From our annual family trip to Mexico, I’m noting a slimmed Power Rankings. It’s no fault of the conference – hell, we’re just a week removed from Cal nearly winning in Charlottesville (will someone draw a play up for Ivan Rabb, please?). But the WiFi is spotty and the number of beach-centric activities is overwhelming (recommendation: invest in a Spike Ball set). I can’t dive deep.
And this is the last Power Rankings before conference play begins. To date, the Power Rankings have been dictated by a team’s most recent performance and other qualifiers. The equation looks something like this:
Makes sense, right?
Anyhow, I’m going to include, (parenthetically), where I really think a team will finish with some justification. The parentheticals are different than our preseason rankings because we can now judge about 13 games of action. For example: George King, Cuonzo Martin, Jordan McLaughlin, Chris Boucher, Thomas Welsh, etc. We know things.
Power Rankings and Happy New Year:
1. Arizona (1)
They’re 12-1 with only a loss to a Top-10 team. Parker Jackson-Cartwright cannot play this sustainably bad (20% 3FG%) and the reintroduction of Kaleb Tarczewski back from a foot injury will turn those 85-70 type wins into – well – far better defensive performances. Stay tuned for a deep look into what Arizona’s rim protection/defense was like with and without Zeus.
2. Utah (3)
Poeltl is the clear cut favorite for Pac-12 Player of the Year which presumably would have these guys as serious contenders to win the Pac. But Brandon Taylor’s woes don’t seem to be particularly improving which really just means we need to start paying closer attention to Lorenzo Bonam (his 127 Ortg and 10/3/3 are roughly equal to Taylor’s 2015 118 10/3/3).
3. UCLA (4)
I want to type that the Bruins had the best non-conference performance of any Pac-12 team. But their resume is still scarred with a few ugly losses which I think indicates a few more are due in conference play. Did you know UCLA’s defense ranks 11th in the Pac? 98th nationally. That’s not good. I’d also like to think Thomas Welsh can’t maintain his 127 offensive efficiency and near 60% eFG% – but I’m beginning to believe he’s the real deal. Let’s also not lose sight of Jonah Bolden’s development that’s going to allow the Bruins to bolster that defense.
4. Oregon (2)
Dylan Ennis returns (possibly) tonight.
5. Arizona State (6)
ASU has 5 Top-100 KenPom wins which is equal to the number of Top-100 KenPom wins they had last season.
6. California (5)
Two players in the country take more than half their shots at the rim, connect on 80% or greater of those attempts, and have less than 35% of those makes assisted. I’ve invented the 80/55/35 AtR (at the rim) club. One of its members is Purdue guard Johnny Hill. The other is Ivan Rabb – the infrequently used dominant paint force that’s also on Ty Wallace’s team. But yanno – let’s just keep letting Ty shoot (81.5 Ortg vs. KenPom Top 100 and never higher than 97 in his career while Ivan sits at a cool 115).
7. Colorado (8)
Josh Scott Pac-12 Player of the Year? If the Buffs finish in the conference’s top 6 then yes though I’m still not 100% convinced that will happen. These guys might be the most confusing of the lot. With a lovely 11-2 record, they’ve done their job and won. But there have been times where it’s been rough (52 points in a half to CSU, halftime deficit to Hampton, etc.). I’m nitpicking, for sure, but coming back against bad teams is a lot different than conference foes and this is the toughest (or at least deepest) Pac these Buffs have seen.
8. Oregon State (9)
If the defense improves to what it’d previously been (aka, last year’s top-20 defense) then this team will make a run towards the NCAA tournament. The coaches’ kids are good enough Olaf Schaftenaar is having one of those senior years that you love to see (new role, improved production). GP2 is living up to all the expectations (also as a senior) which is another feel good story.
9. USC (7)
For the second – or third? – consecutive week, I’m looking for a reason to rate these Trojans higher. I even gave myself that excuse with the parenthetical ranking and could allot them only two slots. Why? Well I think it’s because I’ve got five USC returners improving their 2015 offensive efficiency by > 10% and I don’t think that’s sustainable against KenPom’s third best conference following the 239th toughest non-conference.
10. WSU (11)
Let’s be honest – I haven’t watched much Washington State basketball this season. But there’s reason to believe that this team is a lot more than just Josh Hawkinson. They run a a lot of big bodies at you a Ike Iroegbu is making more than 50% of his three point attempts. Impressive. The other thing I like about this group is they don’t have any particularly bad losses. Well – losing to Idaho is a loss to the 223rd ranked team. But it was a road game for this young squad. After that, their only losses have been to KP top-100 including Gonzaga (23) and Oklahoma (1).
11. Stanford (12)
12. Washington (10)
The Pac-12 title will hinge on which top four team doesn’t lose to the Huskies. Remember this.