The race is on.
The sudden surge by the Colorado men’s basketball team, combined a rough year for the Pac-12 Conference that nonetheless has led to a wild level of parity, has left the chase for the top four spots in the Pac-12 Conference standings.
In a year in which it seems up to a half-dozen teams, at least, will have a chance to beat anyone on any given day next month at the league tournament in Las Vegas, those top four spots and the first-round bye they ensure will be even more coveted.
With league-leading Washington sporting an 11-1 mark and sitting at the cusp of clinching the regular season crown, basically seven teams — all with league records between 8-4 and 6-6 — are vying for those final three spots that feature an automatic spot in the quarterfinals. That’s not to say 6-7 UCLA or 5-8 Arizona can’t still make a run, but both teams are trending the opposite direction with a thick pack of teams between them and the No. 4 slot.
Excluding Washington, of the other seven teams vying for the three remaining top-four spots, Colorado seemingly owns the most favorable schedule. Among those seven teams, the Buffs and Stanford are the only two with more home games than road games. While CU has to play at Washington Saturday, Stanford’s remaining road trip is through Arizona with a home date also still remaining against Washington.
“You want to put yourself in a position where games matter in February. And our guys have done that,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “It’s a testament to them. They’ve put themselves in a position where games matter.”
The Buffs and Stanford are at 7-6 alongside USC, which hosts the Oregon schools this week before visiting UCLA, Utah, and CU. Among the teams ahead of that trio, 8-4 Oregon State begins the week at the No. 2 slot, but four of the Beavers’ six remaining games are on the road (Los Angeles trip, Oregon trip), with home dates against the Arizona schools.
Two teams, Arizona State and Utah, are 8-5. Both squads have three road games and two home games remaining. ASU hosts the Bay Area schools this week before finishing with three road games against the Oregon schools and state rival Arizona. Utah’s schedule mirrors the Buffs’ with a trip through Washington this week followed by a visit to CU and a season-closing home series against the Los Angeles teams.
For the second time this season, Stanford’s Josh Sharma was named the Pac-12’s Player of the Week.
Sharma enjoyed a pair of monster games in leading the Cardinal’s home sweep against USC and UCLA. Sharma began his week with 14 points and nine rebounds against USC before posting the second double-double of his career against UCLA, posting 22 points with 12 rebounds. Sharma went a combined 17-for-20 from the floor in the two games and pushed his league-leading shooting percentage in Pac-12 games to a whopping .763 (58-for-76).
Sharma also won the award in late December.
Former Arizona Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson is recovering from a minor stroke he suffered Saturday, according to a release from UA…The leading Pac-12 teams in the NCAA’s NET ranking to begin the week are Washington (31), Arizona State (68), Oregon (69), and Colorado (73)…USC’s Bennie Boatwright set a Trojans team record and matched a Pac-12 record with 10 3-pointers in a win against Cal…Oregon State swept its two-game regular season series against Oregon for the first time since 2010…Stanford’s 24-point win against UCLA was its largest against the Bruins in 22 years. That game featured a 35-minute delay before the second half to replace both backboards after one of the rims became loose in the first half.