This past Saturday was one of the last opportunities for the Pac-12 as a whole to make a push towards being deserving of its inclusion as one of the power conferences. 10 of the 12 teams in the conference played including games against what are now #11, #15, #31, #60, #81, #124, and #137 in the country. Win 8 of those contests and it would make a major dent in the conference’s reputation. Did the Pac-12 meet that lofty goal?
Not even close. The conference went 4-6 with all 4 wins coming against sub-100 opponents. And that includes a narrow 1-point escape by Arizona State who trailed by 17 points in the 1st half of that game. There are now only 9 remaining non-conference Q1 or Q2 games left in the entire Pac-12 and a winning record is paramount. Otherwise, it’s hard to imagine the conference getting more than the 3 bids to the NCAA tournament that they managed last year.
If you want a reminder for what each Q1 through Q4 means or what victory/defeat points are then check the bottom of the article.
1 (1). Arizona State Sun Devils, 8-2
Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 12.82 (50th)
Victory Points: 15 points. Best win: Q1, 72-67 over #27 Mississippi State (N).
Defeat Points: -2 points. Worst Loss: Q1, 65-81 to #57 Vanderbilt.
The Sun Devils have dropped 2 of their last 3 including a disappointing 16 point loss at Vanderbilt who is missing their 5-star freshman PG. And yet there’s no other choice for #1 in the power rankings. They’re the only team in the conference who is undefeated in Q2 or lower games while also managing to pull off a Q1 win somewhere along the way. If Bobby Hurley can knock off Kansas at home on Saturday then ASU will enter Pac-12 play as the clear favorites. Another loss and it’s officially going to be a free for all with 0 ranked teams entering conference play.
This week’s games: Saturday vs. #3 Kansas
2 (4). Washington Huskies, 7-4
Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 11.9 (54th)
Victory Points: 13 points. Best win: Q2, 71-67 over #78 Texas A&M (N).
Defeat Points: -5 point. Worst Loss: Q2, 66-68 to #55 Minnesota (N).
Look, I’m as surprised as you are. While the Huskies haven’t won any games when they were an underdog, they also haven’t lost any where they were the favorite. And I’m giving them bonus points for playing the toughest non-conference schedule in the conference per KenPom, narrowly edging out Stanford.
This week’s games: Friday vs. #231 Sacramento State
3 (6). Colorado Buffaloes, 8-1
Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 10.63 (64th)
Victory Points: 9 points. Best win: Q3, 78-75 over #157 New Mexico (A).
Defeat Points: -2 points. Worst Loss: Q2, 64-70 to #106 San Diego (A).
I wouldn’t blame anyone for having Colorado either higher or lower and decided to compromise at 3. They’re the only team in the conference left with fewer then 2 losses. But that’s because they’ve played the 303rd ranked schedule in the country. The Buffs have had a balanced attack with 6 players averaging at least 9 points per game. If Colorado can win at least 2 games at the Diamond Head Classic starting Saturday then they could be the sleeper team in the conference.
This week’s games: Saturday vs. #141 Indiana State (N)
4 (7). Oregon Ducks, 7-3
Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 16.52 (32nd)
Victory Points: 12 points. Best win: Q1, 80-65 over #17 Syracuse (N).
Defeat Points: -6 point. Worst Loss: Q4, 84-89 to #229 Texas Southern (H).
The Ducks haven’t lost since December 1st which is tied for the longest active span without losing of any team in the conference. Faint praise perhaps but one takes what one can get in the Pac-12. 5-star freshman SF Louis King has returned to action finally although he’s been eased into action and has only scored more than 5 points once. But now the Ducks are without their other 5-star freshman Bol Bol who was spotted wearing a walking boot during their last game and is out indefinitely. He has been Oregon’s best player by far and if he misses a significant chunk of Pac-12 play then the Ducks may be in Pac-12 tournament or bust mode.
This week’s games: Tuesday vs. #342 Florida A&M, Friday at #61 Baylor
5 (2). Arizona Wildcats, 7-4
Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 11.95 (54th)
Victory Points: 14 points. Best win: Q1, 71-66 over #15 Iowa State (N).
Defeat Points: -5 points. Worst Loss: Q2, 49-58 to #60 Baylor (H).
Arizona looked like it might be the best team in the conference before losses at Alabama and home to Baylor since the last power rankings. The Baylor defeat was particularly brutal as they were out-rebounded by a margin of 50 to 19!!! Baylor had 20 turnovers on the road, shot 21% from 3-pt range, 50% from the FT line...and beat Arizona by 9. Given their relative low expectations, I think most Arizona fans would’ve taken a 9-4 non-conference record but now they’re likely kicking themselves over the missed opportunities.
This week’s games: Thursday vs. #114 Montana, Saturday vs. #240 UC Davis
6 (3). UCLA Bruins, 7-3
Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 12.94 (49th)
Victory Points: 10 points. Best win: Q2, 65-62 over #51 Notre Dame (H).
Defeat Points: -5 points. Worst Loss: Q3, 72-74 to #84 Belmont (H).
The good news? UCLA finally managed to win their first Q1/Q2 game over Notre Dame. The bad news? They followed it up by dropping a home contest to Belmont in the battle of the Bruins and in which they blew a late lead. As the Huskies can attest to, Belmont is certainly no pushover but if UCLA wants to get back to the NCAA tournament they can’t afford losses to mid majors even if they’re likely conference winners. That was followed up by Notre Dame losing one of their best players to a torn ACL which might keep them from making the tournament and subsequently devaluing that win. The Bruins are one of the few Pac-12 teams left with multiple big non-conference games left as they play at Cincinnati and Ohio State on a neutral. Win both of those and UCLA will again look like a Pac-12 front runner. Lose both and they’ll be hoping to win the Pac-12 tournament like just about everyone else.
This week’s games: Wednesday at #33 Cincinnati, Saturday vs. #25 Ohio State (N)
7 (5). Oregon State Beavers, 7-3
Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 9.54 (71st)
Victory Points: 11 points. Best win: Q2, 61-56 over #75 Old Dominion (N).
Defeat Points: -7 points. Worst Loss: Q3, 64-67 to #80 Texas A&M (H/N).
Oregon State blew a golden opportunity for a decent win as part of the Pac-12 apocalypse on Saturday by falling to Texas A&M. The Beavers are in a weird in between state where they don’t have any truly bad losses but they don’t have any truly great wins either (although the Old Dominion win is aging well). They are out of opportunities for good wins in the non-conference with only a pair of home games against sub-100 teams left. It wouldn’t shock me if the Beavers finish anywhere between 3rd and 9th once we actually get to conference play.
This week’s games: Friday vs. #147 Kent State
8 (8). Stanford Cardinal, 5-4
Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 7.25 (101st)
Victory Points: 7 points. Best win: Q3, 72-59 over #225 UNC Wilmington (A).
Defeat Points: -4 points. Worst Loss: Q1, 49-72 to #21 Florida (N).
Stanford played one game since the last power rankings and were down 17-5 after 10 minutes at home against Eastern Washington before roaring back to win by 16. They, along with ASU, are the only team in the conference without a Q2-Q4 loss. That is negated though by the fact that they don’t have a win over a top-150 team. They’ll get another Q1 game on Sunday at a very underrated San Francisco squad. If they can finally break through then they could maybe make some noise with a still very young roster.
This week’s games: Tuesday vs. #325 San Jose State, Sunday at #45 San Francisco
9 (10). Utah Utes, 5-5
Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 3.29 (132nd)
Victory Points: 7 points. Best win: Q3, 75-66 over #143 Grand Canyon (N).
Defeat Points: -9 point. Worst Loss: Q4, 79-90 to #203 Hawaii (N).
We can now officially say this is the worst Utah team since 2013. I gave Larry Krystkowiak the benefit of the doubt but he’s finally struggling to deal with a serious talent differential. Like everyone else in the conference, the Utes have dropped their 4 toughest games plus threw in a bad loss against Hawaii. They’ll get one last shot at home against Nevada before conference play starts to show they can still challenge for a spot in the top half of the Pac-12.
This week’s games: Friday vs. #313 Northern Arizona
10 (9). USC Trojans, 5-5
Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 7.96 (89th)
Victory Points: 5 points. Best win: Q4, 99-80 over #216 Missouri State (N).
Defeat Points: -6 points. Worst Loss: Q2, 82-78 to #73 Vanderbilt (H).
USC may be staring in the face of a Lorenzo Romar-type situation as the Trojans have perhaps the #1 recruiting class in the country but look in store for a vastly disappointing regular season. The Trojans got embarrassed by 35 in Los Angeles against TCU and have now dropped 3 straight by double digits although all three were against top-30 opponents. Injuries are a real thing as 5-star freshman (and Seattleite) Kevin Porter Jr. has played just 4 minutes in their past 5 games and is still out with a leg injury. And without him the other 2 potential lead guards (Derryck Thornton and Elijah Weaver) have combined to average almost as many turnovers as assists. If Porter isn’t back soon then this looks like a lost season for Andy Enfield.
This week’s games: Tuesday vs. #248 Santa Clara, Friday vs. #227 Southern Utah
11 (11). Washington State Cougars, 6-3
Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 0.11 (159th)
Victory Points: 7 points. Best win: Q3, 94-80 over #128 Rider (H).
Defeat Points: -9 points. Worst Loss: Q4, 90-95 to #302 Montana State (H/N).
I almost moved the Cougs out of the bottom-2 with USC’s struggles plus a double digit win over a solid Rider team. But then I remembered that they lost against Montana State and that was the end of that. I knocked Colorado’s schedule but Wazzu to this point has actually played the 350th of 353 ranked non-conference slate. And they’ve still lost 3 games.
This week’s games: Wednesday vs. #330 SIU Edwardsville, Saturday vs. #79 San Diego (N)
12 (12). California Golden Bears, 4-5
Adjusted Efficiency Margin: -1.85 (182nd)
Victory Points: 5 points. Best win: Q3, 89-83 over #103 San Diego State (H).
Defeat Points: -9 points. Worst Loss: Q3, 76-59 to #102 Yale (N).
I also considered moving Cal out of the cellar with a win over an underachieving San Diego State. If they can manage to go 3-0 to close out non-conference play then I’ll let them out for a walk in the sunshine of 11th for a little while.
This week’s games: Wednesday at #65 Fresno State, Friday vs. #325 San Jose State
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.
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