Pac-12 stock report: Oregon’s time of year, ASU’s second chance, USC’s COVID results, Washington grabs bad from jaws of awful

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Commentary on Pac-12 developments on and off the court …

Rising: Oregon basketball.

USC (11-2) leads the conference by one game in the loss column and has won six in a row, but we’re not convinced the Trojans are the best team.

And we’re deeply skeptical they will be the last team standing in Las Vegas (assuming there’s a Pac-12 tournament).

The team to beat, in our view, is Oregon.

The Ducks finally have a healthy starting backcourt with scorer Chris Duarte, who missed most of January, and point guard Will Richardson, who was out for two months with a thumb injury.

Because of multiple COVID pauses, the Ducks (7-3) have played three fewer games than the L.A. schools (and five fewer than some others).

But they have won three in a row entering a stretch run schedule that presents opportunities for additional momentum.

Although the circumstances are unprecedented, the arc of Oregon’s season looks familiar.

No program in the conference consistently finishes stronger than the Ducks.

Their record the previous four seasons, from Feb. 1 through the Pac-12 tournament:

2017: 10-2
2018: 8-4
2019: 10-4
2020: 6-3
Total: 34-13

Of note: Oregon’s lone matchup against USC was postponed and may not be rescheduled, adding intrigue to a potential showdown on the final day in T-Mobile Arena.

Falling: Pac-12 outlook.

Viewed through the prism of Selection Sunday, the conference has split into four tiers:

— Tier One: USC, UCLA, Colorado and Oregon.

These four are either locks or likely candidates for the at-large pool.

— Tier Two: Arizona.

The Wildcats would be in solid shape for an at-large berth but are ineligible for the postseason (both the Pac-12 tournament and the NCAAs).

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— Tier Three: Stanford.

The Cardinal (13-8/9-6) is very much on the bubble with a NET ranking in the high 50s.

— Tier Four: Arizona State, Utah, Cal, Oregon State, Washington State and Washington.

These six have no chance to make the NCAAs without the automatic berth that comes from winning the conference tournament.

One of the intriguing storylines to track down the stretch is the degree to which Tier Two impacts Tier Three.

Stanford has two wins over Arizona, so a solid finish by the Wildcats, who are playing only for pride, would greatly enhance the Cardinal’s prospects.

But if Arizona staggers, it could drag down Stanford’s resume and inadvertently play a hand in the conference sending only four teams to the NCAAs.

Rising: Washington basketball.

It’s all relative, and with three conference wins, the Huskies are now trouncing expectations for their season.

Of course, those expectations were established during an eight-game losing streak, when UW appeared headed for a zero- or one-win season.

Instead of being historically bad, the Huskies are simply bad:

They’re 3-12 in conference play after outlasting WSU on Monday and have a chance to collect two more wins with the Bay Area teams visiting this week.

Optics matter, and 1-18 would feel like a hole from which there was no escape.

But 4-15 or 5-14?

That would leave the faintest glimmer of hope for next season.

Again, it’s all relative. There are degrees of bad.

Falling: Arizona State.

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Source:: The Mercury News – Sports


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