College Basketball Nation: California Golden Bears

Nonconference schedule analysis: Pac-12

September, 11, 2013
This week, has been breaking down the nonconference schedules of each team in nine of the nation's top leagues. Next up: the Pac-12.


Toughest: at San Diego State (Nov. 14), NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 27-29 in New York), at Michigan (Dec. 14)
Next toughest: UNLV (Dec. 7)
The rest: Cal Poly (Nov. 8), Long Beach State (Nov. 11), New Mexico State (Dec. 11), Southern (Dec. 19), Northern Arizona (Dec. 23)

Toughness scale: 9 -- The Wildcats will go to one of the toughest spots in the Big Ten and in the Mountain West within a month of each other. The NIT Season Tip-Off is on the top line because it seems Arizona and Duke have a pretty clear path to the NIT final at MSG. If that occurs, then the Cats would have three premier games away from home. Playing UNLV and NMSU in Tucson will hardly be a cakewalk, either. This team can handle the chore, though, since it's got top-10 talent.


Toughest: at UNLV (Nov. 19), Marquette (Nov. 25), Wooden Legacy (Nov. 28-Dec. 1 in Fullerton and Anaheim, Calif.)
Next toughest: at DePaul (Dec. 5)
The rest: UMBC (Nov. 8), Miami-Ohio (Nov. 12), Idaho State (Nov. 15), Bradley (Nov. 22), Grambling (Dec. 14), Texas Tech (Dec. 21), UC Irvine (Dec. 28).

Toughness scale: 7 -- The Sun Devils play a number of teams that might not move the meter but are all high-level NCAA-bound squads. Marquette will be as tough a team to face as any on the slate and going to UNLV will be one of the hardest road stops. Opening with Creighton in the Wooden Legacy should be one of the top first-round games of any tournament (and with a win, San Diego State likely awaits). The road game at DePaul has to be taken seriously after the Blue Demons stunned the Sun Devils last season in Tempe. This is a quality schedule for a team that has NCAA expectations.


Toughest: Maui Invitational (Nov. 25-27), at Creighton (Dec. 22)
Next toughest: at UC Santa Barbara (Dec. 6)
The rest: Coppin State (Nov. 8), Denver (Nov. 12), Oakland (Nov. 15), Southern Utah (Nov. 18), UC Irvine (Dec. 2), Nevada (Dec. 10), Fresno State (Dec. 14), Furman (Dec. 28)

Toughness scale: 5 -- The game at Creighton is by far the toughest for the Bears. The question is who does Cal eventually get in Maui? If the Bears get past Arkansas, Syracuse is next and the schedule toughness goes up. If the draw is Minnesota, then it’s not as bad. Playing Baylor or Gonzaga on Day 3 would also help the schedule strength. This is a Bears' team that will get ripe with age in the season, so not overloading it early was the smart move.


Toughest: vs. Baylor (Nov. 8 in Dallas), Harvard (Nov. 24), Kansas (Dec. 7), vs. Oklahoma State (Dec. 21 in Las Vegas)
Next toughest: Wyoming (Nov. 13), at Air Force (Nov. 30), at Colorado State (Dec. 3), Georgia (Dec. 28)
The rest: UT Martin (Nov. 10), Jackson State (Nov. 16), Arkansas State (Nov. 18), UCSB (Nov. 21), Elon (Dec. 13)

Toughness scale: 9 -- The Buffaloes get major props for going out and scheduling one of the most difficult slates of any potential NCAA team. The toughest category above has four teams that should take turns in the top 25 and in the case of KU and OSU in the top five. Going to CSU is as tough a rivalry game as anyone will play. There are two more quality rivalry games at Air Force and against Wyoming and an improving Georgia coming west. Colorado might be more ready than any other Pac-12 team for conference play.


Toughest: vs. Georgetown (Nov. 8 in South Korea), at Ole Miss (Dec. 8), vs. Illinois (Dec. 14 in Portland)
Next toughest: BYU (Dec. 21)
The rest: Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Nov. 13), Utah Valley (Nov. 19), San Francisco (Nov. 24), Pacific (Nov. 29), North Dakota (Nov. 30), Cal Poly (Dec. 1), Morgan State (Dec. 29).

Toughness scale: 7 -- The Ducks will test themselves with the trip to Camp Humphreys in Seoul and Georgetown is a tough team to play no matter the location. But this will be a hard game to deal with, based on the location and logistics. The Rebels will likely be at full strength when the Ducks come calling in December. Illinois is rebuilding a bit but is always a tough out, even in a Duck-leaning site in Portland. BYU is a sleeper game on this schedule with the Cougars owning a legitimate shot to pull off the upset.


Toughest: at Maryland (Nov. 17), Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-25)
Next toughest: at DePaul (Dec. 1), Towson (Dec. 18)
The rest: Coppin State (Nov. 10), Portland (Nov. 13), SIU Edwardsville (Nov. 26), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Dec. 7), Maryland Eastern Shore (Dec. 15), Quinnipiac (Dec. 29)

Toughness scale: 4 -- The Beavers are still dealing with the suspensions of Eric Moreland and Devon Collier. So a schedule that is too tough wouldn't have made sense for them. Going on the road to Maryland early in the season could be a wake-up call. A road game at DePaul is hardly going to be easy for the Beavers. The Diamond Head Classic could be intriguing if the Beavers beat Akron and get Iowa State on Day 2.


Toughest: at UConn (Dec. 18), vs. Michigan (Dec. 21 in Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Next toughest: BYU (Nov. 11), Legends Classic (Nov. 25-26 in New York)
The rest: Bucknell (Nov. 8), Northwestern (Nov. 14), at Denver (Nov. 17), Texas Southern (Nov. 21), South Dakota State (Dec. 1), UC Davis (Dec. 14), Cal Poly (Dec. 29)

Toughness scale: 6 -- The Cardinal get plenty of credit for going east -- twice. Stanford will be ready for the road in the Pac-12 after November and December. The UConn-Michigan swing in the tri-state area is as tough a nonconference road trip as any team has from the West Coast. Washington tried this two years ago with Marquette and Duke in New York City and went home winless. The Legends Classic could turn out to be Stanford's event if the Cardinal can get by Houston and then an anticipated matchup with Pitt. BYU in the opener will wake up this team, too.


Toughest: at Missouri (Dec. 7), vs. Duke (Dec. 19 in New York)
Next toughest: vs. Northwestern (Nov. 29 in Las Vegas), Alabama (Dec. 28)
The rest: Drexel (Nov. 8), Oakland (Nov. 12), Sacramento State (Nov. 18), Morehead State (Nov. 22), Chattanooga (Nov. 24), vs. Nevada (Nov. 28 in Las Vegas), UCSB (Dec. 3), Prairie View A&M (Dec. 14), Weber State (Dec. 22)

Toughness scale: 6 -- The Bruins didn't hide from playing Duke in New York City, a virtual home game for the Blue Devils. The return game at Mizzou will be as rocking a road game for UCLA as it will have during the season. The rest of the slate is more than manageable. There is always room to stumble and the Bruins have at home recently. So let's see if Steve Alford wins the games he's supposed to at Pauley.


Toughest: at Utah State (Nov. 8), Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 28-30 in the Bahamas)
Next toughest: Boston College (Dec. 8), at Long Beach State (Dec. 19), at Dayton (Dec. 22)
The rest: Cal State Northridge (Nov. 12), Northern Arizona (Nov. 15), Cal State Fullerton (Nov. 19), West Alabama (Nov. 21), CSU Bakersfield (Dec. 15), Howard (Dec. 29)

Toughness scale: 7 -- The Trojans are going to places few Pac-12 schools would choose to go. No teams from power conferences, outside of Mississippi State this season, go to Utah State. The trip to Logan to open the season will be a bear for new coach Andy Enfield. The Atlantis tournament might not be kind to the Trojans, either, with a possible second-round game against Kansas (after opening with Villanova). BC is much improved and will test USC at home. The road games to Long Beach State and Dayton are two other stops not normally found on a high-major nonconference road schedule.


Toughest: at Boise State (Dec. 3), BYU (Dec. 14)
Next toughest: Fresno State (Dec. 7)
The rest: Evergreen State (Nov. 8), UC Davis (Nov. 15), Grand Canyon (Nov. 21), Lamar (Nov. 22), Savannah State (Nov. 23), Ball State (Nov. 27), Idaho State (Dec. 10), Texas State (Dec. 19), St. Katherine (Dec. 28)

Toughness scale: 3 -- The Utes play one true road game in the nonconference. Boise State should be the second pick in the Mountain West, so that will be a tough one. The BYU rivalry game is at home this season, a plus for the Utes. But the rest of the schedule is weak. That's OK, considering Utah is trying to rebuild under Larry Krystkowiak. But they can't expect much of a postseason chance off this schedule.


Toughest: 2K Sports Classic (Nov. 21-22 in New York), at San Diego State (Dec. 8), UConn (Dec. 22)
Next toughest: N/A
The rest: Seattle (Nov. 10), UC Irvine (Nov. 14), Eastern Washington (Nov. 17), Montana (Nov. 26), Long Beach State (Nov. 30), Idaho State (Dec. 14), at Tulane (Dec. 17), Mississippi Valley (Dec. 27), Hartford (Dec. 29)

Toughness scale: 6 -- Washington has some renewed energy and is a team that should be on the radar as a possible NCAA tourney squad. That means the games against the Aztecs, home against UConn and then in New York against Indiana and either BC or UConn will carry significant weight as to how UW is judged as tourney worthy or not in March. I like this schedule as a legitimate prep for the Pac-12 to gauge where the Huskies will be later in the season.


Toughest: at Gonzaga (Nov. 21), Old Spice Classic (Nov. 28-Dec. 1 in Orlando)
Next toughest: TCU (Nov. 24), UTEP (Dec. 21)
The rest: CSU Bakersfield (Nov. 8), Lamar (Nov. 16), Pepperdine (Dec. 15), at Idaho (Dec. 7), vs. San Francisco State (Dec. 18 in Kennewick, Wash.), Mississippi Valley State (Dec. 28)

Toughness scale: 4 -- The Cougars play two of their rivalry games on the road at the Zags and in Moscow, Idaho. The Old Spice Classic could be a breakthrough for Wazzu with a rebuilding Butler team in the first round. Get that win and it's a likely shot at Oklahoma State in Round 2. The TCU home game could be a sneaky spot on the schedule, wedged in between Gonzaga and the Orlando trip.

Seven things to know from Thursday

March, 22, 2013
1. Harvard won an NCAA tournament game for the first time in program history. The Crimson defeated No. 3-seed New Mexico. Harvard is the first 14-seed or lower from the Ivy League to win an NCAA tournament game.

2. Since seeding began in 1979, the 46-point victory by 5-seed Virginia Commonwealth over No. 12 Akron was the largest margin of victory ever by any team seeded lower than 2. That record lasted for about an hour. Syracuse, a 4-seed, broke it with a 47-point win over Montana.

3. Southern's six-point loss against Gonzaga was the closest by a No. 16 seed against a No. 1 seed since 1996, when Western Carolina lost by two against Purdue. Southern is only the fifth No. 16 seed in the past 20 years to come within single digits of a 1-seed.

4. Vander Blue's go-ahead layup with one second remaining against Davidson was the first game-tying or go-ahead shot made in the final 10 seconds of a game in the past two NCAA tournaments. Prior to Blue's shot, players missed the previous 22 attempts in those situations, dating back to the 2011 NCAA tournament.

5. With Butler's win over Bucknell, Brad Stevens is now 12-4 in the NCAA tournament. Stevens is the seventh coach to win at least 12 of his first 16 NCAA tournament games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The only coaches with a better record in their first 16 NCAA tournament games are Tom Izzo and Steve Fisher.

6. Russ Smith had eight steals for Louisville in its win over North Carolina A&T, matching the most in any NCAA tournament game (steals became official in 1986). The last player with eight steals in a game was North Carolina's Ty Lawson in the 2009 national championship game.

7. With its loss to No. 12-seed California, UNLV, a No. 5 seed, became the third team ever to lose four consecutive games in the round of 64 as the higher seed, joining Clemson (1998-2010) and BYU (1995-2009).
A look at where Bracketology stands at the end of Thursday's action. Check back Friday morning for an updated full bracket.


Ohio State/EAST

California (drops here with loss to Utah)
Saint Mary's
Wichita State

La Salle

Boise State
Middle Tennessee
Ole Miss
Southern Miss (replaces Baylor)

Baylor (drops from "First Four Out")
1. At least one coach in the new Big East, filled with the Catholic 7 schools and likely Butler and Xavier, has been told to anticipate a 16-game schedule next season, according to one source with knowledge of the situation. That would force the seven Big East schools -- Georgetown, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, Villanova, DePaul and Marquette -- to get two more non-conference games after playing 18 in the Big East this season. Of course, if Creighton is chosen as the 10th member for next season instead of in 2014, the league can pull off a true round-robin, 18-game league schedule, much like the Big 12. That's what the league should do to have a major splash in Year 1. The league's new television partner, expected to be Fox, would probably like to have two more games per team to show.

2. I don't understand why four Stanford assistant coaches and Cal assistant Gregg Gottlieb were ejected from the Cal-Stanford game for coming onto the floor to break up a scuffle Wednesday night. The assistant coaches were acting as peacemakers and trying to ensure the situation didn't escalate. Gottlieb was reacting to a volatile situation. Were the assistant coaches expected to just sit there and watch a full-scale fight? At some point, common sense has to factor into some of these decisions. If the assistant coaches were doing more harm than good, fine. Gabriel Harris of Stanford and Richard Solomon of Cal were also ejected -- but not for fighting, meaning they wouldn't have to miss their respective teams' next games, in the Pac-12 tournament. The conference could always add to the discipline if warranted.

3. Give Washington State coach Ken Bone and Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory a lot of credit for ensuring their teams were still playing with purpose and passion in the final week of the regular season, despite no shot at the postseason (barring miraculous runs in the Pac-12 and ACC tournaments, respectively). The Cougars' victory over UCLA in Pullman on Wednesday had to give Bone such relief after a rough season. The Yellow Jackets, mired in the bottom third of the ACC, denied Miami the chance to clinch the league's regular-season title with a last-second putback. The same is true of Nebraska's Tim Miles, who had the Huskers ready to pounce on Minnesota in Lincoln. South Florida, meanwhile, has won two in a row at the bottom of the Big East. This final week of the season has proven to be as unpredictable as the season as a whole.

Video: Teams with a lot of momentum

March, 4, 2013

On "College Basketball Live Extra," Matt Doherty goes over three teams that are heating up entering the NCAA tournament.

Video: Cal 48, Oregon 46

February, 21, 2013

Justin Cobbs' game winner lifts California to a 48-46 win over No. 23 Oregon.

3-point shot: Oladipo looking like POY

February, 20, 2013
1. This could be a year where there is no consensus among the various player of the year awards from the Wooden, to the AP to the Naismith to the Oscar Robertson to the Rupp. That's why Indiana's Victor Oladipo, Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart, Kansas' Ben McLemore or Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk could win one or all of the awards over the previous four trendy picks a month ago: Creighton's Doug McDermott, Michigan's Trey Burke, Indiana's Cody Zeller and Duke's Mason Plumlee. Smart can make a strong case with a win over KU and McLemore Wednesday in Stillwater. Olynyk will be in the chase throughout as the Zags cruise. But Oladipo made his strongest case yet in Tuesday night's win over Michigan State in East Lansing. Oladipo finished with 19 points, including a clinching offensive rebound put back and a breakaway dunk. Oladipo is shooting 63.8 percent in the half court -- best among big six players -- and creates offense with his steals at the defensive end. He had five against the Spartans on Tuesday. In two games against Michigan State, Oladipo has 11 of the Hoosiers' 16 steals. The votes are fluid and there is still time but for this week my vote would go to Oladipo.

2. Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said late Tuesday night that he was thrilled with the play of his big three: Trae Golden, Jarnell Stokes and Jordan McRae. They were the difference in the rout of LSU in Knoxville. The Volunteers have won four in a row, including the 30-point pounding of Kentucky last Saturday. If you're looking for an SEC tournament buster that could cause serious problems for bubble teams in the league -- and who knows maybe win the tournament -- then put Tennessee down. The SEC tournament is in Nashville and the Vols are clicking at the right time. This is exactly the type of team that could get hot over a three-day period in a conference tournament. The Vols have the size inside and can suddenly score (not resembling at all the team that lost to Georgetown 37-36 Nov. 30). The Vols have scored 88 and 82 points in the past two games.

3. Oregon coach Dana Altman said Tuesday night that freshman point guard Dominic Artis is still doubtful for Thursday's game against Cal due to his nagging foot injury. The Ducks are trying to avoid being swept by the Bears, who beat Oregon in Berkeley 58-54. Oregon committed 22 turnovers in the loss. Altman said the Ducks need to slow Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs to win. "Cal is the hot team in the conference,'' said Altman. If Cal beats Oregon on Thursday night (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2) then they are in a strong position to challenge for the Pac-12 title. If Oregon wins, then the Ducks will be in a tremendous spot to win the conference without having to play Arizona or UCLA again the rest of the season and winning a tiebreaker with both. The Ducks are 4-3 without Artis, the team's top point guard.

Joe Lunardi's Bracketology update

February, 16, 2013
A quick Bracketology update after Saturday's action-packed day:

Midwest: Indiana
East: Miami
South: Florida
West: Duke
(No. 5 on the S-curve: Gonzaga)

Arizona State

Indiana State

Video: California 77, Arizona 69

February, 10, 2013
Allen Crabbe drops 31 points in the Golden Bears' 77-69 win over the No. 7 Wildcats.
One man’s predictions for an always unpredictable weekend of college basketball. I'm sure one or two of you might disagree with these:


Michigan at Wisconsin, Noon ET, ESPN: The Wolverines have America’s most efficient offense. The Badgers have the Big Ten’s top scoring defense. Something has to give. Michigan hasn’t been the same team on the road, but it played like a team that recognized the moment when it beat Ohio State in overtime this week. I think the Wolverines are too motivated and too versatile for a Wisconsin squad that could make this a tight game but can’t be counted on to hit free throws down the stretch (58.7 percent from the line in conference games, last in the Big Ten).
Prediction: Michigan 59, Wisconsin 54

Ole Miss at Missouri, 1 p.m. ET, CBS: The Tigers lost to the Rebels in their first meeting, but they played without Laurence Bowers. Now we’ll see how they perform when they’re healthy. Keion Bell is ready. Bowers is back. They’re in Columbia. Yet they’re coming off a road loss to Texas A&M on Thursday night. And the Rebels have the top scoring offense in SEC play (75.2 ppg). Those numbers, however, are inflated by a few monster performances against the SEC’s underachievers (a large list). The truth is that Ole Miss has not scored more than 64 points in four of its past eight games. Marshall Henderson has been a star as usual, but sidekick Murphy Holloway is 9-for-30 in the team’s two SEC losses. But turnovers will hurt the Tigers again (114th nationally with turnovers on 19.1 percent of their possessions) in another SEC loss.
Prediction: Ole Miss 68, Missouri 67

North Carolina at Miami, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN: The Hurricanes have been one of America’s surprises in 2012-13. Once they reached full strength (see Durand Scott's suspension, Reggie Johnson's thumb injury), they proved that they’re not only a team that can win the ACC but a program that can compete for a national title. And they’re doing it with defense (fourth in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings). But they can’t keep this up, right? Or can they? Saturday is a great opportunity for North Carolina to make a statement and boost its résumé. The Tar Heels have defeated only one ranked team (UNLV was 20th when it lost to UNC in December). That was at home and they needed 79 points to pull it off. Not happening in Miami.
Prediction: Miami 68, UNC 60

Kansas at Oklahoma, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN: Huh? Kansas lost to TCU on Wednesday? In a real game? I still don’t understand exactly what happened the other night, but I know enough to be concerned about a Kansas team that was questioned by Bill Self after a weekend loss to Oklahoma State. On Saturday, the Jayhawks travel to face an Oklahoma squad that is looking for more solid footing in the at-large conversation. A win against a struggling Kansas squad would certainly help. Too bad it won’t happen. The Jayhawks will be ready.
Prediction: Kansas 75, Oklahoma 65

Iowa State at Kansas State, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2: This is a matchup of the Big 12’s top scoring offense (ISU is averaging 73.9 ppg in Big 12 play) and its top scoring defense (KSU is giving up 60.3 ppg in conference play). What I appreciate about this game is that both teams recognize how the Big 12 has changed in the past week. Kansas State (7-2) and Iowa State (6-3) are not only chasing an NCAA tournament slot, but they’re also going after a Big 12 crown that is no longer a given for the Jayhawks. Will Clyburn has been a star for the Cyclones in recent weeks. He scored 28 in a win against Baylor and 24 in a win against Kansas State in their first matchup. The Cyclones are 4-1 when he scores 16 or more in league play. He’ll show up Saturday and lead Iowa State to another win against the Wildcats.
Prediction: Iowa State 69, Kansas State 63

Louisville at Notre Dame, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN: Louisville has followed its surprising three-game losing skid with wins against Pitt, Marquette and Rutgers. The defensive prowess (second in defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy) that eluded the Cardinals in that slide returned during the current winning streak. Notre Dame has been much tougher at home than it has been on the road, but it’s allowing Big East opponents to shoot 46 percent from the field, 14th in the conference. Nevertheless, the Cardinals’ offense has struggled on the road, and Jack Cooley’s physicality (14.2 ppg, 11.2 rpg in league play) inside could lead to early foul trouble for Louisville’s bigs. "GameDay" is in town, and the crowd will be revved up. I'm going with the Irish.
Prediction: Notre Dame 62, Louisville 58


Indiana at Ohio State, 1 p.m. ET, CBS: The Buckeyes nearly upset Michigan in Ann Arbor on Tuesday. Any doubts about Ohio State’s standing in the Big Ten and nationally should have been erased by that performance. When it’s not just the Deshaun Thomas Show, and Shannon Scott, LaQuinton Ross, Aaron Craft and others are contributing, the Buckeyes are dangerous. And they’re far more fluid at home than they are on the road. If there’s one question about Indiana, it’s this: Can the Hoosiers beat elite teams outside Assembly Hall? They failed to convince doubters when they lost to Illinois in Champaign on Thursday night. Sunday’s matchup, IU’s first of the year against a ranked team on the road, will be another test for Tom Crean’s program, which is suddenly in a crucial spot in Columbus. It’s a test that I don’t believe the Hoosiers will pass.
Prediction: Ohio State 73, Indiana 70

St. John’s at Syracuse, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN: The Red Storm have quietly authored a stretch that’s elevated them into Big East title contention. St. John’s is 7-4 after winning six of its past seven. That run includes wins against Notre Dame and UConn. Yes, the Johnnies are young, but Steve Lavin’s team has played with more poise in recent weeks (11th in the country with turnovers on 15.9 percent of its possessions). The Red Storm are getting better. They’re maturing. And they have one of the nation’s great defensive stoppers in freshman Chris Obekpa (4.4 blocks per game, second in the nation). Syracuse is not 100 percent. No James Southerland, and DaJuan Coleman is out with a knee injury. But the Orange’s depth has helped them during this stretch. As the team was trying to shake a two-game losing streak, it found Jerami Grant, a freshman who scored 14 points in Monday’s win against Notre Dame. Cuse is still potent, even short-handed.
Prediction: Syracuse 72, St. John’s 65

Illinois at Minnesota, 6 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network: The Gophers are ranked 18th in the Associated Press poll, but they’ve lost five of their past seven. And Illinois has gone from a 12-0 start to a 3-7 mark in Big Ten play. The Illini had the worst scoring defense in the league (69.8 ppg allowed) entering Thursday’s 74-72 come-from-behind victory against No. 1 Indiana, but that win was the Fighting Illini’s fourth of the season against a team that is currently ranked in the top 15 (Butler, Gonzaga, Ohio State and Indiana). The Gophers, to their credit, have played some of the toughest teams in the country/Big Ten thus far. Illinois is a much different foe than Indiana, Michigan or Michigan State. The IU upset doesn’t erase the fact that Illinois’ defense has been a mess all season. Plus, Minnesota is so tough at the Barn, and it’s convinced that it is a squad with the potential to reach the NCAA tournament and win a few games in the Big Dance. Sunday will be another opportunity for the Gophers to prove it.
Prediction: Minnesota 71, Illinois 65

California at Arizona, 7 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network: The Wildcats haven’t exactly looked like a top-10 team lately. Part of that is inconsistency. But the Pac-12’s limited depth hasn’t helped either. You can’t get too excited about a win against a team such as Washington State, which has won three games since Christmas. But the Wildcats will need to avoid another regular-season loss in the Pac-12 to challenge for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. A March 2 road game at UCLA might be the only matchup that could threaten that pursuit. Still, Cal has one of the country’s most underrated point guards in Justin Cobbs (4.3 apg), and the Bears have given up only 65.3 ppg in conference play (third in the Pac-12). The Wildcats could certainly become an upset victim if they’re lazy or soft.
Prediction: Arizona 72, Cal 62

Video: California 58, Oregon 54

February, 2, 2013
Allen Crabbe and Richard Solomon each scored 13 points as California handed No. 10 Oregon its second consecutive loss, 58-54.

Video: UNLV 76, Cal 75

December, 9, 2012

With less than three seconds to go in the game, Quintrell Thomas' rebound and bucket propel No. 21 UNLV to a 76-75 win over California.

Video: California 78, Pacific 58

November, 26, 2012
Allen Crabbe scores 24 in California's 78-58 win over Pacific.'s Pac-12 preview

October, 22, 2012
Before we get to the Blue Ribbon team-by-team previews for the Pac-12, here is Eamonn Brennan's quick wind sprint through the league:

Blue Ribbon's in-depth previews of all 12 Pac-12 teams: Insider

Arizona State
California Insider Free
Oregon State
Washington State

More Pac-12 content:
-- Eamonn Brennan's "Five Things I Can't Wait To See" in the Pac-12
-- ESPN the Magazine's Jordan Brenner examines UCLA to see whether the Bruins can "save" the Pac-12
-- Miles Simon answers five burning questions for the conference Insider
-- Chad Ford on the Pac-12's best NBA draft prospects Insider
-- Brennan's Three Big Things on UCLA
-- Video: Andy Katz interviews Arizona coach Sean Miller and UCLA coach Ben Howland
-- Jason King rates and analyzes the nonconference schedules of the Pac-12
-- Katz on USC's attempt to bounce back from a horrific season
-- Katz on the sudden awakening of Colorado basketball under Tad Boyle
-- Joel Francisco identifies the top freshmen and potential recruits in the ACC Insider
--'s Summer Shootaround preview of the Pac-12
-- ESPNLA's coverage of UCLA and USC.

-- For more Pac-12 coverage in the Nation blog, click here

Nonconference schedule analysis: Pac-12

October, 10, 2012
This week, is breaking down the nonconference schedules of each and every team in a dozen of the nation's top leagues. On Monday, we began with the ACC, SEC and C-USA. On Tuesday, we focused on the East with the A-10, Big East and CAA. Today we head out West with the Mountain West, Pac-12 and WCC.


Toughest: Florida (Dec. 15), Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-25)
Next-toughest: Long Beach State (Nov. 19), at Clemson (Dec. 8), Oral Roberts (Dec. 18)
The rest: Charleston Southern (Nov. 11), UTEP (Nov. 15), Northern Arizona (Nov. 28), at Texas Tech (Dec. 1), Southern Miss (Dec. 4)
Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- The Wildcats’ tilt with Florida in Tucson could be one of the marquee nonconference games of the season. And the Diamond Head Classic boasts a solid field. After opening with ETSU out in Honolulu, look for Arizona to play NCAA tournament contender Miami in the semifinals and either Ole Miss or San Diego State in the title game if it makes it that far. Otherwise, the schedule is somewhat soft for a top-20-caliber squad. LBSU and Southern Miss were NCAA tournament teams last season, but both lost a lot.


Toughest: Las Vegas Invitational (Nov. 23-24)
Next-toughest: DePaul (Dec. 12), at Texas Tech (Dec. 22)
The rest: Central Arkansas (Nov. 10), Florida A&M (Nov. 18), Cornell (Nov. 20), Arkansas Pine-Bluff (Nov. 28), Sacramento State (Dec. 1), Hartford (Dec. 5), Cal State Northridge (Dec. 8), Dartmouth (Dec. 15), Coppin State (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 2 -- This almost looks like a schedule designed to help save the job of head coach Herb Sendek, who enters the 2012-13 season on the hot seat. Arizona State will play Arkansas and either Wisconsin or Creighton in Las Vegas. Otherwise, there isn’t a high-level foe on the entire nonconference slate. DePaul and Texas Tech are both expected to finish near the bottom of their respective leagues. Maybe a gaudy win total will give ASU confidence entering league play?


Toughest: at Wisconsin (Dec. 2), UNLV (Dec. 9), Creighton (Dec. 15)
Next-toughest: at Denver (Nov. 16), DIRECTV Classic (Nov. 22-25 in Anaheim, Calif.), Harvard (Dec. 29)
The rest: CSU Bakersfield (Nov. 11), Pepperdine (Nov. 13), Drake (Nov. 22), UC Santa Barbara (Dec. 18), Prairie View A&M (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- The Golden Bears' schedule is anything but soft with games against Wisconsin, UNLV and Creighton -- all of whom should enter the season in the Top 25. Cal will also be tested at home by Harvard and on the road against a dangerous Denver team. The DIRECTV Classic field is a bit underwhelming, although a title game matchup between the Bears and Saint Mary’s could be entertaining.


Toughest: Charleston Classic (Nov. 15-18), Colorado State (Dec. 5), at Kansas (Dec. 8)
Next-toughest: at Wyoming (Dec. 1)
The rest: Wofford (Nov. 9), Air Force (Nov. 25), Texas Southern (Nov. 27), at Fresno State (Dec. 12), Northern Arizona (Dec. 21), Hartford (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- The Buffaloes may have a chance to avenge last season’s NCAA tournament loss to Baylor if both teams win their opening games in the Charleston Classic (CU opens with Dayton), a tourney that also includes Murray State and St. John's. And credit should go to any team willing to play a nonconference game against Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse. But other than those games and a tilt with rival CSU, a fringe Top 25 team, the Buffs’ noncon slate doesn’t look all that daunting.


Toughest: Global Sports Classic (Nov. 23-24), Nevada (Dec. 31)
Next-toughest: Vanderbilt (Nov. 16), at UTEP (Dec. 19)
The rest: Northern Arizona (Nov. 10), Portland State (Nov. 12), Jacksonville State (Nov. 19), Texas-San Antonio (Nov. 29), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Dec. 1), Idaho State (Dec. 8), Nebraska (Dec. 15), Houston Baptist (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- It’s understandable that third-year coach Dana Altman would schedule somewhat soft as he tries to develop confidence in his players and generate fan support for his program. Still, it’s not as if this slate is completely void of marquee games. Oregon will travel to UNLV and get either Iowa State or Cincinnati the next night in the Global Sports Challenge. And Nevada will be in the mix for the Mountain West title.


Toughest: 2K Sports Classic (Nov. 15-16 in New York), vs. Kansas (Nov. 30 in Kansas City)
Next-toughest: New Mexico State (Nov. 11)
The rest: Niagara (Nov. 9), Montana State (Nov. 25), Grambling State (Dec. 8), at Portland State (Dec. 12), Chicago State (Dec. 16), Howard (Dec. 19), vs. San Diego (Dec. 22 in Las Vegas), Towson (Dec. 29), Texas-Pan American (Dec. 31)
Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- Other than a showdown with Kansas in Kansas City, the Beavers' schedule won’t do much for the excite-o-meter. They’ll face Alabama and either Purdue or Villanova in the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden. Purdue and Nova are both down. New Mexico State will contend for the WAC title and could give the Beavers some trouble in Corvalis. Oregon State can’t afford any upsets in any of its other nonconference games, though, if it wants to be taken seriously.


Toughest: Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 22-24), at NC State (Dec. 18)
Next-toughest: Cal State Fullerton (Nov. 12), Belmont (Nov. 18), at Northwestern (Dec. 21)
The rest: vs. San Francisco (Nov. 9 in Oakland, Calif.), Alcorn State (Nov. 15), Seattle (Nov. 28), Denver (Dec. 2), UC Davis (Dec. 15), Lafayette (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- Any team in the Battle 4 Atlantis gets extra points in this rating. The field is loaded and might go 8-for-8 in terms of NCAA tourney teams. Stanford opens with Missouri there and will then face either Louisville or Northern Iowa. Duke and Memphis are on the other side of the bracket. North Carolina State will open the season ranked in the top 10 and Northwestern will be an NCAA tournament bubble team (again).


Toughest: Legends Classic (Nov. 19-20), vs. San Diego State (Dec. 1 in Anaheim, Calif.), vs. Texas (Dec. 8 in Houston), Missouri (Dec. 28)
Next-toughest: Long Beach State (Dec. 18)
The rest: Indiana State (Nov. 9), UC Irvine (Nov. 13), James Madison (Nov. 15), Cal Poly (Nov. 25), Cal State Northridge (Nov. 28), Prairie View A&M (Dec. 15), Fresno State (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- Not many teams in the country boast a nonconference schedule as challenging as UCLA’s. If the Bruins get by Georgetown in the semifinals of the Legends Classic in Brooklyn, they’ll likely face national title contender Indiana the following evening. Missouri and San Diego State are both Top 25 caliber teams and Texas could be, too, by the end of the season. Shabazz Muhammad & Co. will have plenty of chances to play on the big stage.


Toughest: Maui Invitational (Nov. 19-21), San Diego State (Nov. 25), at New Mexico (Dec. 5), Minnesota (Dec. 8)
Next-toughest: Long Beach State (Nov. 13), at Georgia (Dec. 22), Dayton (Dec. 30)
The rest: Coppin State (Nov. 9), at Nebraska (Dec. 3), UC Riverside (Dec. 15), UC Irvine (Dec. 20)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Trojans coach Kevin O’Neill has a history of scheduling tough in the nonconference, and this season is no different. USC opens the Maui Invitational against Illinois and will likely face Texas in the next round. North Carolina, Butler or Marquette could await in the third game. San Diego State is a top-15-caliber team and New Mexico features one of the toughest road environments in the country. This could be one of Tubby Smith’s best Minnesota squads.


Toughest: at BYU (Dec. 8)
Next-toughest: at SMU (Nov. 28), Boise State (Dec. 5)
The rest: Williamette (Nov. 9), Sacramento State (Nov. 16), Idaho State (Nov. 21), Central Michigan (Nov. 23), Wright State (Nov. 24), at Texas State (Nov. 30), SMU (Dec. 18), Cal State Northridge (Dec. 21), College of Idaho (Dec. 28)
Toughness scale (1-10): 1 -- Teams coming off of a 6-25 season shouldn’t be expected to schedule a tough nonconference slate, so we’ll cut Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak a break this season -- and probably next season, too. The Utah Thanksgiving Tournament features Central Michigan, Wright State and Idaho State, all of whom had losing records last season. And yes, Utah is playing SMU two times, once at home and once on the road.


Toughest: Tip-Off Hall of Fame Classic (Nov. 17-18 in Uncasville, Conn.), Colorado State (Nov. 24), Saint Louis (Nov. 28), Nevada (Dec. 8), at Connecticut (Dec. 29)
Next-toughest: Loyola-Maryland (Nov. 11), Cal State Fullerton (Dec. 2)
The rest: Albany (Nov. 13), at Seattle (Dec. 13), Jackson State (Dec. 15), Cal Poly (Dec. 20), Northern Illinois (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- A Huskies team that appears to be in a transition year won’t catch any breaks with its schedule. Lorenzo Romar’s squad will play Seton Hall and either Ohio State or Rhode Island at the Mohegan Sun, and it’ll also have a chance to avenge last season’s blowout loss against Saint Louis. Colorado State and Nevada are also good enough to win in Seattle.


Toughest: CBE Classic (Nov. 19-20 in Kansas City), Gonzaga (Dec. 5)
Next-toughest: Idaho (Nov. 28)
The rest: Eastern Washington (Nov. 10), Utah Valley (Nov. 14), at Pepperdine (Nov. 16), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Nov. 24), Portland (Dec. 1), Fresno State (Dec. 9), Jackson State (Dec. 13), Buffalo (Dec. 21), Idaho State (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- The Cougars will open the CBE Classic against Kansas in Kansas City and then face either Saint Louis or Texas A&M the following night. Could be a rough trip. Other than that, though, Washington State’s only marquee nonconference game is the annual tilt with Gonzaga. With Ken Bone on the hot seat and Reggie Moore dismissed from the team during the offseason, this may be the perfect season to take things easy in the nonconference.