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No. 23 UCLA the best team in the Pac-12 because of their … defense?

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Don’t look now, but the best team in the Pac-12 no longer resides in the state of Arizona.

Yeah, I said it.

No. 23 UCLA is the best team in the conference as of this moment, and their 86-66 win at Cal on Wednesday night only reinforced that notion. That could change, mind you, especially if No. 4 Arizona can ever figure out their issues on the offensive end of the floor. The only constant in the Pac-12 this season is that no one has been consistent, where success hasn’t lasted much longer than your standard, run-of-the-mill Sunday hangover..

But gun-to-head, if you’re asking me who I think would win the Pac-12 tournament if it were held this weekend, my money would be riding with Steve Alford and the Bruins.

It starts with their offense, because everyone knows that UCLA can put up points with the best of them. UCLA gets up and down the floor, capitalizing on the ability of the ever-underrated Kyle Anderson. He once again came close to posting a triple-double on Wednesday, finishing with 11 points, nine boards and seven assists. Jordan Adams was even better, finishing with 28 points, six boards, five assists and five steals in the win.

With the different looks up front that the trio of David Wear, Travis Wear and Tony Parker allow and the scoring pop provided by Zach LaVine and Bryce Alford off the bench, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Bruins are putting up points.

But that’s not why they’re winning games in Pac-12 play.

What’s changed with this team is that they are actually defending now.

According to KenPom, after giving up just 66 points in 65 possessions to Cal, UCLA is ranked 24th nationally in defensive efficiency. Would you have guessed that? With all the criticism that the Bruins got throughout the early part of the season for their struggles on that end of the floor, this team is now more efficient defensively that Villanova, Texas, UConn, Iowa and Kansas.

Because of a quirk in the Pac-12 schedules, UCLA won’t get another crack at Arizona this season unless they square off in the Pac-12 tournament.

Which is a shame, because that might have been their only chance to prove how good they actually are.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: