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NCAA Hoops: Arizona, UCLA and San Diego State Pace the West

The PAC 12 is a bit better this season than last year, but it is still not back up to speed. The Arizona Wildcats are ranked #3 in the nation and have some very good wins on the resume such as the Florida Gators and the San Diego State Aztecs. Arizona has made winning in the last seconds an art form. They beat the Gators by going on a 7-0 run in the last minute to win on a Mark Lyons running hook shot in the last seconds by one point. They got a last second blocked shot by Nick Johnson to save the day and beat the Aztecs by one. They got help from the replay officials this past week to send the Colorado Buffaloes home a very disappointed loser in overtime after they thought they’d won on a regulation buzzer-beater.

The UCLA Bruins are getting their sea legs underneath them. They had a tough start, mainly due to Shabazz Muhammad not being eligible to start the season. They lost a game early to a team they shouldn’t have in Cal Poly and also lost to the Georgetown Hoyas and the Aztecs. They also had close ones with the Georgia Bulldogs and UC-Irvine Anteaters. But as Muhammad is getting back into shape, the Bruins are too. They got a nice win over the Missouri Tigers right before PAC 12 play started and they have now started 2-0 in conference play with wins over the Cal Bears and Stanford Cardinal.

But the Mountain West Conference is still the best conference out west. the Aztecs look to be the strongest team of the bunch, but the New Mexico Lobos, Colorado State Rams, UNLV Runnin Rebels and Wyoming Cowboys are all off to great starts. The Cowboys have yet to lose a game at 13-0. Their biggest win so far was over the Buffaloes 76-69 on Dec 1. The Aztecs are 13-2 and have SoCal bragging rights with wins over both the USC Trojans and the Bruins. The Rams lost to the Buffaloes but rout the Virginia Tech Hokies 88-52 as part of their 12-2 start. UNLV is 13-2, their two losses were close games to the Oregon Ducks and North Carolina Tar Heels. They have also beaten the Cal Bears and a tough Texas-El Paso Miners team. The Lobos got off to a flying start, but have cooled off a bit lately. After starting 12-0 they have dropped two of their last three games. They have wins over the Davidson Wildcats, UConn Huskies and USC.

Some sleeper teams to watch out for out west include the Air Force Falcons and Boise State Broncos  in the Mountain West. The Falcons are 8-4 and have played a tough schedule. So they are battle tested for the tough Mountain West schedule. Their losses have been to the Buffaloes, Wichita State Shockers, Florida and Richmond Spiders. The Broncos are 12-2 with wins over the Creighton Blue Jays and LSU Tigers. Their only losses are to the Michigan State Spartans and Utah Utes.

And of course there is the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the West Coast Conference. Their main competition will be the BYU Cougars and St. Mary’s Gaels in conference play. But the Bulldogs should win this conference. They will also be shooting for a very high seed in the NCAA Tournament and should get one. They are 15-1 and they’re only loss is to the Illinois Illini.

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