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Pac-12 Basketball Power Rankings: Muddle in the Middle

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Arizona is 1st but then what?

NCAA Basketball: Washington at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Does anyone actually want to win the conference this year? Arizona has dropped 2 of 3 after it looked like they were poised to run away with it. USC and Washington were in second and third last week but both got swept on the road. Now there are 8 teams between 2nd and 9th place separated by just 1.5 games.

It’s going to be critical to finish in the top-6 for conference tournament seeding. That means that either you get a bye or you get to face Wazzu or Cal who are clearly the bottom of the barrel. No one wants to have to face OSU or Colorado who are very capable of springing an upset and eliminating someone from NCAA contention. Buckle up because it’s going to be a wild and crazy end to conference play.

The NCAA selection committee will be using tiers this year rather than the simple record vs the top-50 and top-100 they’ve used in years past (it’s technically quadrants but I’m lazy and I’m delaying my carpal tunnel by 12 days by typing tiers instead). 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.

1. (1) Arizona Wildcats, 20-6 (10-3)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 18.24 (23rd)

Tier 1: 3-3, W-#15 Texas A&M 67-64 (semi-home), #27 Arizona State 84-78 (home), #59 Utah 94-82 (away)

Tier 2: 7-3, L- #53 UCLA 82-74 (home), #69 NC State 90-84 (neutral), #81 SMU 66-60 (neutral)

Tier 3: 6-0

Tier 4: 4-0

The king stay the king. But this is mostly by default. If Arizona had lost to USC then we might have seen a new number one but they were able to right the ship after consecutive defeats. Arizona has the top offense in conference play but just the 7th ranked defense which will probably still win them the conference but won’t be good enough to make a Final 4 run.

This week’s games: Thursday at #27 Arizona State

2. (5) Arizona State Sun Devils, 19-6 (7-6)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 17.12 (33rd)

Tier 1: 3-3, W- #2 Xavier 102-86 (neutral), #10 Kansas 95-85 (away), #58 Utah 80-77 (away)

Tier 2: 5-3, L- #58 Utah 80-77 (home), #75 Oregon 76-72 (home), #96 Stanford 86-77 (away)

Tier 3: 7-0

Tier 4: 5-0

The Sun Devils swept the L.A schools at home and are now on a 3-game winning streak. Meanwhile, the win against Xavier keeps looking better and better and the Kansas win is still good. They haven’t lost a Tier 3 or Tier 4 game and the Wildcats are the only other program in the conference for which that is the case. If they can defeat Arizona at home tomorrow night they’ll have a chance to move up to #1.

This week’s games: Thursday vs. #19 Arizona

3. (8) UCLA Bruins, 17-8 (8-5)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 13.87 (49th)

Tier 1: 2-5, W- #18 Kentucky 83-75 (neutral), #19 Arizona 82-74 (away)

Tier 2: 3-2

Tier 3: 6-1, L- #159 Oregon State 69-63 (away)

Tier 4: 6-0

Getting a split at the Arizona schools was huge for UCLA as they’ve brought themselves back into NCAA tournament contention. They’ll get a chance to avenge their one bad loss at Oregon State tomorrow night but will end the conference season with 3 straight on the road. Just like ASU they’ve been all offense no defense ranking 2nd in offensive efficiency in the Pac and 10th in defensive efficiency.

This week’s games: Thursday vs. #159 Oregon State, Saturday vs. #75 Oregon

4. (2) USC Trojans, 17-9 (8-5)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 13.95 (47th)

Tier 1: 3-5, W- #29 Middle Tennessee 89-84 (neutral), #49 New Mexico St 77-72 (neutral), #75 Oregon 75-70 (away)

Tier 2: 3-3

Tier 3: 5-0

Tier 4: 6-1, L- #207 Princeton 103-93 OT (home)

It looked like the Trojans might challenge Arizona for the conference title but three straight losses have brought them back to the pack. They rank in the top-4 in conference play in both offensive and defensive efficiency so they’re still probably the most well rounded team even though the results haven’t quite been there.

This week’s games: Thursday vs. #75 Oregon, Saturday vs. #159 Oregon State

5. (3) Washington Huskies, 17-8 (7-5)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 7.1 (98th)

Tier 1: 5-4, W- #10 Kansas 74-65 (semi-away), #19 Arizona 78-75 (home), #27 Arizona State 68-64 (home), #48 USC 88-81 (away), #62 Colorado 72-62 (away)

Tier 2: 0-2

Tier 3: 4-2, L- #96 Stanford 73-64 (home), #159 Oregon State 97-94 2OT (away)

Tier 4: 8-0

The Huskies faced massive disappointment with 2 losses in Oregon following the elation of the home sweep of the Arizona schools. They probably need to go 5-1 down the stretch to feel confident going into Selection Sunday. A home sweep to add two more Tier 2 wins to the resume would be a great first step.

This week’s games: Thursday vs. #58 Utah, Saturday vs. #62 Colorado

6. (4) Utah Utes, 15-9 (7-6)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 12.1 (63rd)

Tier 1: 3-8, W- #22 Missouri 77-59 (home), #27 Arizona State 80-77 OT (away), #75 Oregon 66-56 (away)

Tier 2: 1-0

Tier 3: 4-1, L- #115 UNLV 85-58 (semi-away)

Tier 4: 7-0

Utah took care of business with a pair of shellackings at home against the Bay Area schools and now squares off against Washington. It’s not quite a loser goes home game but Utah realistically needs to win out to have a shot to make the tournament. They’ll be favored in each of their last 4 games at Wazzu and with their last 3 at home.

This week’s games: Thursday at #45 Washington, Saturday at #180 Washington State

7. (9) Oregon Ducks, 17-8 (7-5)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 10.79 (74th)

Tier 1: 1-2, W- #27 Arizona State 76-72 (away)

Tier 2: 4-5

Tier 3: 5-1, L- #159 Oregon State 76-64 (away)

Tier 4: 7-0

Oregon has kept themselves alive for NCAA contention. They’ve got a massively difficult ending schedule but they need to since big wins are their only chance. The Ducks will follow up the L.A road trip with home games against the Arizona schools and finally the Washington road trip. A 5-1 record down the stretch could see them get back to the dance.

This week’s games: Thursday at #48 USC, Saturday at #49 UCLA

8. (6) Colorado Buffaloes, 15-10 (7-6)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 6.2 (105th)

Tier 1: 3-5, W- #19 Arizona 80-77 (home), #27 Arizona State 90-81 OT (home), #53 UCLA 68-59 (away)

Tier 2: 2-1

Tier 3: 3-4, L- #138 Iowa 80-73 (neutral), #153 San Diego 69-59 (home), #159 Oregon State 76-57 (away), #206 Colorado State 72-63 (away)

Tier 4: 7-0

This is the line of demarcation for a realistic shot at the tournament. Even a clean sweep from here on out won’t do it with four Tier 3 losses on the resume. They still have the chance to ruin someone else’s chances though with road games at Washington and Utah still on the schedule.

This week’s games: Thursday at #180 Washington State, Saturday at #45 Washington

9. (7) Stanford Cardinal, 13-13 (7-6)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 8.07 (90th)

Tier 1: 2-9, W- #27 Arizona State 86-77 (home), #45 Washington 73-64 (away)

Tier 2: 3-0

Tier 3: 5-2

Tier 4: 3-2, L- #185 Eastern Washington 67-61 (home), #187 California 77-74 (home)

If the season started on January 1st then Stanford would be in good shape at 7-5 with wins against 5 of the teams ahead of them. Unfortunately, those losses to Eastern and Cal still count and it will take a sustained run just to qualify for the NIT. That seems unlikely given they still have the Arizona road trip to close out conference play and that’s not a great place to be.

This week’s games: Sunday at #187 California

10. (10) Oregon State Beavers, 13-11 (5-7)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: 6.17 (106th)

Tier 1: 0-3

Tier 2: 4-5, W- #45 Washington 97-94 2OT (home), #49 UCLA 69-63 (home), #62 Colorado 76-57 (home), #75 Oregon 76-64 (home)

Tier 3: 1-3, L- #172 Kent State 79-78 (away), #187 California 74-70 (away), #198 Long Beach State 74-69 (neutral)

Tier 4: 8-0

The Beavers pulled off yet another miracle win in Corvallis against UW after throttling a listless Cougars team. They’re now 5-2 in conference at home but only get 2 more games there in their last 6 and it’s against the Arizona schools. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Beavers won no more than 1 more game the rest of the way.

This week’s games: Thursday at #49 UCLA, Saturday at #48 USC

11. (12) California Golden Bears, 8-18 (2-11)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: -5.99 (230th)

Tier 1: 0-8

Tier 2: 2-4, W- #96 Stanford 77-74 (away), #131 San Diego State 63-62 (away)

Tier 3: 4-3

Tier 4: 2-3, L- #249 Central Arkansas 96-69 (home), #307 UC Riverside 74-66 (home), D-II Chaminade 96-72 (road)

Cal took care of business at home against Oregon State and that gets them out of the pit of misery. Dilly dilly.

This week’s games: Thursday vs. #75 Oregon, Saturday vs. #109 Oregon State

12. (11) Washington State Cougars, 9-15 (1-11)

Adjusted Efficiency Margin: -2.31 (189th)

Tier 1: 1-8, W-#34 St. Mary’s 84-79 (neutral)

Tier 2: 0-2

Tier 3: 2-4

Tier 4: 6-1. L-#315 UTEP 76-69 (away)

It’s not great when this gets tweeted about you and you follow it up by losing by 27 at Oregon. I’ve mentioned before that the Cougars will return 8 of their top 9 if Robert Franks doesn’t leave early for the NBA draft which may be enough for Ernie Kent to keep his job. But at this point there’s really no reason to have any expectations that the Cougars will ever finish in the top half of the conference under his reign let alone qualify for an NCAA tournament. This is back to being one of the worst power conference jobs in the country. Long live Ernesto.

This week’s games: Thursday vs. #27 Arizona, Sunday vs. #28 Arizona State

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