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Pac-12 Basketball Power Rankings: Meet the Newcomers

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Conference play begins on Friday

NCAA Basketball: Montana at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

We’re already here. Conference play begins this week and the continuing theme for the season is that the Pac-12 is the worst of the power conferences. The conference is out of opportunities to change that. This week I’ll point out the top newcomer contributor for each squad so they don’t sneak up on you when the Huskies play them. Here’s the definition for each of the tiers if you want a refresher.

Tier 1: Home 1-30; Neutral 1-50; Away 1-75

Tier 2: Home 31-75; Neutral 51-100; Away 76-135

Tier 3: Home 76-160; Neutral 101-200; Away 136-240

Tier 4: Home 161-plus; Neutral 201-plus; Away 241-plus.

Final Pac-12 Non-Conference Numbers

Tier 1: 12-21

Tier 2: 10-8

Tier 3: 17-12

Tier 4: 64-4

1. Arizona State Sun Devils, 12-0 (Prev: 1)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 19.5 (20th)

Tier 1: 4-0, W-#6 Kansas 95-85 (away), #17 Xavier 102-86 (neutral), #43 Kansas State 92-90 (neutral), #48 St. John’s 82-70 (neutral)

Tier 2: 2-0

Tier 3: 0-0

Tier 4: 6-0

Arizona State took care of business in its last major challenge, a home win against Vanderbilt. The Sun Devils are the only reason the conference has any national credibility left. Freshman Romello White has filled in the gaping hole down low that ASU had as one of the top freshmen in the conference. He’s averaging 14.9 points and 8.6 rebounds per game while shooting 70% from the floor.

Next week’s games: Saturday at #14 Arizona

2. Arizona Wildcats, 10-3 (Prev: 2)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 21.4 (14th)

Tier 1: 2-2, W- #7 Texas A&M 67-64 (semi-home), #69 UNLV OT 91-88 (away)

Tier 2: 1-1, L- #77 NC State 90-84 (neutral)

Tier 3: 2-0

Tier 4: 5-0

The Battle 4 Atlantis slip up hurts but the Wildcats can take over the #1 spot with a win at home over ASU on Saturday. If you’ve paid attention to college basketball at all you’ve heard of Arizona’s top freshman contributor DeAndre Ayton. The Bahamian big man is averaging 20.3 points and 11.8 rebounds per game and will almost certainly be a top-3 selection in the NBA draft. Arizona’s also getting contributions from high 4-star freshman Brandon Randolph who is adding in 6.8 points per game on 42.3% shooting from beyond the arc.

Next week’s games: Saturday vs. #20 Arizona State

3. UCLA Bruins, 9-3 (Prev: 3)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 13.1 (52nd)

Tier 1: 1-3, W- #18 Kentucky 83-75 (neutral); L- #9 Cincinnati 77-63 (home), #30 Creighton 100-89 (neutral), #34 Michigan 78-69 OT (away)

Tier 2: 1-0

Tier 3: 2-0

Tier 4: 5-0

UCLA finally got their signature non-conference win in their last try with a victory over Kentucky on a neutral site. That puts them as the clear #3 in the conference. The UCLA freshmen not suspended for shop lifting have mostly pulled their weight. 5-star SF Kris Wilkes is averaging 12.3 points and 6.2 rebounds while 5-star PG Jaylen Hands is putting up 12 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.9 assists. But they aren’t Lonzo Ball and T.J Leaf which is why UCLA has fallen a tier or two in the national spotlight.

Next week’s games: Friday vs. #166 Washington State, Sunday vs. #131 Washington

4. Utah Utes, 8-3 (Prev: 4)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 11.21 (59th)

Tier 1: 0-2

Tier 2: 2-1, W- #48 Missouri 77-59 (home), #83 Ole Miss 83-74 (neutral). L- #70 UNLV 85-58 (semi-away)

Tier 3: 1-0

Tier 4: 5-0

Utah’s resume is fine but they needed to win one of their games on the road against Butler or BYU to feel confident about an NCAA tournament berth. They’ll need multiple road wins against the top half of the conference while not dropping any home games to the bottom half. The Utes only have one freshman playing a major role in the rotation. 3.5 star SF Donnie Tillman is averaging 10.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and has been very efficient as a 6’7 freshman.

Next week’s games: Friday at #46 Oregon, Sunday at #137 Oregon State

5. USC Trojans, 9-4 (Prev: 5)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 16.38 (38th)

Tier 1: 1-3, W- #71 Vanderbilt 93-89 OT (road)

Tier 2: 2-0

Tier 3: 1-1, L- #124 Princeton 103-93 OT (home)

Tier 4: 5-0

USC may get the label for not just biggest underachiever in the conference but in the nation. Their losses were understandable up until losing a home game against Princeton on Tuesday. At this point they’re on the outside looking in of the NCAA tourney. It was going to be hard for any freshman to make an impact on a team returning its entire roster and that’s been the case for the Trojans. Duke transfer PG Derryck Thornton has made the biggest impact of any newcomer but has missed a month due to injury. Low 4-star SF Jordan Usher has gotten slightly more playing time than high 4-star SF Charles O’Bannon and is averaging 1 point per game and 1.8 rebounds per game.

Next week’s games: Friday vs. #131 Washington, Sunday vs. #166 Washington State

6. Washington Huskies, 10-3 (Prev: 6)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 3.65 (131st)

Tier 1: 1-2, W- #6 Kansas 74-65 (semi-away)

Tier 2: 0-1, L- #64 Providence 77-70 (neutral)

Tier 3: 2-0

Tier 4: 7-0

The Huskies surpassed their win total from last season in the non-conference so that has to be considered progress. Jaylen Nowell has been the obvious best freshman on the team while putting up 16.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.6 steals per game.

Next week’s games: Friday at #38 USC, Sunday at #52 UCLA

7. Oregon Ducks, 10-3 (Prev: 8)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 13.7 (46th)

Tier 1: 1-1 W- #71 Fresno State 68-61 (away)

Tier 2: 0-1

Tier 3: 3-1, L-#101 Connecticut 71-63 (semi-home)

Tier 4: 6-0

Oregon finally got a tier-1 win but back-to-back losses at any point by Fresno State would knock it down to tier-2. The Friday matchup between Oregon and Utah is by no means an elimination match but the winner of that game will be the favorite for a potential 4th bid out of the conference. 5-star freshman Troy Brown got a lot of the hype but New Mexico grad transfer Elijah Brown has also made an impact. The 6’4 guard is averaging 13.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game as the team’s secondary scorer.

Next week’s games: Friday vs. #59 Utah, Sunday vs. #117 Colorado

8. Colorado Buffaloes, 8-4 (Prev: 9)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 4.27 (117th)

Tier 1: 0-1

Tier 2: 1-1. W- #98 Mercer 79-70 (neutral)

Tier 3: 1-2. L- #117 San Diego 69-59 (home), #187 Colorado State 72-63 (away)

Tier 4: 6-0

When your best non-conference win is a neutral court victory over Mercer you know you’re in trouble. The Buffaloes didn’t play many #275 or worse teams but they also only played two top-75 teams and lost to both of them. Unheralded freshman point guard McKinley Wright IV has been a revelation though putting up 17 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game. Without him this team would be one of the dregs of the conference. With him they have a chance at the middle.

Next week’s games: Friday at #137 Oregon State, Sunday at #46 Oregon

9. Washington State Cougars, 8-4 (Prev: 7)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: -0.07 (166th)

Tier 1: 1-1, W-#31 St. Mary’s 84-79 (neutral)

Tier 2: 1-1

Tier 3: 1-2. L-#157 UC Davis 81-67 (home), #227 UTEP 76-69 (away)

Tier 4: 5-0

The Cougars are a team without any freshman after their top commit didn’t get eligible (to Wazzu, fathom that) and they relied on JC players. But 6’8 North Dakota transfer Drick Bernstine has been the best of the newcomers putting up 6.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per game while stabilizing the low post.

Next week’s games: Friday at #52 UCLA, Sunday at #38 USC

10. Oregon State Beavers, 8-4 (Prev: 10)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 3.37 (137th)

Tier 1: 0-1

Tier 2: 0-0

Tier 3: 2-3, W- #132 Jacksonville State 70-69 (home); L- #134 Wyoming 75-66 (home), #225 Kent State 79-78 (away), #234 Long Beach St. 74-69 (neutral)

Tier 4: 6-0

Oregon State has played one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country and still racked up 3 losses. This team won only 5 games all of last year but getting their best player back from injury and a very good recruiting class meant expectations may have been higher. 4-star freshman Ethan Thompson has mostly been as advertised putting up 10.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game.

Next week’s games: Friday vs. #117 Colorado, Sunday vs. #59 Utah

11. Stanford Cardinal, 6-7 (Prev: 11)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 4.46 (115th)

Tier 1: 0-4

Tier 2: 0-0

Tier 3: 2-2, W- #132 Northeastern 73-59 (home), #155 Montana 70-54 (home)

Tier 4: 4-1, L- #191 Eastern Washington 67-61 (home)

The Cardinal have played a tough schedule but having three tier-3 or 4 losses in the non-conference is a killer. This freshman profile stings a bit but former-UW signee Daejon Davis has been forced to step in because of injuries and has been mostly up to the task. He’s putting up 9.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game. It should be noted however that he’s leading the country in turnovers per game and it isn’t particularly close at 5.3. If that stat makes you reconsider Davis’s worth, his freshman backcourt mate Isaac White is averaging 10.9 points per game and a third as many turnovers.

Next week’s games: Saturday vs. #178 California

12. California Golden Bears, 6-7 (Prev: 12)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: -1.27 (178th)

Tier 1: 1-1 W- #56 San Diego State 63-62 (away)

Tier 2: 0-2

Tier 3: 0-1

Tier 4: 4-3, L- #221 Central Arkansas 96-69 (home), #253 UC Riverside 74-66 (home), D-II Chaminade 96-72 (road)

Pretty much everyone except C Kingsley Okoroh qualifies as a newcomer for Cal with their insane roster turnover. 3.5 star freshman Darius McNeill has been the best of the diaper dandies putting up 13.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game as a 6’3 combo guard. Kentucky transfer Marcus Lee has also put up numbers with 12.4 points and 8 rebounds per game.

Next week’s games: Saturday at #115 Stanford

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