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Pac-12 Basketball Power Rankings: Fall Tourney Madness

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After the first few weeks of the season which Pac-12 teams look like they’ll contend for a conference title?

NCAA Basketball: Cal St. Fullerton at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the first edition of the 2018-19 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Power Rankings. I’ll be releasing these every other week for the rest of the season.

The primary factor for these rankings will be resume for the NCAA Tournament. Once we get into conference play the conference standings will play a part as well and since these are power rankings there will always be a recency element. But it isn’t simply who had the best past 2 weeks.

The NCAA selection committee will once again be using the quadrant system rather than the simple record vs the top-50 and top-100 they used historically. Here’s the definition for each of the tiers if you want a refresher. The NET replaces the RPI this season but until we have access to those rankings I’m using KenPom to determine which quadrant a game falls into.

Q1: Home 1-30; Neutral 1-50; Away 1-75

Q2: Home 31-75; Neutral 51-100; Away 76-135

Q3: Home 76-160; Neutral 101-200; Away 136-240

Q4: Home 161-plus; Neutral 201-plus; Away 241-plus.

I’m including Victory and Defeat points as a shorthand for a team’s resume this year. You earn 4 Victory points for a Q1 win, 3 for a Q2 win, etc. The opposite is true for Defeat Points where you lose 4 points for a Q4 loss, 3 points for a Q3 loss, etc. The higher your net point total the better your resume.

1. Arizona State Sun Devils, 5-0

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 13.55 (41st)

Victory Points: 11 points. Best win: Q1, 72-67 over #26 Mississippi State (N).

Defeat Points: 0 points. Worst Loss: NONE.

The Sun Devils were the final undefeated team left in the country last season and it took a frantic comeback for them to win their season opener against Cal State Fullerton in 2OT. But they came out this week with wins over Mississippi State and Utah State to have the best resume in the conference. True freshman Luguentz Dort was a high 4 star and has played like it with averages of 23.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game for the Sun Devils. They’ll need to prove it in conference play after they fell apart last year but for now it certainly looks like ASU is a contender in the Pac.

This week’s games: Wednesday vs. #210 Nebraska-Omaha

2. Oregon Ducks, 4-1

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 18.73 (21st)

Victory Points: 7 points. Best win: Q1, 80-65 over Syracuse (N).

Defeat Points: -1 point. Worst Loss: Q1, 69-77 to Iowa (N).

5 star freshman Bol Bol has certainly performed as advertised with per game averages of 19.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks so far while shooting 42.9% from 3-point range. Oregon fell to Iowa in MSG but they’ve only gotten 2 minutes so far from their other 5 star freshman, SF Louis King. They have road games at Houston and Baylor but otherwise are through the meat of their non-conference schedule. Once fully healthy the Ducks look like they should still be considered the team to beat for the Pac-12 title.

This week’s games: Monday vs. #274 Texas Southern

3. UCLA Bruins, 4-0

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 13.83 (39th)

Victory Points: 4 points. Best win: Q4, 95-58 over #170 St. Francis PA (H).

Defeat Points: 0 points. Worst Loss: NONE.

Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands were expected to be the bedrocks of this team as former 5 stars returning as sophomores and they have been. The duo have combined for 31.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game through the first 4 games. But freshman big man Moses Brown has been dominant putting up 17.3 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per game on nearly 80% shooting from the floor.

We’ll see if the Bruins can keep it up as their schedule finally gets challenging tonight and tomorrow with games against Michigan State and then either North Carolina or Texas. If UCLA wins even 1 of those games then an NCAA berth seems very reasonable. However, if they’re not competitive then the temperature will skyrocket on Steve Alford’s hot seat.

This week’s games: Thursday vs. #11 Michigan State (N), #3 North Carolina/#27 Texas (N)

4. Washington Huskies, 4-2

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 12.64 (49th)

Victory Points: 8 points. Best win: Q2, 71-67 over #68 Western Kentucky (N).

Defeat Points: -2 point. Worst Loss: Q1, 66-88 to #8 Auburn (A).

The Huskies are a near-buzzer beating 3-pointer that was also very clearly a travel away from having a Q1 win and the best resume in the conference. With incredibly tough non-con games left against Gonzaga and Virginia Tech still on the way the Huskies really really needed that win yesterday. It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if the Dawgs end up on the bubble instead of squarely in the NCAA field because that shot went in. Jaylen Nowell and Noah Dickerson have been superb so far but Washington has practically played 2 v 5 on offense to this point. Matisse Thybulle and David Crisp absolutely have to step up their games if this team wants to make the tournament.

This week’s games: Tuesday vs. #216 Eastern Washington

5. Arizona Wildcats, 4-2

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 10.89 (60th)

Victory Points: 7 points. Best win: Q1, 71-66 over #30 Iowa State (N).

Defeat Points: -2 points. Worst Loss: Q1, 73-57 to #8 Auburn (N).

It looked like the Wildcats were going to be the surprise team of the first two weeks of the season when they were up on Gonzaga at halftime in Maui. But then the Zags completely decimated Arizona in the 2nd half and won by 17 points which was followed the next day by a 16 point loss to Auburn. There’s no shame in a pair of 15+ point losses to top-10 teams. And the win over Iowa State who subsequently dismantled San Diego State was legitimately impressive. Justin Coleman sparked that win over the Cyclones but Brandon Randolph has taken a huge leap in Year 2 and leads Arizona scoring 17.3 points per game. At this point it looks like Zona isn’t a surefire tournament team but it wouldn’t shock me if they end up making it by year’s end.

This week’s games: NONE

6. Oregon State Beavers, 4-1

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 8.70 (73rd)

Victory Points: 7 points. Best win: Q3, 61-56 over #104 Old Dominion (N).

Defeat Points: -2 points. Worst Loss: Q2, 63-69 to #82 Missouri (N).

The Beavers brought back essentially everyone except Drew Eubanks and while they’ve missed him they’ve gotten ok production at that spot. 7-foot community college transfer Kylor Kelley has been an anchor on defense with 3.2 blocks per game in just 20 minutes for the 5th best block percentage in the country. Meanwhile Tres Tinkle and Stephen Thompson Jr. have continued to be excellent putting up a combined 37.2 points, 14.8 rebounds, and 8 assists per game. This looks like a bubble team if everyone stays healthy but if they lose either of those two players for any length of time then there isn’t the depth to withstand it.

This week’s games: Sunday at #220 Long Beach State

7. USC Trojans, 3-2

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 11.22 (55th)

Victory Points: 4 points. Best win: Q3, 99-80 over #184 Missouri State (N).

Defeat Points: -3 points. Worst Loss: Q2, 82-78 to #56 Vanderbilt (H).

The Trojans finally got a good win over Missouri State last night but they’ve missed a pair of opportunities so far against Vanderbilt and Texas Tech on whom they had a lead in the 2nd half. USC can certainly score as they’ve averaged 84 points per game so far but are also lacking on the defensive end. I still think this team has enough talent to make the NCAA tournament and they still have some opportunities to make a statement. They’ll have 3 straight games against Nevada, TCU, and Oklahoma in December and if they can win at least 2 of them then they will be in good shape.

This week’s games: Sunday vs. #197 Cal State Bakersfield, Wednesday vs. #198 Long Beach State

8. Stanford Cardinal, 2-2

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 7.07 (100th)

Victory Points: 3 points. Best win: Q3, 72-59 over #217 UNC Wilmington (A).

Defeat Points: -2 points. Worst Loss: Q1, 62-46 to #11 North Carolina (N).

Stanford to this point has played a pair of top-15 teams and had their doors blown off by both of them so it’s tough to tell exactly how good they’ll end up being. Kezie Okpala has taken over the scoring burden for Reid Travis so far and leads the team with 19.8 points per game. But no one else has better than 12 points per game and they’ve had real problems getting the ball in the basket. They’ll get opportunities later today and tomorrow in the Battle 4 Atlantis to pull off a signature non-conference win but for now this looks like a team that is destined to finish at best in the middle of the conference.

This week’s games: Thursday vs. #30 Florida (N), Friday vs. #35 Butler/#167 Middle Tennessee (N), Wednesday vs. #239 Portland State

9. Colorado Buffaloes, 2-1

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 7.12 (96th)

Victory Points: 2 points. Best win: Q4, 100-71 over #225 Drake (H).

Defeat Points: -2 points. Worst Loss: Q2, 64-70 to #102 San Diego (A).

Colorado has had a balanced attack so far as 6 different players are averaging at least 8 points per game led by McKinley Wright with 14.7. The Buffaloes showed that the close game San Diego played against Washington was no fluke as the Toreros emerged with a solid win in San Diego. Colorado badly needed that game and unless they end up with 13+ wins in the Pac-12 their NCAA hopes are basically already over. They play 0 more teams in the non-conference ranked in the top-125 so that was their best shot at a “marquee” win. It wouldn’t shock me to see Colorado go undefeated through the rest of December but know that there will be a lot of empty calories in that win loss record.

This week’s games: Saturday vs. #227 Air Force, Wednesday vs. #223 Portland

10. Utah Utes, 2-1

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 9.11 (71st)

Victory Points: 2 points. Best win: Q4, 75-61 over #334 Maine (H).

Defeat Points: -1 point. Worst Loss: Q1, 69-78 to #45 Minnesota (A).

The Utes lost a lot of pieces from last year’s NIT team but their schedule so far hasn’t provided a lot of answers on how they’ll pick up the slack. Utah has a pair of wins over two of the worst 30 teams in the country and a road loss to Minnesota. Sophomore forward Donnie Tillman has stepped up his game with per game averages of 12 points and 7.7 rebounds which is nice. But Sedrick Barefield was expected to become the leader of this team and grow into a possible all-conference performer yet so far his scoring is identical to last year on worse efficiency (although he’s nearly doubled his assists). Hopefully Utah will be able to secure some wins in the Wooden Legacy starting tonight and earn potential matchups with Seton Hall and Miami.

This week’s games: Thursday vs. #208 Hawaii (N), Friday vs. #59 Seton Hall/#131 Grand Canyon (N), Sunday vs. ??? (N)

11. Washington State Cougars, 2-1

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: -1.61 (179th)

Victory Points: 2 points. Best win: Q4, 89-72 over #291 Nicholls State (H).

Defeat Points: -3 points. Worst Loss: Q3, 69-78 to #237 Seattle (A).

When it looked like Robert Franks had declared for the NBA draft with all of their other losses factored in there was a thought that Wazzu would be the worst Power conference team in the country. We got evidence of that when the Cougars lost to Seattle U in a game which Robert Franks missed. And they’ll need him to stay healthy as in his other 2 games he’s averaging 30.5 points and 8.5 rebounds. Cleveland High grad and true freshman C.J Elleby has had a nice start with 10 ppg and 6.7 rpg. The Cougars are currently slotted to play 0 teams currently in the KenPom top-100 during their non-conference schedule although they have 3 scheduled against teams in the 100-110 range. If the Cougars don’t go at least 2-1 in those games then there’s no reason to expect anything better than an 11th place Pac-12 finish.

This week’s games: Saturday vs. #353 Delaware State

12. California Golden Bears, 1-3

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: -0.47 (164th)

Victory Points: 1 point. Best win: Q4, 80-66 over #270 Hampton (H).

Defeat Points: -6 points. Worst Loss: Q3, 76-59 to #117 Yale (N).

For a brief moment it looked like Cal might be poised to upset St. John’s and secure a badly needed Q1 win for the conference. But they couldn’t quite make it work and also missed against both Yale and Temple by identical 17 point losses. This Cal team is one of the youngest in the country (347th in experience per KenPom) and there were no expectations they would be good but all indications are it will be another race to the Pac-12 cellar along with Washington State. Paris Austin has been a bright spot for the Bears though as the PG transfer from Boise State is averaging 16 points and 4 assists per game.

This week’s games: Monday vs. #243 Santa Clara

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