With just six regular-season games remaining, Jon Wilner breaks down where each Pac-12 men's basketball team ranks. Spoiler: UW still has a strangle hold on first place.
I clicked on ESPN.com’s college basketball site early this morning to check the latest news and saw the following big, bold headline:
Immediate reaction: Did the Pac-12 even make the cut?
After all, the sport has six power conferences with the football five and the Big East. It would only take two others to KO the Pac-12 into the ranks of the unranked.
Well, the Pac-12 is included in the analysis. Not surprisingly, it’s seventh out of seven, behind (in order) the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Big East and, um, the American.
ESPN reporter John Gasaway was given the task of summarizing what’s good about the Pac-12 and notes with a bite:
“This is the most difficult topical assignment a college basketball writer has been given by an editor since that short-lived ‘The case for adding more timeouts’ idea we ended up spiking.”
Gasaway concludes that what’s good is Washington’s defensive maestro Matisse Thybulle.
The Pac-12 isn’t last in all the categories used to formulate the rankings. It’s seventh in ‘NCAA title likelihood’ and ‘star players factor’ but sixth out of seven in ‘watchability’ and ‘top/bottom strength.’
In those areas, it rates above the American.
In praise of small victories, right?
1. Washington (20-5/11-1, NET: 31)
Last week: 1
Results: Won at Washington State 72-70
Next up: vs. Utah (Wednesday)
Comment: Resume remains buttressed by the lack of bad non-conference losses. Current NET ranking of the Huskies’ four conquerors: Gonzaga 2, Virginia Tech 14, Auburn 21 and Minnesota 51.
2. Arizona State (17-8/8-5, NET: 68)
Last week: 2
Results: Lost at Colorado 77-73, won at Utah 98-87
Next up: vs. Stanford (Wednesday)
Comment: We saw the best of the Sun Devils in Salt Lake City. In that mode, they’re capable of winning two in the NCAAs. But if they aren’t in that mode often enough over the next four weekends, they won’t get to the NCAAs.
3. Oregon State (16-8/8-4, NET: 84)
Last week: 4
Results: Beat Oregon 72-57
Next up: at UCLA (Thursday)
Comment: Beavers aiming for their first season sweep of UCLA since Gary Payton’s sophomore year (1987-88). The teams finished tied for second, behind Arizona, in the conference race.
4. Colorado (16-9/7-6, NET: 73)
Last week: 6
Results: Beat Arizona State 77-73 and Arizona 67-60
Next up: at Washington State (Wednesday)
Comment: For the twin purposes of tournament seeding and momentum, the Buffs cannot afford to get swept this week. Which means they need a win in Pullman.
5. Oregon (15-10/6-6, NET: 69)
Last week: 3
Results: Lost at Oregon State 72-57
Next up: at USC (Thursday)
Comment: What’s left for the Ducks after getting swept in the Civil War hoops series? Welp, they’ll always have football.
6. Utah (14-11/8-5, NET: 101)
Last week: 5
Results: Beat Arizona 83-76, lost to Arizona State 98-87
Next up: at Washington (Wednesday)
Comment: With Utah’s defense, as with the Pac-12 in general, I am mesmerized by the mess. Utes are No. 272 in the Pomeroy defensive efficiency rankings. Only two Power Six teams are worse: Washington State and Cal.
7. Stanford (14-11/7-6, NET: 96)
Last week: 9
Results: Beat USC 79-76 and UCLA 104-80
Next up: at Arizona State (Wednesday)
Comment: Stretch-run opportunity for the Cardinal to generate real momentum with Arizona struggling and then three home games to finish the season. But first, it must get past ASU, and the Devils should be locked in after losing the first meeting.
8. USC (14-12/7-6, NET: 88)
Last week: 7
Results: Lost at Stanford 79-76, won at Cal 89-66
Next up: vs. Oregon (Thursday)
Comment: What do you expect from a football schoo … err, um … from a men’s water polo school.
9. UCLA (13-13/6-7, NET: 114)
Last week: 8
Results: Won at Cal 75-67, lost at Stanford 104-80
Next up: vs. Oregon State
Comment: The five teams directly above UCLA in the NET rankings: Montana, Northern Kentucky, Rutgers, Ball State and Penn.
10. Arizona (14-12/5-8, NET: 87)
Last week: 10
Results: Lost at Utah 83-76 and Colorado 67-60
Next up: vs. Cal (Thursday)
Comment: Positive news on and off the court: The losing streak ends Thursday, guaranteed, and Lute Olson is in good condition after suffering a minor stroke.
11. Washington State (10-15/3-9, NET: 172)
Last week: 11
Results: Lost to Washington 72-70
Next up: vs. Colorado (Wednesday)
Comment: Uptick to permanently competitive or merely a fleeting show of competence? I need to see more from the Cougars before being convinced of the former.
12. Cal (5-20/0-13, NET: 274)
Last week: 12
Results: Lost to UCLA 75-67 and USC 89-66
Next up: at Arizona (Thursday)
Comment: The last time a team went 0-18: Oregon State in 2007-08, when the loaded conference (Westbrook, Love, Mayo, Harden) sent six teams to the NCAAs.