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Klee blog: Powerful Pac-12 highlights Top 25 ballot

By: Paul Klee
February 20, 2017 Updated: February 20, 2017 at 9:00 pm
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photo - Gonzaga forward Jeremy Jones holds the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Pacific in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)
Gonzaga forward Jeremy Jones holds the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Pacific in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Young Kwak) 

I reserved November and December for the Big East. With Villanova, Creighton (pre-Maurice Watson injury), Xavier and Villanova playing lovely offense on a nightly basis, the Big East was a go-to entertainment source.

Then came the ACC season, and North Carolina's leapers, Louisville's underrated backcourt and Duke's late surge (you knew it was coming) had Dickie V hollering in my dreams. The Big 12 was a blast to a point, and that point was Kansas taking over the league like Kansas always takes over the league. Throw in a powerful Gonzaga squad — one of the most complete teams I've seen in over a decade — and it's no wonder this college hoops season has been four months of must-watch TV.

But there is no better show than the Pac-12. The balance of power has shifted West. No. 4 (on my ballot, below) Oregon, No. 7 Arizona and No. 10 UCLA are Final Four contenders, but it's this number that jumps out:

Since Dec. 1, Oregon, Arizona and UCLA are 49-3 against teams not named Oregon, Arizona and UCLA. Their only losses in that time are Gonzaga (beat Arizona), Southern Cal (beat UCLA) and, yep, Colorado (beat Oregon when Derrick White went off in the second half). 

That makes the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament kind of a big deal. You want to avoid the other two heavyweights until the championship.

And even if the No. 1 seed in the West region won't be a Pac-12 team, the likely No. 1 seed, Gonzaga, has a pair of Pac-12 transfers in its starting backcourt: Nigel Williams-Goss (Washington) and Jordan Mathews (Cal).

Even the crappy teams — looking at you, Washington — offer reasons to watch. Markelle Fultz is the country's best player and should be the No. 1 pick in the draft. Matter of fact, I think it will be an upset if the Pac-12 doesn't go 1-2-3 in the draft — Fultz, UCLA's Lonzo Ball and Arizona's Lauri Markkanen. The Pac-12 is that good at the moment.

My AP Top 25 ballot for Monday, Feb. 20: 

1. Gonzaga

2. Villanova

3. Kansas

4. Oregon 

5. Louisville  

6. North Carolina

7. Arizona

8. Duke 

9. Baylor 

10. UCLA 

11. Florida

12. West Virginia 

13. Purdue

14. SMU

15. Cincinnati

16. Kentucky

17. Florida State 

18. Wichita State

19. Butler 

20. Notre Dame

21. Wisconsin

22. Saint Mary’s

23. Creighton

24. Virginia

25. Maryland

Twitter: @bypaulklee

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