Every team is now roughly half way through its out of conference slate in the Pac-12. Let's take a look around the conference and see how each team is doing up to this point.
No. 3 Arizona: The Wildcats barely got by Gonzaga on Saturday and scraped by San Diego State as well in what has become quite the budding rivalry. The team from down south is currently undefeated at 6-0 after winning the EA Sports Maui Invitational. Highly-touted freshman Stanley Johnson has been everything the Cats could have hoped for. He leads the team with 13.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. If they've struggled anywhere so far, it's on the boards where they rank 188th in the country. Along with Brandon Ashley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Kaleb Tarczewski who could be superstars on other teams, there is no reason to think this team won't be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament in March.
No. 13 Utah: The Utes sit at 6-1, their only loss coming to a very good San Diego State team. They have the most impressive out of conference win in the Pac-12 this season after taking down Fred Van Vleet and No. 8 Witchita State in overtime at home, ending the Shockers' regular season winning streak of over 30 games. Delon Wright has performed at an all-conference level, averaging 15 points and 5.1 assists per game. The player that has everyone talking though is Austria native and freshman Jakob Poeltl, who is averaging 12 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. The Utes as a team are shooting over a 55 percent clip from the field this season.
No. 17 Washington: The Huskies are off to a very hot 6-0 start and turned heads Sunday when they beat San Diego State by 13 points. Sophomore guard Nigel Williams-Goss is averaging 14.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists so far this season. 7-foot junior Robert Upshaw has proved to be a force inside in the early going, blocking 4.7 shots per game. Lorenzo Romar has been in Seattle for over a decade and this looks like its going to be another steady and solid season at Hec-Ed. They've got another test coming up soon against No.16 Oklahoma.
California: The Bears benefit from a lot of returning experience. Sophomore guards Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews both got playing time as freshmen and have helped the team early. Joining them are 6-foot-5 junior wing Tyrone Wallace and senior big man David Kravish. All four are averaging double digit points with Wallace leading the way with 19.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. They had an impressive outing against a ranked Syracuse team, beating them by 15 but then fell to then No. 10 Texas by almost the same amount the following day. They sit at 7-1 and are in the top 40 in the country in rebounds and assists per game. Perhaps most importantly, Cuonzo Martin has this team operating at a high level in his first season as head coach in Berkley.
UCLA: Senior Norman Powell and sophomore Bryce Alford are leading the way for the Bruins, who lost a lot of talent in the offseason. Both men are averaging 17.7 points per game. Even more impressively, UCLA is in the top 30 in points, rebounds and assists in the country. The Bruins (7-2) have lost both their early season tests against Oklahoma and North Carolina, but have a chance to really prove themselves against No. 9 Gonzaga and No. 1 Kentucky soon. The strength in Westwood so far has been on the glass. Freshman Kevon Looney leads the conference with 11.2 rebounds per game.
Colorado: Like Cal, the Buffs return a ton of talent. There isn't a single freshman in the first six players of their rotation and four of those six are upperclassmen. Junior forward Josh Scott is averaging 16.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Senior guard Askia Booker and junior Wesley Gordon are also averaging double digits. Their non-conference schedule is weak and they've lost both road games to Georgia and Wyoming this season. For as much promise as this team showed on paper before the season, they've shown early that Spencer Dinwiddie is sorely missed. The Buffaloes sit at 5-2, but conference season is the first time we'll get to see what this team is truly made of.
Oregon State: For as low as expectations were in Corvallis this season, this team has already exceeded expectations in certain ways sitting at 5-2. They lost consecutive games to Oklahoma State and Auburn and needed overtime to beat Portland. They'll have a decent test against Mississippi State next Saturday.Gary Payton II leads the team with 14 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Wayne Tinkle has to do a lot with the very little Craig Robinson left him, it's still going to be a very rough season for the Beavers. Three or four conference victories should be considered a successful season for this group.
USC: The Trojans have had an ugly start to the year with three losses in a very poor non-conference schedule. They sit at 6-3 with losses to Akron, Portland State and Penn State. USC is also very young with five underclassmen averaging at least 20 minutes of playing time this season. Jordan McLaughlin leads the way with 12.9 points per game. Former UNLV guard Katin Reindhardt is averaging 9.8 points per game and shooting a 38 percent clip from beyond the arc, he could be a tough player to deal with as he progresses in his development.
Stanford: Johnny Dawkins' club got out to a strong 3-0 start with a win over UNLV, but then fell by 11 to No. 2 Duke. They also had an ugly loss to DePaul and now sit at 4-2. Depth has been an issue early for the Cardinal, who are currently only using a 6-man rotation. Stanford's three seniors; guards Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown as well as center Stefan Nastic are the glue of this team. Each is averaging double digit points. Randle is the leading scorer with 17.7 points per game. This team needs another player or two to enter the fold before conference play begins and they should be in the top half of the Pac-12 as expected. Phoenix native and Pinnacle graduate Dorian Pickens has 18 points and three assists in 37 minutes played in his freshman season.
Oregon: Dana Altman did his best to clean up what was an ugly offseason for the Ducks, after three of his best players were kicked off the team due to rape allegations. Oregon now sits 5-3 after losses to then No. 19 Michigan, No. 14 VCU and most recently Ole Miss. Joseph Young leads the Pac-12 in points per game with 20.4. The Ducks are experimenting with an eight man rotation in the early going which clearly isn't working yet. With the loss of Mike Moser along with Brandon Austin, Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis due to the rape scandal, this program is seemingly just trying to get back on the straight and narrow.
Arizona State: A combination of poor free throw shooting and tough calls have led the Sun Devils to a 5-3 record, which doesn't reflect how well the team has executed so far, dropping games to Maryland, Alabama and Texas A&M all by fewer than 10 points. Junior college transfer Gerry Blakes is averaging 11.3 points per game, followed closely by Jon Gilling with 11.1. Junior big man Eric Jacobsen has improved tremendously since last season, averaging 10.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. The Sun Devils as a team shoot 48 percent from the field, which is 33rd in the country. Freshman Kodi Justice has started the last three games for ASU and has proven himself as a threat at point guard in the early going, but it was Tra Holder who had the better game against Texas A&M. With Blakes performing well at the two, the point remains unsettled. Willie Atwood has struggled to adjust to the Division I level but thanks to the hot shooting from a number of players, the Sun Devils have kept games close. The maroon and gold's next big test comes Dec. 16 at Marquette.
Washington State: Like Oregon State, it looks like it will e another long season in Pullman as well. The Cougars are 4-4 with losses to UTEP, TCU, Idaho and UC Santa Barbara. They only beat Rice by two and needed overtime to take down Missouri State. Sophomore forward Josh Hawkinson and senior guard DaVonte Lacy are carrying WSU in the early going, averaging 13.9 and 18.5 points per game respectively. Hawkinson is also pulling down 9.4 boards per game. The Cougars will have a chance to upset No. 9 Gonzaga Wednesday night.
My observations: Arizona has always been a traditional powerhouse in the Pac-12, but its great to see Utah return to the top, having not made the NCAA Tournament since 2009. ASU will play them twice and have their hands full, they could be a top 10 team by the time they get to Tempe on Jan. 15. Stanford looks like it could be in some early trouble. They remind me a lot of last year's ASU team, which had three consistent players in Jahii Carson, Jordan Bachynski and Jermaine Marshall and then somewhat of a drop off. Cal will be a scary program to watch the next couple of years if Wallace, Mathews and Bird stay together. Joe Young doesn't have a lot of talent around him at the moment, but he's having a Pac-12 Player of the Year season up to this point statistically.