We’re almost halfway through the season but just getting started with Pac 12 play. Due to Covid cancelations and postponements, not every team has played the same amount of games. Teams like USC, Oregon, Colorado, Washington State, Utah and Oregon State have played at least 6 conference games whereas Arizona and UCLA have only played 4 conference games.
The Huskies were picked 11th at Pac 12 Media day back in October and have played 5 conference games despite 3 postponements, with two potential reschedules with UCLA and Washington State that have not been announced yet. The Huskies are off to a 3-2 start which currently places UW tied for 6th place officially.
Here is a look at the Conference Power Rankings based on a combination of Non-conference and Conference game results as well as taking into account strength of schedule.
1. Arizona (14-1 Overall and 4-0 in Pac 12)
The Arizona Wildcats were picked to finish 4th at Pac 12 Media day and have easily exceeded expectations so far this season with victories over Michigan who was #4 at the time and Illinois who is #17 today. Even though Michigan has since gone downhill, Arizona’s lone loss is to #19 Tennessee on the road. It’s been more about how Arizona has won games: by 24+ per game on average. They are also rated #14 on offense in KenPom and #7 on defense. Arizona has a chance to be a #1 seed but will need to take care of business versus UCLA, USC and Oregon coming up.
2. UCLA (11-2 Overall and 3-1 in Pac 12)
The UCLA Bruins were the popular choice to win the Pac-12 in the preseason after their improbable Final 4 run and bringing back pretty much everyone from last year. UCLA also brought in 5-star Peyton Watson and a big man transfer from Rutgers in Myles Johnson. UCLA has a great shot to still finish at the top spot but may be difficult to get up to a #1 seed. However, their two losses are to Gonzaga (by 20) and Oregon at home. UCLA looks like a strong #2 seed but has two games versus Arizona and a tough road game at Oregon to make up a jump.
3. USC (14-2 Overall and 4-2 in Pac 12)
The USC Trojans were picked 3rd this season despite losing lottery pick Evan Mobley and 2nd leading scorer in Tahj Eaddy but got off to a hot start at 13-0 and rose up to #5 in the country. Led by Mobley’s older brother Isaiah Mobley (15.3 ppg), Chevez Goodwin (13 ppg) and Boogie Ellis (12.6 ppg), they are keeping up their scoring but their defensive efficiency has dropped a bit from last year (#8 to #34 in KenPom). This has been a rough week for USC, dropping their first game to Stanford (road) and Oregon (home). They also had to come back to beat Oregon State late in the game after being down by as much as 10 points in the 2nd half.
4. Colorado (12-4 Overall and 4-2 in Pac 12)
The Colorado Buffaloes were picked 6th preseason and has made a little bit of a jump in the past two weeks. Colorado lost star PG McKinley Wright to graduation and their 2nd leading scorer Jeriah Horne to transfer so it took Colorado a little bit of time to adjust. Colorado lost to Southern Illinois and barely scraped by versus Duquesne and Brown early on. Montana State and former Husky Raequan Battle also took Colorado to Overtime in the 1st game of the season. So far Colorado’s two best wins to date are a home victory over Washington State and Stanford. Colorado has won 6 of their last 7 and have a tough 3-game stretch with USC, UCLA and Oregon coming up. Colorado could easily fall to 4-5 by next week.
5. Oregon (11-6 Overall and 4-2 in Pac 12)
The Oregon Ducks were picked #2 in the preseason and had high expectations to challenge UCLA for the top spot. Oregon usually picks it up late in the season every year but this was a slower start than usual with two 28+ losses to BYU (In Portland) and Houston (Neutral). Oregon also lost by 12 to Saint Mary’s and had two early Pac-12 losses to Arizona State and Stanford. Oregon has since won 5 in a row and played #1 Baylor pretty tight. Two straight wins over #3 UCLA and #5 USC this week make Oregon the hottest team in the conference right now and have a good chance to climb up to the top of the rankings.
6. Stanford (10-5 Overall and 3-2 in Pac 12)
Close call for the 6th spot but giving it to the Stanford Cardinal since they have the most impressive victories over #5 USC, Oregon and a come from behind road victory at Washington State. They don’t do anything overly spectacular but they are a good team led by a 5 star Freshman Harrison Ingram. Rebounding the ball has been their strength and have shown they can go on big runs against Washington State and UW this past weekend. Stanford boasts the 4th tallest team in the country and play 4 guys over 6’8 at a time usually. Losing to UW was a big hit to any Tourney aspirations (dropped from #67 to #83 on KenPom) but long ways to go this season.
7. Washington State (10-7 Overall and 3-3 in Pac 12)
Really wanted to put Washington here but going to give Washington State the edge since they are ranked #53 in KenPom, which is actually the 5th best KenPom rating in the conference. However their best wins are against #113 Utah, #114 Cal and #125 Arizona State (which was probably the ugliest game of the year for any team in the country). They have lost to Eastern Washington (home), South Dakota State (semi-home in Spokane), New Mexico State (Home) and Boise State (semi-home in Spokane). Besides Eastern, these aren’t necessarily bad losses but definitely winnable games.
8. Washington (8-7 Overall and 3-2 in Pac 12)
The Washington Huskies were picked #11 in the preseason and Terrell Brown Jr. jokingly said in a post game press conference after the Stanford win that he had heard “UW being picked 13th out of 12 teams” in the preseason. Using that as motivation, UW has won 3 of their last 4 games over Stanford, California and Utah. The best two wins of the year are against Stanford at home (#83 in KenPom) and South Dakota State in a semi-away game (#94 in KenPom). South Dakota State was #62 at the time and UW won by double digits. However losing to Northern Illinois at home (#304), Winthrop at home (#192) and Utah Valley at home (#128) have kept UW from being any higher in the rankings. UW gets the Oregon schools on the road this week and the Mountain schools at home next week to try and climb up even higher. A split on the road would be seen as positive but losing both could drop UW a spot or two.
9. California (9-9 Overall and 2-5 in Pac 12)
The California Golden Bears are another team that have exceeded expectations and were picked to finish #12 in the preseason after finishing #12 last season in the Pac 12 as well. Cal got off to a 9-5 start after beating Arizona State by 24 points at home but has since lost 4 in a row. 3 of those losses have been in single digits and are showing to be a much better team than last season, despite losing their top scorer in Matt Bradley via transfer. Not sure how much higher Cal will climb but they will be a pesky opponent for any team.
10. Oregon State (3-13 Overall and 1-5 in Pac 12)
The bottom 3 are each having very difficult starts but as of today, it seems like the Oregon State Beavers are playing their best basketball in recent weeks after a disastrous 1-10 start. Led by Jarod Lucas who is averaging 20 ppg in the last 6 games. The Beavers beat Utah head to head and their 3 recent losses have been to Oregon (home), USC (away) and UCLA (away). This week will be a good barometer of where they are when they host Washington and Washington State in Corvallis. By far the most disappointing team so far as they were in the Elite 8 last year but did make an improbable run last year to vastly inflame expectations this year. Also losing Ethan Thompson has been a huge loss and unfortunately Tinkle has run out of Thompson brothers to throw out there. Still some talent there and could climb up higher in coming weeks.
11. Arizona State (6-9 Overall and 2-3 in Pac 12)
The Arizona State Sun devils were picked #7 in the preseason and have fallen well below expectations thus far. Bobby Hurley brought in several new transfers to clean house from last seasons’ disappointing finish with Star Remy Martin. Covid has hit Arizona State quite a bit this year but had some disappointing results before the Covid cancellations. None bigger than putting up a whopping 29 TOTAL points at Home against Washington State in early December. ASU did bounce back beating Oregon the very next game on the road (go figure), Grand Canyon at home and a good Creighton team on the road. They have since lost 3 in a row until Monday against Utah and have also had 5 games postponed since Mid-December. ASU does have a chance to bounce back with the talent they have but they have dug quite a big hole to start. Giving them the edge over Utah due to beating Utah at home the other day but should be noted that Utah was missing their best player in Branden Carlson.
12. Utah (8-10 Overall and 1-7 in Pac 12)
It’s been a tale of two teams for the Utah Utes so far this year. Utah didn’t have much expectations with a new coach and losing losing scorer Timmy Allen to Texas and 2nd leading scorer Alfonso Plummer to Illinois. However, Utah got off to a hot start early on, going 8-4 with impressive wins over Fresno State (#60 on KP), Boston College and California. The wheels have fallen off since the Fresno State win and the Utes have lost 6 in a row, 1-7 in conference. Utah, with already 7 conference losses, is in full rebuild mode under new head coach Craig Smith who should be able to eventually turn things around.