they’ve given themselves a puncher’s chance at the Pac-12 title and have improved dramatically throughout the year.
How far can Charisma Osborne take the Bruins? The senior guard leads the team in minutes played (32.8) and points per game (15.5), but they lost three close games against Colorado, Utah and Arizona, putting them down in the standings. Luckily, the rest of the season schedule seems winnable for UCLA, with the only difficult game left being a matchup against Stanford on President’s Day.
The Wildcats’ balanced attack of Cate Reese, Shaina Pellington and Esmery Martinez makes them a nightmare to guard. This trio will be put to the test once again on Friday when they play Utah at home. It’ll be their last matchup against any team in the Top 15 and a win would surely bump them up in the AP rankings.
The Trojans are having a good season. They are back in the Top 25 and looking toward a future where they will have a shot at winning the Pac-12. For now, that goal is out of reach, but they can ruin Stanford’s bid at the Pac-12 title with an upset victory against them on Friday. To accomplish that, Kadi Sissoko will have to have a big game. The 6-foot-2 French guard is averaging 15 points a game and they’ll need every basket and then some if they want to pull off the upset.
The last week and a half have been rough for the Cougars. They’ve dropped three of their last four, with all three being against Top 25 teams. With the Pac-12 being so stacked with talent, someone was going to fall out of contention just due to bad luck. That team has become the Cougars. They were in ESPN’s Feb. 14 projected NCAA Tournament field though (last four byes) and have the Pac-12 Tournament to look forward to.
They have the talent to make a run in Vegas; with Charlisse Leger-Walker being an absolute bucket and Bella Murekatete dominating inside, Washington State will be a force in the postseason.
Currently on a five-game losing streak, Oregon is flaming out. A season that started with such promise with 10 wins in 11 games has become a disappointment. However, the Ducks were a part of the “last four byes” in ESPN’s Feb. 14 Bracketology, so they still have hope.
The Stanford win was fantastic, but the Pac-12 is just a bit much for the Huskies, as they’ve lost every other matchup against a Top 6 team in the conference. There are some good underclassmen at Washington who the team can build with, but, for now, they’ve got a ways to go.
Cal has some fun scorers in Jadya Curry and Kemery Martin, but not many victories to show for it. The Golden Bears have a brutal remaining schedule, finishing the season playing UCLA, USC, Utah and Colorado. They’ll be lucky to get another win.
Oregon State hasn’t won since mid-January and has two upcoming road games in the Washington area. Other than watching Talia von Oelhoffen attempt to go past 20 points a night, this season is all but done for the Beavers.
Can the Sun Devils win a conference game? With Colorado and Arizona next, it looks unlikely. Arizona State just isn’t good enough to compete at this level and their record and current 14-game losing streak are proof.
This Pac-12 season has been tremendous and will only be getting better. Stanford vs. Utah next week will be must-see viewing and the tourney will undoubtedly have great matchups and an upset or two. For this week, Utah vs. Arizona and Stanford vs. USC (both on Friday) are the marquee matchups you should check out as we head toward the final stretch.