Without a doubt, this was the most difficult Power Rankings I’ve had to complete. Considered foregoing it. I dropped teams with noteworthy showings (Colorado, Stanford), while others made huge jumps because – yanno – last week’s second through fifth ranked teams went a combined 0-6. Standard stuff. Begging the question: Is the Pac-12 full of parity or parody? The former would suggest that good teams are losing on the road to equally challenging opponents. The latter, however, suggests we’re in for a season of laughable outcomes, an opportunity to perhaps enjoy our Western anonymity.
But before you go diving onto the season’s panic button or attempt to rip your shirt off as you’re being escorted from the final minute of a rivalry game, remember that the Pac-12 is a historically difficult road game. Last season, home teams won 67% of the games – the third highest mark amongst conferences. This – my Utah and UCLA, friends – should have a calming affect. I think we can rest pretty well assured that this conference is full of champions! Parity.
The Wildcats won for the first time in Tempe since 2013. In doing so, they put forth an offensive display – or at least by efficiency-and-Sean-Miller-standards. Sunday’s 1.31 points per possession was the ninth most efficient game in the Miller era. That is neat. In unrelated neat news, you should probably start becoming a fan of Ryan Anderson because everyone loves hustle (4 straight double-doubles) and afraid of Allonzo Trier:
Allonzo Trier’s last eight games: 23.7 points per 40 minutes while shooting 11-for-25 (44%) from 3 and 57% from 2. Bucket getter.
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) January 3, 2016
If the Bears choose to play defense – the primary reason they had all of this upside – then they’ll stay right here at #2 if not jump the Wildcats for #1. Against Colorado, the Golden Bears limited the Buffs to just 0.5 points per possession in the first half. That’s stifling. Furthermore, Cal now has the top rated defensive 2pt field goal defense in the nation. There’s a reason to have your most popular lineups include no one shorter than 6’4″ and it’s not to shoot jumpers…
It’s hard to win on the road and the Bay Trip is rarely an easy sweep, let alone split. Larry Krystkowiak has never beaten Stanford. Could the Utes have dropped further? Absolutely. But the mess around them salvaged their Power Ranking which – last I checked – held about as much clout as a gym resolution. Ultimately, I’m taking the team with Jakob Poeltl ahead of others.
4. Oregon State
Here’s a blind taste test:
- Team A: 109 ORtg, 96.2 Drtg, 10-2 (2 top 100 wins, 2 top 100 losses), 133rd SOS
- Team B: 111.1 Ortg, 97.2 Drtg, 11-3 (4 top 100 wins, 3 top 100 losses), 176th SOS
That’s the Beavers then Ducks. OK, we’re not soon to mistake them for resume twins, but they’re very similar and now rate 40th and 38th, respectively, in KenPom. But the Beavers make the big jump (8 to 4) because this has the feel of a statement victory. It wasn’t a blowout but they never trailed in this game and gave the impression of a team that feels it belongs. I’ve been critical of USC for missing that signature win as they make their attempt to “arrive” and I think this could be it for the Beavers.
Losing a road rivalry game to long time little brother and inferior basketball opponent is like having a dominating 31-0 lead in a bowl game.
I looked at my phone and saw this Tweet as I walked into a Seahawks bar with my best friend from college who is from Seattle:
Chriss picks up his third foul on an illegal screen. Trojans up 64-44 and doing as they please offensively.
— Christian Caple (@ChristianCaple) January 3, 2016
Thirty minutes later I got to deliver the good news to an already very happy Seattle crowd. I also got to watch the end of regulation and both overtimes as the Dawgs upset UCLA on New Year’s day. This is obviously the biggest surprise in the conference. It’s also something I don’t think we quite need to get used to (the Huskies sweeping weekends, that is). But as the Dawgs navigate this season with its young roster, bear in mind what we said before conference play and the Huskies ranked 12th:
The Pac-12 title will hinge on which top four team doesn’t lose to the Huskies. Remember this.
7. Arizona State
For this week’s ASU blurb, I’ll provide five of my all time favorite on camera meltdowns (which might have some NSFW language):
- Bill O’Reilly will do it live
- I’m passing out (not quite a meltdown but just great)
- The Bears are who we thought they were
- News reporter…and the fly
- Bobby Hurley
The Buffs, yes, actually drop a spot in the Rankings. Cal handled the Buffs and – despite getting a nice win in Palo Alto – I’m not super stoked on rewarding a game that saw a net 0.87 points per possession. Unattractive (but kudos for getting a road win because that’s huge). Glad to discuss.
So the Trojans yielded the biggest comeback Washington has ever achieved under Lorenzo Romar. USC is still learning how to win. Here are two examples of things they know how to do:
— Pac-12 Networks (@Pac12Networks) January 2, 2016
— Pac-12 Networks (@Pac12Networks) January 3, 2016
I’m not upset…I’m just disappointed.
Last week we said the Bruins’ defense could be its major flaw despite their national ranking and sexy wins. This week they allowed Washington State it’s best offensive performance of the season (1.17 ppp). I mean, Washington was fresh off a home loss to UC Santa Barbara (Ben Howland!). Both Washington schools are >100 KenPom teams and both now own wins over UCLA. With Arizona looming on Thursday, the Bruins are looking at the possibility of their first 0-3 conference start since 1988-89.
I love that the Cougars got a win over UCLA. Josh Hawkinson averaged 20 and 11 for the weekend. But the Cougars unfortunately FALL in this week’s Rankings because it was just going to have to happen this way. I’m not going to forget this – I don’t forget Cougar things – so I encourage Kent’s warriors to win.
Similar to the Cougars, the Cardinal drop because someone had to fill the twelfth spot in the Pac-12. The Cardinal used every minute of regulation and one overtime to try and lose both of their games this weekend so I’m not losing sleep over this cellar ranking.