Heading into Pac-12 play

At this moment (Washington plays #4 TAMU tonight), here are the records of Pac-12 teams:

Arizona State 11-1
Washington 10-1
Oregon State 10-1
Washington State 9-2
USC 8-3
Colorado 7-3
California 7-3
Stanford 8-4
Oregon 6-4
Arizona 6-4
Utah 5-5
UCLA 4-7

So far the standings don’t match any of the preseason predictions, including mine. If I had to choose a Pac-12 champion today, I’d take Oregon State. The Beavers, who just had their first loss of the season yesterday, have looked utterly indomitable since day one of the season.

Stanford – the title holder for the last decade – has looked downright mediocre this year without any star players on board. Cal, which has challenged the Cardinal the last three seasons, has seen unexpected struggles with youth and depth. USC, who played for the tournament championship last season, lost its two top scorers and saw several transfers, so they too are seeing turbulence. UCLA, with the top 2014 recruiting class, has faced sewing an entirely new team together while playing a top-tier schedule.

On the flip side, there are a few teams doing better than expected.

Colorado, despite losses to graduation and major injuries, is holding tough. Oregon, under the tutelage of new coach hire/superstar Kelly Graves, is showing they can finish games now. Washington State has been able to make it happen with stars Tia Presley and Lia Galdeira, despite the coaching deficit that is June Daugherty.

I would not count Arizona State and Washington’s successes as surprises. Sun Devil coach Charli Turner Thorne is a proven winner, and Washington is loaded with talent; they had numerous injuries last season.

Conference play begins Saturday, and I haven’t been this excited in years. Depth and parity abound, and in any game, any team can win. Who will finish on top? Hard to tell.

Bring it on.