Clearly better than a season ago, Pac-12 Conference basketball still hasn’t made the case that it belongs with the elite.
Progress is obvious: Unbeaten Arizona is ranked No. 3 nationally and UCLA has won five in a row, including a victory Saturday against then-No. 7 Missouri.
A year after the Pac-12 went 0-11 in nonconference play against Top-25 opponents, the league is 6-14 vs. ranked teams.
But there also is evidence of lingering vulnerability: Pac-12 home losses to Towson State, Cal Poly, Albany, Sacramento State and Harvard.
“Arizona is very good,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “UCLA is potentially very good. I think Oregon is legit.”
And the Bears, who were picked third in the Pac-12 preseason media poll?
“Until we get healthy,” Montgomery said, “we can’t say we’re with the upper echelon teams.”
Here’s how we envision the Pac-12 race unfolding:
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