No. 10 Oregon at Utah highlights Pac-12 slate this week
A look at things to watch this week in the Pac-12 Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 10 Oregon at Utah, Thursday. The Utes (14-5, 5-2 Pac-12) are on the NCAA Tournament bubble and a win over the Ducks could be a big boost. Oregon (18-2, 7-0) is on the best run in school history, stretching its winning streak to a school-record 16 straight games with Saturday's 69-52 victory over Stanford. The key could be which team has a pivotal player back. Oregon junior Dillon Brooks did not play against the Cardinal after injuring his foot against California, and Utah's David Collette has missed the past two games with concussion-like symptoms. Both coaches have been tight-lipped about when those players might return.
LOOKING AHEAD: Washington at No. 7 Arizona looks like a mismatch on paper, with the Huskies struggling and the Wildcats tied with Oregon atop the Pac-12. But it will have an intriguing matchup: Washington freshman Markelle Fultz against Arizona's swarming defense. Fultz has been one of the nation's top freshmen and has been projected by some to be the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft. Arizona has one of the nation's best defenses and has been one of the few teams to slow down UCLA when it beat the Bruins last week.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: The Pac-12 has three teams in the AP top 10 in the same week for the first time since 1999: No. 7 Arizona, No. 8 UCLA and No. 10 Oregon. ... UCLA's Lonzo Ball has 172 assists, putting him ninth on the Pac-12's freshman list. He is on pace to break the record of 229 set by Oregon State's Gary Payton in 1986-87. ... Washington State is the league's best free throw shooting team at 77 percent.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Arizona forward Lauri Markkanen. The Finnish 7-footer doesn't always get mentioned with some of the more high-profile freshmen in the country, but he should be. The versatile Markkanen shoots from the perimeter, can beat opponents off the dribble or score inside. He was the Pac-12's player of the week after averaging 20.5 points and 7.5 rebounds while going 8 of 10 from 3-point range in Arizona's Southern California sweep last week.
ON THE WOMEN'S SIDE: A tight Pac-12 race could become at least a little clearer this week with four of the top teams playing each other. The marquee game of the week is Sunday, when No. 7 Washington hosts No. 10 Stanford. No. 16 Arizona State also plays at No. 13 UCLA on Friday. Washington, Oregon State and Stanford are all tied atop the conference at 7-1, with UCLA a game back and Arizona State two back.
Compiled by AP Basketball Writer John Marshall in Phoenix.