Kyle Fogg

The defending champions are ready.
Photo by Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE

Forget the early season RPIs. Don’t worry about the conference rankings.

The Pac-12 is going to award a men’s basketball championship for the first time this spring and the battles start now.

This Week in the Pac-12 (TWIT-Pac) is proud to present the TV schedule for the first conference games of the season (all times Arizona/Mountain):

Date Away Home Time TV
Thu Dec 29 USC Cal 7 p.m. CSN CA
  OSU Washington 7 p.m. ROOT NW
  Oregon WSU 7 p.m. CSN NW
  UCLA Stanford 9 p.m. FSN
Sat Dec 31 UCLA Cal 2 p.m. FSN
  ASU ARIZONA 3:30 p.m. FSAZ
  Utah Colorado 4 p.m. ROOT RM
  OSU WSU 4 p.m. ROOT NW
  USC Stanford 4:30 p.m. FSW/CSN BA
  Oregon Washington 8 p.m. ESPN2

CSN CA = Comcast SportsNet California
ROOT NW = Root Sports Northwest
CSN NW = Comcast SportsNet Northwest
FSN = Fox Sports Net
FSAZ = Fox Sports Arizona
ROOT RM = Root Sports Rocky Mountain
FSW = Fox Sports West
CSN BA = Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

* * *

Thu. Dec. 29

USC (5-8 / 0-0) at Cal (10-3 / 0-0)
Cal, the Pac-12 favorite, has played two ranked teams. The Bears lost by a combined 56 points.

OSU (10-2 / 0-0) at Washington (6-5 / 0-0)
We get to test two of the non-conference surprises right out of the gate. Are the Beavers really that good? Are the Huskies really that bad?

Oregon (9-3 / 0-0) at WSU (8-4 / 0-0)
The Cougars have won six straight, bringing the league’s longest active winning streak to the party.

UCLA (7-5 / 0-0) at Stanford (10-2 / 0-0)
The Pac-12 took another hit when Stanford lost to 5-7 Butler at home. We’ll have to forgive the rest of the country for ignoring the conference until March.

Sat. Dec. 31

UCLA at Cal
The Bruins have stopped the bleeding with five consecutive wins. A win here would say, “What 2-5 start?”

ASU (4-8 / 0-0) at Arizona (9-4 / 0-0)
Solomon Hill, the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week, leads the UA regulars in scoring, rebounding, assists and free throw percentage. Ruslan Pateev leads the Devils in punches to the back of the head.

Utah (3-9 / 0-0) at Colorado (7-4 / 0-0)
Quick: What are Colorado’s school colors? Gold and…silver. CU started wearing black uniforms in 1959, so if you’re sick of teams wearing black for black’s sake, blame the Buffs.

Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham leads the conference in scoring with a paltry 16.8 points per game. The whole conference misses you, Derrick Williams.

USC at Stanford
Kevin O’Neill would like to thank Matt Barkley for keeping USC fans distracted while his team struggles to score 50 points.

Oregon at Washington
The Ducks have the fourth best record in the Pac-12 and…that’s all I’ve got. Have you seen their Rose Bowl helmets?

* * *

If you’re Oregon State and Stanford, who cares about your weak strength of schedule? If you’re UCLA, your slow start and roster issues don’t matter. If you’re ASU—OK, let’s not get carried away.

Everybody is undefeated again. Nobody outside the conference will be paying attention but that won’t bother whoever wins the very first Pac-12 championship.

Arizona starts its title defense by hosting Arizona State. The Cats need to make the game about playing quality basketball and not fighting with your rival. Get to 1-0 and get ready to hit the road next week.

Pac-12 conference play is here. The (portion of the) world (in the western United States near the 12 schools) will be watching.

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Scott Terrell is ready to do some scoreboard watching. Follow the race on Twitter and Facebook.