Top-ranked Arizona, which visits the Bay Area this week, is the best team in the Pac-12, maybe in the nation.

But the Wildcats (20-0) will not go undefeated. Neither will Syracuse (19-0) nor Wichita State (21-0).

It just does not happen anymore.

Indiana was 32-0 in 1975-76 under coach Bob Knight, but the Hoosiers needed to win five NCAA tournament games (not six) to claim the title, and today's more balanced national landscape is infinitely more treacherous.

Arizona coach Sean Miller, whose team plays at Stanford on Wednesday and at Cal on Saturday, doesn't know quite what to think.

Noting the experts didn't expect Arizona to beat Duke or Michigan early in the season, and with the Bay Area trip looming, Miller told the Arizona Daily Star: "I feel the same way (now), almost as if we're due to lose, and maybe we will. We respect both of those teams a great deal.

"Going on the road is hard, but when you're No. 1, going on the road might be even harder."

So far, the Wildcats have cleared every hurdle. Featuring Bay Area big men Aaron Gordon and Brandon Ashley, Arizona has size, depth, balance and experience. The Cats aren't a great shooting team, but they rebound and defend. And they play ferociously hard.


Advertisement

Still, even completing the conference schedule unblemished will be a trick -- no team has done it since the league expanded from eight to 10 teams for the 1978-79 season. Oregon State in 1980-81 and Stanford in 2003-04 both started the season 26-0 before losing their conference finale.

Beyond this week, Arizona faces road games vs. Arizona State, Utah, Colorado, Oregon and Oregon State. Colorado's Xavier Johnson, after his team's loss at Tucson last Thursday, predicted the Buffs will topple the Cats in a "20-point blowout" when they meet in Boulder.

Mitigating in the Wildcats' favor: There's no rematch on the schedule with UCLA, and Colorado will play the rest of the season without injured star guard Spencer Dinwiddie.

Syracuse has it own challenges, including road games against Pitt, Duke, Virginia and Florida State -- all upper-division teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Wichita State of the Missouri Valley Conference seemingly has the easiest regular-season road. The Shockers' biggest challenge will be a Feb. 5 matchup at Indiana State (16-4), although their first meeting produced Xavier Johnson's kind of game -- a 20-point blowout.

Miller, who said winning the Pac-12 title is more important than staying undefeated, acknowledges there are a lot of obstacles ahead.

"We're not at the finish line. We know that," he said. "Where we are in late January may be a far different place than late February if we don't continue to win and continue to get better."

  • The Cal and Stanford women square off twice in four days, Thursday night at Maples Pavilion, then Sunday at 1 p.m. at Haas Pavilion. Yes, Super Bowl Sunday.

    But Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb isn't wasting any energy on that scheduling quirk. Gottlieb considers it a fact of life she cannot change and said she'd rather play on TV during the Super Bowl pregame show than move the game to Monday and go without TV.

    "The Stanford game is always our biggest crowd of the year, and we hope our fans will be here," she said. "Some people might argue if we moved it to Monday we might have a smaller crowd."

    Maybe her experience as a Cal assistant in 2007 provides Gottlieb a good vibe. "We beat Stanford at Stanford," she recalled, "and went to a Super Bowl party afterward."

  • How good is Stanford senior Chiney Ogwumike?

    "If I was a WNBA G.M., I would not think twice with taking her with the first pick of the draft," Gottlieb said. "If I didn't have the first pick, I'd try to trade to get it."

  • If the Saint Mary's women want to make a move from their current West Coast Conference standings rank of tied for third, now is the time. The Gaels play their next three games, all at home, against the three teams that beat them on the road in the first go-round -- BYU on Thursday, San Diego on Saturday and Pacific on Feb. 8.

  • The Jared Brownridge Watch: With his second straight 30-point performance Saturday against USF, the Santa Clara guard joins elite company among the nation's freshmen. Fordham's Jon Severe, with three 30-point outings, is the nation's only rookie with more than the two Brownridge has totaled.

    Follow Jeff Faraudo on Twitter at twitter.com/JeffFaraudo.