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Pac-12 men's basketball power rankings: Top teams separate themselves with tourney coming
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Pac-12 men's basketball power rankings: Top teams separate themselves with tourney coming

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The past week provided clarity on which five teams will earn a bye for the first round of the Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament in Las Vegas two weeks from now and entry into the quarterfinals.

USC, UCLA and Oregon all won two games to improve their position. Colorado split its road trip to hold its ground.

Stanford, then and still now the fifth-place team in the standings, entered last week’s games three wins ahead of the sixth eligible team (Arizona won’t be participating), which was Utah. This week, the sixth team is Oregon State, which, along with Washington State, is three wins behind Stanford.

It would take an extraordinary stretch for the Beavers or Cougars to jump the Cardinal for that bye. But it’s still a possibility.

Here’s a look at my weekly power rankings.

1. USC 19-4, 13-3 (Last week: 1)

Last week: 89-71 home win vs. Arizona State; 81-72 home loss to Arizona; 72-58 home win vs. Oregon

This week: At Colorado, Thursday; at Utah, Saturday

The 19th-ranked Trojans proved that Saturday’s loss to the Wildcats was nothing more than a small hurdle by dismantling Oregon without Isaiah Mobley. But the work isn’t done just yet as they close the regular season with three of four on the road.

2. OREGON 14-5, 9-4 Pac-12 (2)

Last week: 60-56 home win vs. Colorado; 67-64 home win vs. Utah; 72-58 loss at USC

This week: At Stanford, Thursday; at California, Saturday; Home vs. Arizona, Monday

An insurmountable first-half hole, giving up 43 points and 65% shooting, erased any chances of the Ducks extending their winning streak. Starting Thursday, Oregon will be challenged with playing four games in seven days.

3. UCLA 16-5, 12-3 (3)

Last week: 74-60 home win vs. Arizona; 80-79 home win vs. Arizona State

This week: At Utah, Thursday; at Colorado, Saturday

In Tempe, the Bruins narrowly avoided a third loss in five games and kept alive their hopes of winning the Pac-12 regular season. But now they face three straight on the road then another shot at the Trojans.

4. COLORADO 17-7, 11-6 (4)

Last week: 60-56 loss at Oregon; 61-57 win at Oregon State

This week: Home vs. USC, Thursday; home vs. UCLA, Saturday

The Buffaloes are 4-3 in their last seven games, but they built their NCAA argument with good wins earlier in the season. They are 22nd in the NET rankings (as of Tuesday) and finish the regular season with three at home.

5. STANFORD 14-9, 10-7 (5)

Last week: 79-61 win at Washington; 85-76 3 OT loss at Washington State

This week: Home vs. Oregon, Thursday; home vs. Oregon State, Saturday

Stanford is the definition of a bubble team, sitting 4-4 over its last eight and needing a strong finish. The loss to the Cougars could be devastating in more ways than one. If only Michael O’Connell had made one free throw at the end of regulation.

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6. ARIZONA 15-8, 9-8 (7)

Last week: 74-60 loss at UCLA; 81-72 win at USC

This week: Home vs. Washington State, Thursday; home vs. Washington, Saturday; at Oregon, Monday

The Wildcats’ win against the Trojans was just their second against a top-half team in the conference (Colorado the other). This doesn’t look like an NCAA tournament team even if eligible.

7. WASHINGTON STATE 14-10, 7-10 (10)

Last week: 82-51 home win vs. California; 85-76 3OT home win vs. Stanford

This week: At Arizona, Thursday; at Arizona State, Saturday; at Arizona State, Monday

Second-year head coach Kyle Smith has led a turnaround that has his program on the verge of its first winning season in nine years. But locking that up before Vegas means getting a win in the desert, possibly without top player Isaac Bonton.

8. OREGON STATE 11-11, 7-9 (9)

Last week: 74-56 home win vs. Utah; 61-57 home loss to Colorado

This week: At California, Thursday; at Stanford, Saturday

The Beavers were just a few more made shots against the Buffaloes from giving themselves a shot at a Pac-12 tournament first-round bye. Now they’ll try to avoid being the 8 or 9 seed, which would lead to a quarterfinal matchup with the regular-season champion.

9. ARIZONA STATE 8-11, 5-8 (8)

Last week: 89-71 loss at USC; 80-79 loss at UCLA; 97-64 home win vs. Washington

This week: Home vs. Washington, Thursday; home vs. Washington State, Saturday; home vs. Washington State, Monday

The defeat to the Bruins was the Sun Devils’ fourth in Pac-12 play by a combined 10 points. If played as scheduled, ASU will cram in six games in 12 days to finish the regular season.

10. UTAH 9-10, 6-9 (6)

Last week: 74-56 loss at Oregon State; 67-64 loss at Oregon

This week: Home vs. UCLA, Thursday; home vs. USC, Saturday

The Utes played probably one of their better games of the season in Eugene and came up empty. Utah is in jeopardy of having its first losing season in eight years.

11. WASHINGTON 5-18, 4-14 (12)

Last week: 79-61 home loss to Stanford; 62-51 home win vs. California; 97-64 loss at Arizona State

This week: At Arizona State, Thursday; at Arizona, Saturday

The Huskies have picked up their defense, allowing 70 points only once in the last five games. But it’s still a second straight season with 13 or more conference losses.

12. CALIFORNIA 8-17, 3-15 (11)

Last week: 82-51 loss at Washington State; 62-51 loss at Washington

This week: Home vs. Oregon State, Thursday; home vs. Oregon, Saturday

The Golden Bears decided not to show up for their road trip, shooting a combined 30.9% in two games. All that’s left to play for is trying to get out of last place.

Jesse Sowa can be reached via email at jesse.sowa@lee.net or on Twitter, @JesseSowaGT.

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