The Winter sports season in the Pac-12 is winding down, as crazy as that sounds, and we’re just a few weeks away from when spring sports will be in full swing (pun intended). With that in mind, we give you the first ever Pacific Takes watchability rankings for the culmination of the season for winter sports.
We’ve taken a look at all the winter sports available in the Pac-12, analyzed which teams have a chance to make waves down the stretch of their respective seasons and how many teams should represent the conference nationally, as an individual or as a team. It’s important to note that these rankings are not about which sport or team is best but rather about which sport would be most entertaining for viewers who cheer for the Pac-12 as a conference or want to see our conference succeed.
So, without anymore delay, here are the Pac-12 winter sports for 2020, ranked from most to least watchable:
1. Women’s Basketball
Teams in the top 25: 6 (Oregon, 3; Stanford, 7; UCLA, 8; Arizona, 13; Oregon State 14; Arizona State, 24)
The top of the women’s rankings feature two one-loss teams but after that, the field is wide open in terms of who can make waves in the 2020 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. Included heavily in that field is the No. 3 ranked Oregon Ducks and their record-breaking guard Sabrina Ionescu. The senior guard became the first player in NCAA history to record 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists in their career as she’s become one of sports most polarizing figures of 2020. Ionescu and the Ducks even received a first-place vote in the most recent Top 25 rankings, a promising sign for their Tournament appearance.
Stanford, who has all be secured the No. 2 seed, has become known this year as the team who allowed Ionescu’s record-setting triple-double but they are a team certainly to be reckoned with come tournament time. The Cardinal are firmly sitting in their two seed while the rest of the Pac-12 women’s teams are looking to rise in the rankings with impressive Pac-12 Championship runs as the conference championships begin this Friday, March 6. Currently, ESPN’s Charlie Creme has all six top-25 teams in the ‘big dance’ with Colorado listed as one of the ‘next four out’ teams as well. A big performance in the Pac-12 Championships could secure the Buffaloes a spot in the tournament but regardless, the conference will be well represented at the top.
In fact, of the six teams currently in Creme’s bracket, Oregon has a one seed, Stanford a two seed, UCLA a three seed, Arizona and Oregon State are four seeds and Arizona State a six seed. That’s incredibly high representation as the only other conferences with more schools in the tournament (Big Ten, 8; SEC, 7) spot schools outside the top 10 seeds.
Of the conferences represented at least three times in the tournament, the Pac-12’s average seed is much higher (3.3) than the rest (Big Ten, 5.6; SEC, 6; ACC, 6.2; Big 12, 7.3; Big East, 8). The Pac-12’s average seed is actually the highest of any conference, even just one-school representatives. It’s safe to say the conference is loaded at the top.
How to watch: The first and second round of the Pac-12 Championships can be found on Pac-12 Network while the Championship game on ESPN on Sunday, March 8 at 5:00 p.m. PT. The NCAA Tournament will be broadcasts will be set once the field is in place as the Selection Show will air on Monday, March 16 on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET.
2. Men’s Basketball
Teams in the top 25: 3 (Arizona, 10; Oregon, 18; Colorado, 23)
There are just three Pac-12 representatives in the Top 25 ahead of the tail end of the season and the Pac-12 Tournament but the conference could still be represented very well in the NCAA Tournament later this month. As of March 2, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has six Pac-12 schools cracking into the March Madness bracket for the men’s side of things with the highest seed given to the Oregon Ducks (No. 4).
Much like in football, the Pac-12 schools have beat each other up this season and most recently, the highest-ranked team in Arizona has dropped three consecutive conference games. While they’re ranked 10th nationally, they’re only projected into a six seed by Lunardi. The Pac-12 Championships will go a long way at determining the likely final seeds, but one thing is for sure, the conference will definitely be well represented across the four regions.
Don’t look now but the UCLA Bruins are hot, winning seven straight and are one of just two teams to earn a new spot in the bracket this late in the season, landing at No. 12 on Lunardi’s Bracketology.
How to watch: The final regular season games will take place this week and the Pac-12 Championships tip off on March 11 through March 14 and will be broadcast on Pac-12 Network and FoxSports1. The NCAA Tournament tips off with first and second round coverage on March 19-22 and broadcasts will be determined after the final tournament field is announced.
3. Men’s Gymnastics
Teams in the top 25: 4 (Stanford, 1; Cal, 11; Arizona State, 12; Washington, 17)
Getting the nod over the women’s gymnastics representatives, the Pac-12 is primed for a repeat national champion as Stanford should enter the postseason as the No. 1-ranked team in the country and on the hunt for their second straight national title. The Cardinal are averaging a full point more than the next closest team in terms of average points per meet and have the country’s highest team score this year at 420.4. Stanford has two meets left ahead of the MPSF Championships and NCAA Championships in April.
Most recently, the Cardinal men’s gymnastics team held their own International Collegiate Open which featured reigning World Champion Japan. While the Japan National Team won the event, Stanford was the clear runner-up, proving their collegiate gymnasts are not only in a class of their own in college but should make waves internationally as well. No. 11 Cal also took part in the event and finished third, ahead of the national team from Norway.
How to watch: The MPSF Championships will be held on Saturday, April 4 from Colorado Springs, Colorado and can be streamed on MPSF TV. The NCAA Championships will be held on April 17-18 from Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. All information on tickets, selections, results and more can be found here.
4. Women’s Gymnastics
Teams in the top 25: 6 (UCLA, 3; Utah, 4; Cal, 8; Washington, 13; Oregon State, 18; Arizona, 24)
A third-place finish a season ago has left UCLA with a taste of the podium at the NCAA Gymnastics Championships and experience to carry them into 2019-20 as the Bruins enter their final two meetings as the third-ranked team in the country. They’ve lost two individual meets this year, both to top-15 opponents, by a combined margin of just 0.450 points, most recently dropping an incredibly close meet to Utah by a score of 198.025-198.075.
The Utes are a great story as they were bounced in the Semifinal I round of the tournament last year and look like a much better unit to compete for some hardware at nationals and most certainly in the Pac-12 Championships. Either way, the Pac-12 will be represented heavily down the stretch in the conference and national championship conversations.
How to watch: Each team has a variety of meets left on their schedule ahead of the March 21 Pac-12 Championships from West Valley City, Utah. The Pac-12 Championships will air on pac-12.com and all matches can be found here.
5. Women’s Indoor Track & Field
Teams in the top 25: 6 (USC, 4; Oregon, 7; Stanford, 8; Washington, 10; Colorado, 13; UCLA, 19)
With four teams in the top 10, five teams in the top 15 and six teams all inside the top 19 teams nationally, the women’s indoor track and field finals should be dominated by the Pac-12. Only the SEC is more represented at the top and, in fact, the top eight teams are either from the Pac-12 or the SEC entering the March 13-14 NCAA Championships. USC is the odds-on favorite for a top-three finish from the conference after they saw six winners during the final day alone in the MPSF Indoor Track & Field Championships this past weekend, finishing second in the event.
Expect to hear the Pac-12 women’s teams loud and often during the NCAA Indoor National Championships.
How to watch: There will be a content stream during the event on Friday, March 13 and Saturday, March 14. Hosted by the University of New Mexico, scores and updates as well as all pieces of content from the event can be found here.
6. Men’s Swimming & Diving
Teams in the top 25: 6 (Cal, 2; Arizona State, 10; Arizona, 13; Stanford, 16; USC, 21; Utah, 25)
The Golden Bears returned this season as the defending champions and will coast into the Pac-12 swimming championships as the No. 2-ranked team in the country. Cal will look to cap an impressive season that saw them cruise through their individual meets and a second-place finish at the Minnesota Invitational in December.
The men get the edge in the Watchability Index solely because fans and viewers get the chance to see the Pac-12 Championships, which begin Wednesday, March 4.
How to watch: The Pac-12 Championships will air on Pac-12.com and can be seen starting on Wednesday. The Men’s Swimming & Diving Championships will be March 25-28 from IU Natatorium in Indianapolis, Indiana. A live stream will be available on ncaa.com.
7. Women’s Swimming & Diving
Teams in the top 25: 5 (Stanford, 1; Cal, 4; USC, 8; Arizona State, 17; UCLA, 24)
Stanford is the defending National Champion and the top-ranked team nationally. The Cardinal are undefeated in individual meets this season and won their fourth straight Pac-12 Championship this past weekend. They look every bit the part to repeat at Nationals later this month.
The Golden Bears were the runner-up at the Pac-12 Championships with several impressive individual performances including Isabel Ivey’s 100-yard backstroke victory and a couple relay wins as well. They, however, played second fiddle just days earlier to Stanford at their match, dropping it 104-193 as they’ll need some serious firepower to dethrone the champs.
The Trojans just saw senior Louise Hansson win her eighth Pac-12 title as she won the Pac-12 Swimmer of the Meet during the Pac-12 Championships. Hansson’s eight conference titles are the most for a Trojan since 2006. They, however, only managed a third-place finish at the conference championships after competing with just 16 athletes and not the 24-person roster allowed. They’ll need dominant performance at the NCAA Championships to place in the top three again.
How to watch: the NCAA Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships will be March 18-21 at the Ramsey Center in Athens, Georgia. There will broadcasts from Georgia Bulldogs All-Access platform for Thursday, Friday & Saturday preliminary action.
8. Men’s Indoor Track & Field
Teams in the top 25: 2 (Oregon, 5; USC, 12)
The NCAA Indoor Championships essentially close out the season for the indoor track and field season as No. 5 ranked Oregon and No. 12 ranked USC are the only shots a team championship for the conference on the men’s side. Ducks heptathlon athlete Max Vollmer will enter the NCAA Championships fresh off his overall victory at the MPSF Championships this past weekend. USC will enter in hot in one of their favored events as well, fresh off their 4x400 victory at the MPSF meet.
How to watch: The NCAA Indoor Championships will take place on March 13-14 at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico. You can follow along with all the events from each day as well as purchase tickets to the event if you’re in the area here.
Teams in the top 25: 2 (Arizona State, 6; Stanford, 24)
The Pac-12 Championships and the NCAA DI Wrestling Championships are all that’s left in the winter season for wrestling and for the Pac-12, they’re represented in the top 25 by just two teams in the Sun Devils and Cardinal. Arizona State has lost just two individual meets this season and finished with the most wins in a season since the 1989-90 season. As a team, they certainly pose a threat to win the Pac-12 and then also potentially make waves at Nationals.
DUB SECURED— Sun Devil Wrestling (@ASUWrestling) February 23, 2020
KD makes it 5 straight, solidifying the Devils 15th win this year! pic.twitter.com/vwazG15KXq
Stanford enters the postseason on the heels of two crushing defeats to North Dakota State and South Dakota State, finishing the season at 11-4 but 4-1 in the conference. While they’re likely a long shot at Nationals, the Cardinal should certainly present a challenge for the favored Sun Devils.
How to watch: The Pac-12 Championships will be airing along the Pac-12 Networks on Saturday, March 7.
The 2020 NCAA DI Wrestling Championships will take place in Minneapolis, Minnesota on March 19-21 and will be broadcast on the ESPN family of networks. ESPNU gets the first round coverage at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 19 with ESPN receiving the Championship Consolations at 7 p.m. ET. That same schedule continues through Saturday except the ESPNU coverage will start at 11 a.m. ET.
Yes, the Pac-12 has hockey. Yes, it’s from Arizona State. And yes, the season is over for ASU. Hence, it’s the last thing you’d want to watch at this point.
Now that we’ve ranked them — how would you rank the Pac-12 winter sports by watchability this year?