With only a couple of games left in non-conference hoops, let's take a look at teams around the Pac-12 and see who looks strong early in the season.
Best Victory: 87-77 over #1 Kentucky
Of all the Pac-12 teams, the Bruins easily had the toughest non-conference schedule squaring off against powerhouses Kansas, Kentucky, Gonzaga and North Carolina. The Bruins started off the season with a mind boggling loss at home against Monmouth and narrowly avoided another upset against Cal Poly. The Bruins continued to struggle through the Maui Invitational, but shortly after started to gain some rhythm. Through a brutal stretch where they faced #1 Kentucky, #20 Gonzaga and former #1 North Carolina, the Bruins came away 2-1. Alford's team drastically improved on the defensive side of the ball and are finally coming together before conference play starts.
Best Victory: 90-82 over New Mexico
It says a lot about USC's non-conference schedule that their best victory came against an unranked New Mexico team. The Trojans started out strong behind a very easy schedule without facing any top tier opponents. The biggest non-conference game they played this year was against Xavier which they lost easily. It will be much easier to get a read on this team once the conference play starts and they are forced to play bigger opponents.
Best Victory: 68-63 over #13 Gonzaga
Conference favorite Arizona had one of the easier schedules during non-conference play and they haven't disappointed against lesser competition. Their only blemish on a near perfect start to the season was a loss to Providence. It will be interesting to see how Arizona starts off Pac-12 play as they play in state rival Arizona State and then they hit the road to visit UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.
Best Victory: 67-54 over #18 Texas A&M
Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley did his best this year to beef up their out of conference schedule and thus far the results have been positive. The Sun Devils nearly won the Legends Classic this year, losing to Marquette in overtime. After narrowly avoiding two upsets, they met Texas A&M at home and beat the Aggies handily. The Sun Devils have two more non-conference games that should be victories before squaring off against Arizona in the biggest game early on in Pac-12 play.
Best Victory: 77-75 (OT) over #7 Duke
Utah has been flirting with the top-25 ranks all season, dropping out last week but almost assuredly moving back in after upsetting Duke. The Utes played one of the tougher non-conference schedules and came away fairly unscathed. After playing Miami, Texas Tech and Duke, the Utes came away with two victories and a big loss against the Hurricanes. They look very strong early and are on target to make the tournament come season end.
Best Victory: 92-83 over BYU
The Buffaloes are off to a hot start with one of the best records thus far in non-conference play. However, similar to USC, they haven't played a lot of strong competition. They lost against Iowa State and there only other win over a well established program was against BYU. We will very quickly see how this team stacks up in the Pac-12 as they head to California to take on the Bears and Cardinal.
Best Victory: 69-66 over Arkansas
Stanfurd went the route of playing a tough non-conference schedule and has paid for it dearly. The Cardinal don't have any signature wins and narrowly lost against Texas at home to deepen the wound. The Cardinal will face Utah for the start of Pac-12 play and will have to win in order to start building a tournament ready resume.
Best Victory: 63-59 over Saint Mary's
Cal has started the season well, playing a decent non-conference schedule with the biggest matchup yet to come against Virginia. The Bears entered the season with lofty expectations with the arrival of Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown, however have shown signs of youth in non-conference play. The Bears haven't quite established an identity yet and will look to do so in their final non-conference games, especially Virginia and Davidson.
Best Victory: 66-62 over Nevada
Oregon State, desperate to make the tournament for the first time in 25+ years, has started the season strong against a soft out of conference schedule. In their biggest matchup of the season, the Beavers fell to Kansas by 15 but have been playing well against lesser competition. Their final out of conference games should be tune ups as they prepare to face Oregon at home to start off conference play
Best Victory: 74-67 over #20 Baylor
The Ducks have played very well early in non-conference play and beat a strong Baylor team very early in the season. They entered the top 25 after that victory, falling out only recently after losing to Boise State. Oregon should contend for the Pac-12 title this season as their revamped program continues to head the right direction.
Best Victory: 77-71 over Texas
The Huskies had been on a four game winning streak after two consecutive losses in late November, only to lose this past weekend against Oakland. Washington has played one of the better non-conference schedules of any team in the conference but wasn't able to build any big wins by doing so. The latest loss hurts an otherwise solid early season for the Huskies as the look toward their meeting with #22 UCLA.
Best Victory: 84-68 over UTEP
Washington State has their biggest test of the season tomorrow, as they face Oklahoma in Hawaii. To date, the Cougs have played one of the weakest non-conference schedules and haven't shown much against those lesser teams. The real test will be the upcoming games in the Diamond head classic and as they push on into conference play. The Cougs will look to move into the conversation with Oregon and Washington as the two premier basketball teams in the pacific northwest.
Cal fans, who do you think had the toughest non-conference schedule thus far? Which teams impress you the most? What teams do you expect to falter as we head into Pac-12 play?