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This week in the Pac-12: With proven upset potential high, no one is safe as conference season opens tonight in full

Almost every Pac-12 team has experience delivering or receiving an upset this season. In one of the country’s top conferences, having all 12 teams in action tonight means chances are high for more of the same.

Washington State v Washington
Washington State forward Borislava Hristova (right) put up a career-high 38 points against Washington in the teams’ Pac-12 opener on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018. Amber Melgoza (left) scored 27 points for Washington.
Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

With five Pac-12 teams ranked in the AP Top 25 — led by No. 5 Oregon and No. 6 Stanford (and two more receiving votes) — the marathon beginning to the conference season means that every team has to be on its toes as upset potential runs high across the western part of the country.

These teams already have some experience with upsets, whether delivering or receiving. Most recently, No. 18 California suffered an 85-79 loss to Harvard on Sunday that dropped the team four places in the AP Poll. (In Harvard/Pac-12 trivia: This was the Crimson’s first win over a ranked opponent since becoming the first 16-seed to topple a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament when they beat No. 1 Stanford in 1998.)

Before that, Oregon fell to then-unranked Michigan State on Dec. 9, Stanford had to climb back up to its place in the poll after a Dec. 2 loss to then-unranked Gonzaga, No. 11 Oregon State lost to then-unranked Texas A&M on Dec. 15 and last season’s fourth-place finisher UCLA dropped its first game of the season to Loyola Marymount. Delivering strong non-conference wins for themselves were Washington over Duke, Washington State over Nebraska and Colorado over North Carolina.

Conference play results heading into tonight’s packed slate

While every team will be in action tonight, Pac-12 play officially began Sunday, with three intra-state derbies — UCLA vs. USC, Washington vs. Washington State and No. 22 Arizona State vs. Arizona — as well as a clash between the two newest members of the conference, Utah and Colorado.

The 12-0 Utes handily beat Colorado, 76-61, in what would be the widest result of the day. In the other double-digit win (and the lowest-scoring affair), Arizona upset Arizona State, 51-39, which dropped the Sun Devils from No. 17 to their current ranking. The Wildcats had just two Pac-12 wins last season, so the season-opening win against a ranked opponent is an encouraging start.

In the matchup of the Los Angeles teams, UCLA continued to leave its rocky 2018-19 start behind as the Bruins came back from 13 down to beat USC on the road, 72-65, to extend their winning streak to five games. And in the closest matchup of the day, the east side of the state prevailed over the west as Washington State put away Washington, 79-76.


Today’s Pac-12 games

No. 22 Arizona State Sun Devils (9-3, 0-1) vs. Utah Utes (12-0, 0-0)

When: Friday, Jan. 4, at 9 p.m. ET

Where: Jon M. Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City, UT

How to watch: Pac-12 Arizona, Pac-12 Mountain

What to know: The Utes, while undefeated and already markedly improved from last season, have yet to win a game this season by fewer than 10 points, suggesting (at worst) a dearth of non-conference competition. While some of their wins have certainly been hard-fought — in-state rival BYU, for example, came within single digits several times throughout their game — tonight marks their first true test of the season as they face their first ranked opponent.

Arizona Wildcats (11-1, 1-0) vs. Colorado Buffaloes (10-2, 0-1)

When: Friday, Jan. 4, at 9 p.m. ET

Where: CU Events Center, Boulder, CO

How to watch: Colorado Live Stream

What to know: Arizona is going for its eleventh win in a row tonight, which would be a school record. Colorado will have its hands full on both offense and defense, as the Wildcats allow just 49.2 points per game (fourth in the nation) and boast the conference’s top scorer in redshirt sophomore guard Aari McDonald, whose 24.2 points per game come in at fifth in the nation. All that said, the Buffs have a notable home-court advantage, having lost just once ever to Arizona at home.

Washington Huskies (7-6, 0-1) vs. No. 5 Oregon Ducks (11-1, 0-0)

When: Friday, Jan. 4, at 9 p.m. ET

Where: Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR

How to watch: Pac-12 Network, Pac-12 Washington

What to know: The Huskies have a tall order ahead as they travel to face the Ducks, who are in the national top five in field goal percentage (1st), free throw percentage (1st), points per game (2nd), assists per game (5th) and several other areas. Plus, Oregon junior guard Sabrina Ionescu picked up her eighth career triple-double in last season’s home meeting against Washington, and just over a year later is going for the 15th of her career and fifth of the season.

UCLA Bruins (8-5, 1-0) vs. No. 18 California Golden Bears (9-2, 0-0)

When: Friday, Jan. 4, at 10 p.m. ET

Where: Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, CA

How to watch: Pac-12 Los Angeles

What to know: With Cal falling to Harvard on Sunday, UCLA has a decent opportunity to take one on the road if the Golden Bears aren’t able to regroup from a second straight home loss. The Bruins, meanwhile, come in on a five-game winning streak, a welcome change following their dismal 3-5 start. UCLA will have to contend with senior center Kristine Anigwe, who has picked up a double-double in every game this season — the only player in the country to do so. But the Bruins have a strong rebounding core of their own to try to match her, coming in at fourth in the country in offensive boards and 21st in the country in total rebounds per game.

Washington State Cougars (6-6, 1-0) vs. No. 11 Oregon State Beavers (10-2, 0-0)

When: Friday, Jan. 4, at 10 p.m. ET

Where: Gill Coliseum, Corvallis, OR

How to watch: Pac-12 Oregon

What to know: Both squads are carrying two-game winning streaks into this meeting, with Washington State’s win over Washington featuring a career performance from redshirt junior forward Borislava Hristova who, incidentally, has never played at Gill Coliseum due to ill-timed injuries. With the Beavers’ 8th-ranked field goal percentage in the nation — which features their NCAA-leading 43.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc — combined with their 10th-ranked field goal percentage defense, among other favorable statistics and history, they’ll come into this game with the clear advantage.

USC Trojans (10-2, 0-1) vs. No. 6 Stanford Cardinal (10-1, 0-0)

When: Friday, Jan. 4, at 11 p.m. ET

Where: Maples Pavilion, Stanford, CA

How to watch: Pac-12 Network, Pac-12 Bay Area

What to know: Stanford has been thriving since its one and only loss at Gonzaga, taking down then-No. 3 Baylor and then-No. 9 Tennessee in the following two games. Along with the fact that the Cardinal haven’t lost a conference-opening game since the 1999-2000 season, the Women of Troy have lost their last seven meetings with Stanford, including three times last season. If an upset isn’t in the cards, USC can at least gain some good experience against a ranked opponent before traveling to face another one in Cal on Sunday.


Elsewhere in the Pac-12:

  • Washington State redshirt junior forward Borislava Hristova was named Pac-12 Player of the Week after a 38-point performance in the Cougars’ conference opener against Washington, which was both a career-high and the second-highest total in the conference this season. Hristova scored her 38 points on 16-of-24 shooting, and her 16 made field goals is a school record.
  • Andrea Torres picked up Utah’s fifth Freshman of the Week honor of the season and is the third individual Ute freshman to receive the award. The forward scored a career-high 18 points in Utah’s conference opener against Colorado to go along with career-highs in field goals (7), shooting percentage (64 percent) and assists (3).

Pac-12 schedule and results