April 20, 2024

College basketball rankings: Washington State makes statement in win vs. Arizona, takes first place in Pac-12

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There are a lot of different ways to illustrate how improbable it is that Washington State is alone atop the Pac-12 standings just seven days away from March, the best of which is probably tied to the fact that this is a program that A) hasn’t won a conference championship since 1941, B) was picked 10th in the preseason Pac-12 poll, and C) closed as a 13.5-point underdog Thursday night at Arizona.

None of this was supposed to happen.

But it’s happening.

Believe it or not, against all odds and common sense, Washington State is suddenly alone atop the Pac-12 standings following its 77-74 victory over Arizona inside the McKale Center. The Cougars are now 21-6 overall and 12-4 in the Pac-12 with just four regular-season games remaining. They’ve jumped from No. 16 to No. 11 in Friday morning’s updated CBS Sports Top 25 And 1 daily college basketball rankings, which caused Duke, Alabama, Auburn and Dayton to be pushed down one spot each, no fault of their own.

“This is big,” said Washington State’s Jaylen Wells, who converted a 4-point play in the final minute and scored 27 points to lead the Cougars to the upset. “There’s a lot of moments we could’ve folded — but we stayed poised, kept fighting back. I think it’s a big win for us. … People [were] saying, ‘Oh, you’ve got to play Arizona.’ No, they’ve got to play us.”

Touché, Jaylen Wells. Touché.

Next up for Washington State is Saturday’s game at Arizona State, which lost at home late Thursday to Washington to drop to 13-14 on the season. For what it’s worth, KenPom.com is now projecting Washington State and Arizona to finish as Pac-12 co-champs with 15-5 league records. If it goes down that way, Kyle Smith will be responsible for bringing WSU’s program its first conference title in more than eight decades.

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