#Pac12Hoops continues trend as nation's deepest and most competitive

Matt Cohen/Icon Sportswire

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A lot of terms are being used to describe Pac-12 basketball this season. The best descriptors for the league celebrating its centennial in 2015-16 are the deepest and most competitive in college basketball and a conference that is on the verge of its most successful season in terms of postseason bids in its long and storied basketball history.

#PAC12HOOPS STARTING FIVE

1 - Via the NCAA Statistics conference trends rankings, the Pac-12 is first nationally in scoring average (78.0 ppg), rebound average (39.3 rpg) and block average (4.9 bpg) through Jan. 25 games.

9 - The Pac-12’s nine teams in the NCAA RPI Top 50 as of Jan. 26 are the most in the nation. Eleven of the Pac-12’s teams are in the top 70 of the RPI.

9 - Nine Pac-12 teams have an NCAA Strength of Schedule in the top 50, the most in the nation. Eleven of the Pac-12’s teams are in the top 67 in SOS.

9.1 - Every game is a battle in the Pac-12. Through 42 league games as of Jan. 25:
>> Average scoring margin is 9.1 ppg.
>> 24 have been decided by single digits.
>> 10 have been decided by one possession (3 pts or less).
>> Five have gone to overtime, combining for nine total OT periods.
>> Four have been decided by a team’s final possession (Bonam - UTAH @ COLO, Alford - UCLA vs ARIZ, R. Allen - STAN vs ASU, Brown - CAL vs ARIZ).

40 - The Pac-12’s combined total of RPI Top 50 victories through Jan. 25 are the most in the nation by a double-digit margin. The ACC and Big 12 are the next closest conferences with 30 apiece.

PAC-12 QUICK HITS

THE WILD WILD WEST: Through Jan. 25, only four games separate first and last place in the Pac-12 standings, tied with the Big 12 and Big West for the closest conference race in the nation outside the Ivy League (only 2 games played).

HOME SWEET HOME: ARIZONA owns NCAA Division I’s longest active home win streak at 49 consecutive games. OREGON has won 20 in a row at home, the 10th longest streak in the nation, while CALIFORNIA (14) and USC (12) are also enjoying lengthy home streaks.

BRACKETOLOGY: The Pac-12 is currently projected to earn 7-to-9 NCAA Tournament bids according to various bracketology posts from major sports news outlets:

USA Today - 9 (+1 First Four Out)
ESPN.com - 8 (+2 Next Four Out)
SI.com - 8 (+1 First Four Out)
NBCSports.com - 8 (+1 FFO/+1 NFO)
Sporting News - 8 (+2 on bubble)
FoxSports.com - 8 (+2 First Four Out)
CBSSports.com - 7 (+2 First Four Out)

All would set a record for bids for the Pac-12, while nine would equal the second-most and eight would match the third-most berths by a conference in NCAA Tournament history.

TOP 100 CHARTS: Through Jan. 25, the Pac-12 has 64 wins against NCAA RPI Top 100 teams, led by ARIZONA (6-4), CALIFORNIA (6-5), OREGON (9-3), USC (6-5) and UTAH (9-5).

The Pac-12 has 40 total wins versus the RPI Top 50, paced by CALIFORNIA (5-4), OREGON (8-2), USC (4-4), UTAH (4-5) and WASHINGTON (4-3). The Ducks’ eight top 50 wins are the most in the nation.

The Huskies (3-2) boast three of the Pac-12’s 14 RPI Top 25 wins, tied for the fourth-most in the nation.

12’s BEST IN MORE THAN 10: The Pac-12 is ranked second in the CBSSports.com Conference RPI compiled by Jerry Palm, behind only the Big 12. The last time the Pac-12 ranked second in the official NCAA Conference RPI was during the 2004-05 campaign.

FIRST TO 90 WINS?: There have been 13 instances of a Pac-12 team reaching the 90-point plateau through the 42 total league games of Jan. 25, one more than the 12 from the entire 2014-15 Pac-12 season.

TOPPLING THE TOP 25: Pac-12 teams posted a combined seven wins against Top 25 teams in non-conference play, tied for the second-most in the nation behind the ACC. Five of those upsets came in a span of 20 days (11/30-12/19). In total, Pac-12 teams have combined for 16 Top 25 wins, including road sweeps of ARIZONA, UCLA and UTAH in the opening two weeks of league play.

POELTL EARNS RARE HONOR FOR PAC-12: Along with earning his third Pac-12 Player of the Week honor of the season on Jan. 25, UTAH’s Jakob Poeltl was selected the USBWA Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week on Jan. 26. He is the first Pac-12 player to be bestowed the accolade since Dec. 2012 and just the fourth since the awards creation in 2009:

Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA - Dec. 2012
Faisal Aden, WASHINGTON STATE - Jan. 2012
Jerome Randle, CALIFORNIA - Feb. 2010

ROAD TO RIO PAVED BY PAC-12: USA Basketball released its list of the 30 finalists for its 2016 U.S. Olympic Men’s National Team roster on Jan. 18 and the Pac-12 Conference had the most former players listed with six:

DeMar DeRozan, USC
James Harden, ARIZONA STATE
Andre Iguodala, ARIZONA
Kevin Love, UCLA
Klay Thompson, WASHINGTON STATE
Russell Westbrook, UCLA

The six were among 62 former Pac-12 players listed on NBA rosters on opening day of the 2015-16 season, the second-most from a single conference behind the ACC’s 74.

#PAC12HOOPS LINEUP

1 - In one of this week's Pac-12 All-Access features, UTAH Coach Larry Krystkowiak and senior guard Brandon Taylor unite the Utes with sophomore pro prospect Jakob Poeltl as the team's focal point.

2 - In his second season at the helm of the Cougars, Coach Ernie Kent takes advantage of the road and upperclassmen Josh Hawkinson, Ike Iroegbu and Junior Longrus to build his WASHINGTON STATE men's basketball program.

3 - Pac-12 Networks analyst Lamar Hurd previews Thursday's marquee tilt as No. 23 OREGON visits No. 18 ARIZONA at 7 p.m. MT on ESPN2. The Wildcats will go for their 50th straight win at the McKale Center, while the Ducks aim to end the nation's longest home win streak.

4 - "I believe that the game is being played in our conference kind of how the nation wants it to be played, where there are more possessions and there is a faster pace, where skill is more involved," says ARIZONA's Sean Miller in a Today's U Sports feature Pac-12 basketball is back to being fast and fun.

5 - After being one of the Pac-12's trio of John R. Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 nominees last week, OREGON STATE's Gary Payton II was named to the USBWA Oscar Robertson National Player of the Year Midseason Top 20 List.

6 - Named in honor of the legendary ARIZONA coach and presented annually to the nation's top Division I player who has played at least two seasons, three Pac-12 players were among the 35 recently named to the Lute Olson Award Midseason Watch List - Payton II, CALIFORNIA's Tyrone Wallace and ARIZONA's Ryan Anderson.

7 - As he captures more national attention, SB Nation examines the tough-love relationship between Gary Payton II and his NBA Hall of Fame father and a nickname that gets the younger Payton's stamp of approval.

8 - Ivan Rabb, one-half of CALIFORNIA's standout rookie duo, was selected to the USBWA Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Midseason Top 10 List. Rabb leads all Pac-12 freshmen in rebounding (8.4 rpg) and field goal percentage (64.2%) while adding 12.6 points per game. Classmate Jaylen Brown leads a crop of nine Pac-12 freshmen averaging double-digit scoring at 15.0 points per game.

9 - Paced by double-digit scorers Dillon Brooks, Elgin Cook, Tyler Dorsey and Chris Boucher, OREGON moved into a tie for first in the Pac-12 and back into the national Top 25 with wins over USC and UCLA last week. Despite playing just two games in his OREGON career, Dylan Ennis' vocal impact has been key to the Ducks success.

10 - Three Pac-12 coaches - OREGON's Dana Altman, COLORADO's Tad Boyle and ARIZONA's Sean Miller - are among the 24 nationally to advance to the second round of the Infiniti Coaches' Charity Challenge.

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