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Pac-12 MBB power ratings: Arizona on top, UW soars and conference play is underway

After a ghastly start to the season, the Pac-12 is guaranteed to collect a slew of victories this weekend.

Also guaranteed: a bevy of losses.

The early round of conference play unfolds over the next four days, with each team playing one game at home and one on the road.

This pre-Christmas weekend of league play was carved out of the schedule to accommodate the Pac-12’s move to a 20-game conference schedule, which was approved three years ago.

Conference play began Wednesday night, with USC’s victory at Cal, and continues with five games Thursday. There are six on Sunday before the teams shift back to several weeks of non-conference competition.

To the power ratings …

1. Arizona (6-0)

Last week: 1
Results: beat Creighton 81-79
Next up: at Utah (Thursday)
Comment: The Wildcats have picked up where they left off at the end of last season (except for a certain performance at the very end of last season).

2. UCLA (5-2)

Last week: 2
Results: beat Pepperdine 100-53 and Bellarmine 81-60
Next up: at Stanford (Thursday)
Comment: The two losses (Illinois and Baylor) tell us far more about the current state of play in Westwood than the five blowout wins.

3. Arizona State (6-1)

Last week: 3
Results: beat Alcorn State 76-54
Next up: at Colorado (Thursday)
Comment: Based on results before and after, ASU’s loss to Texas Southern makes less sense by the week. Maybe it’s the exception that proves the Sun Devils are a better version of their 2021-22 selves?

4. Washington (6-1)

Last week: 9
Results: beat Fresno State 62-57, St. Mary’s 68-64 and Seattle 77-66
Next up: at Oregon State (Thursday)
Comment: There’s much to be said for winning the games you’re supposed to win, especially when that hasn’t always been the case the past two seasons.

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5. Colorado (4-3)

Last week: 5
Results: beat Yale 65-62
Next up: vs. Arizona State (Thursday)
Comment: Until proven otherwise, the Buffaloes go exactly as KJ Simpson goes.

6. Oregon (3-4)

Last week: 4
Results: lost to UConn 83-59 and Michigan State 74-70, beat Villanova 74-67
Next up: vs. Washington State
Comment: Beating Villanova doesn’t mean what it used to. The Wildcats are 2-5 in their first season of the post-Jay Wright era and lost to Portland before facing the Ducks.

7. Utah (5-2)

Last week: 6
Results: lost to Mississippi State 52-49, beat St. Thomas 95-66
Next up: vs. Arizona (Thursday)
Comment: When the Hotline has to look up the location of your opponent, it’s a cupcake victory. (The University of St. Thomas is in Minneapolis, if you’re curious.)

8. USC (5-3/1-0)

Last week: 7
Results: beat Brigham Young 82-76, lost to Tennessee 73-66 and Wisconsin 64-59, beat Cal 66-51
Next up: vs. Oregon State (Sunday)
Comment: Next and last chance for a quality non-conference win comes Dec. 18 against No. 15 Auburn.

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