McKale souvenir stand

Photo by Wildcat Universe

Congratulations, Pac-12! You still have the No. 1 team in the country!

Condolences, Pac-12. You now only have one ranked team.

The Pac-12 has become last year’s West Coast Conference, where Gonzaga was at the top of the polls but the rest of the conference was M.I.A. The Arizona Wildcats may not play Pepperdine and Pacific this week but the rest of the nation will still yawn and look elsewhere.

Can the Cats maintain the focus that got them to 18-0?

There are no primary-rival clashes this week so the TV schedule has the maximum 12 games (all times Arizona/Mountain):

Wed Jan 22Oregon St.Wash. St.8 p.m.Pac-12 Network
Wed Jan 22CaliforniaUSC9 p.m.ESPNU
Thu Jan 23ColoradoARIZONA7 p.m.ESPN2
Thu Jan 23UtahArizona St.7 p.m.Pac-12 Network
Thu Jan 23StanfordUCLA9 p.m.Pac-12 Network
Thu Jan 23OregonWash.9 p.m.Fox Sports 1
Sat Jan 25Oregon St.Wash.3 p.m.Pac-12 Network
Sat Jan 25ColoradoArizona St.5 p.m.Pac-12 Network
Sun Jan 26StanfordUSC3 p.m.Pac-12 Network
Sun Jan 26OregonWash. St.5 p.m.Pac-12 Network
Sun Jan 26UtahARIZONA6 p.m.Fox Sports 1
Sun Jan 26CaliforniaUCLA6 p.m.ESPNU

Wed. Jan. 22

Oregon State (10-7 / 2-3) at Washington State (8-10 / 1-5)
The Beavers made their fans smile by upsetting Oregon last week. Now the challenge is keeping that from ending up as the high point of their entire season.

California (14-4 / 5-0) at USC (9-9 / 0-5)
It’s better for the conference if Cal gets two wins in L.A. It would make next week’s showdown with Arizona a matchup not just of Pac-12 unbeatens but a battle between the only two teams within three games of first place.

Thu. Jan. 23

Colorado (15-4 / 4-2) at ARIZONA (18-0 / 5-0)
Sabatino Chen is playing for the Yulon Dinos in Taiwan. His professional career has not been waved off.

Utah (14-4 / 3-3) at Arizona State (13-5 / 2-3)
At this point the Utes are a classic good-at-home (14-1), bad-on-the-road (0-3) team.

Stanford (12-5 / 3-2) at UCLA (14-4 / 3-2)
You have Arizona, Cal, and then the third-hottest team in the conference is Stanford, who won at Oregon before sweeping the Washington schools at home. If the Cardinal can keep it going it could turn next week’s UA road trip into a horror show. (Slay by the Bay? San Fran-physco??)

Oregon (13-4 / 1-4) at Washington (11-8 / 3-3)
Seriously, Ducks, this isn’t funny anymore. When you bring in a bunch of new players aren’t you supposed to struggle at first and then get better as the year goes along?

Sat. Jan. 25

Oregon State at Washington
The Huskies’ Pac-12 turnaround was short-lived as Washington dumped both games last week against Cal and Stanford by a combined margin of 38 points.

Colorado at Arizona State
Colorado’s four league wins are against teams that are a combined 4-17 in the Pac-12.

Sun. Jan. 26

Stanford at USC
(Fisherman’s War??? Kickin’ AZ at Alcatraz????)

Oregon at Washington State
Wazzu is 23rd in the nation in scoring. No, wait, I had the list upside down.

The unselfishly balanced Wildcats only have the league leader in one individual statistical category. T.J. McConnell is tops in the Pac-12 with a 3.03 assist-to-turnover ratio.

California at UCLA
Just when the Bruins got some national attention (and a top-25 ranking) they went and lost to Utah. If they want to get back in the Second-Best Team in the Pac-12 race they need to pin a loss on Cal.

* * *

Injured Buffalo Spencer Dinwiddie led his team in scoring, assists, steals, free throw shooting and 3-point shooting. That said, it would be a mistake to look past a wounded Colorado squad that could turn around its season with an upset.

The same would be true of a Utah team desperate to prove it can win on and road and compete with the best of the Pac-12.

Sean Miller talked this week about avoiding a repeat of last year’s midseason malaise, and the timing is right. This is the grind-it-out portion of the schedule. The Cal game isn’t until next week. There’s no rematch with UCLA. None of these teams are ranked.

The Wildcats are fighting human nature as much as they’re battling Colorado and Utah.

Now that we know it’s OK to want to go undefeated it would be great to stay that way for a while.

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