Pac-12 Hoops Power Rankings: What is going on?
Less than two weeks into the season and the Pac-12 only has three unbeaten teams left — and one of them is Oregon State. The ACC has eight such teams. The Big 12 and the SEC each have seven. The Big Ten has 10.
Eight Pac-12 teams have already lost games to teams outside the KenPom Top 100. And five from that group have lost games to teams outside the KenPom Top 200. What on earth is going on at the bottom of this basketball conference? Early-season results are weird, this is true, but UCLA and Arizona have looked wonderful and everyone else looks… not that.
Let’s dive into the updated Power Rankings.
12. California Golden Bears
Last week: 11th
Is Cal this year’s Oregon State? I say that in all seriousness. Will the Bears win more than five games? I was apparently being too kind putting them at 11th in the preseason. They’re shooting 25.5% on 3s this season and giving up 36.4% shooting on 3s to the opposition. They also have a 23% turnover rate. They trailed for 30 minutes in a 10-point loss to UC Davis to open the season. They trailed by as many as 20 points in the second half in a 63-54 loss to Kansas State. They went into the halftime break against UC San Diego — 294th in KenPom!!! — down by 10 and lost by two. Asking UCLA for a subsidy while the football and basketball programs perform at their current respective levels is sicko behavior.
11. Washington State Cougars
Last week: 9th
Depth was obviously a concern heading into the season, so it’s not a surprise to see four guys averaging north of 30 minutes a night through three games. Justin Powell — shooting 39% — has played 108 minutes in three games. A win over Texas State at home to open the year has been followed up by a 71-61 loss to Boise State on the road — fine, the Broncos are 97th in KenPom — and then 70-59 to Prairie View A&M. The Panthers are 278th in KenPom. They currently don’t have a guy in the rotation taller than 6-foot-7 and outrebounded the Cougars 33-30. The 6-foot-11 Mouhamed Gueye (a preseason first-team all-conference pick) had four points and two rebounds. He took six shots in 19 minutes on the floor. Add in Wazzu’s 7-foot freshman and the two bigs had a grand total of six rebounds and one block. Prairie View A&M took only 19 3s. Guys…
10. Oregon State Beavers
Last week: 12th
Congrats to the Beavers for already matching last season’s win total. The Beavs picked up a good win in the opener, 73-70 over a Tulsa team that ranks 145th in KenPom. They handled Florida A&M (359th in KenPom) 60-43 and then beat Bushnell 83-66. Watch the defense here. How sustainable is it? Oregon State is currently fourth nationally in 2-point percentage defense (35.1% allowed inside the arc).
9. Utah Utes
Last week: 10th
Sam Houston already has wins over Oklahoma in Norman (52-51) and Utah in Salt Lake City (65-55)… so that team might just be good. Utah probably doesn’t want to be losing games to the Bearkats but it did what it was supposed to in its first three games — all of them double-digit wins — so I’m a little more content to tip the cap to the victors. I just really love 7-foot center Branden Carlson, who is averaging 17 points, eight boards, three blocks, and just over two assists a night while shooting 53% from the field and 31% from 3. He’s going to be a significant problem for teams in league play this year.
8. Colorado Buffaloes
Last week: 7th
Is… I don’t… Like… What are we doing here? Is Colorado serious? Colorado opened the year with an 82-66 win over UC Riverside. It then lost 83-74 to Grambling on the road, a team that ranked 296th in KenPom. Then it went to a semi-road atmosphere and beat a Tennessee team that ranks 7th in KenPom by TWELVE POINTS. Then it lost to UMass, 66-63, only to turn around on Friday and beat a Texas A&M team that was ranked in the AP Top 25. And the Buffs didn’t just beat the Aggies, they destroyed the Aggies. KJ Simpson had career-highs of 30 points and six teals to help lead the Buffs to a 103-75 win. What is happening here? How on Earth am I supposed to rank this basketball team? Are you only getting up for big games? Are you bad? Are you actually awesome? All of these early losses Pac-12 teams are taking is going to make for a nightmare month of March as folks try and figure out who deserves tourney bids and who doesn’t.
7. Washington Huskies
Last week: 6th
Keion Brooks Jr., a 6-7 forward from Kentucky, was who we hoped he’d be in the opener, putting up 20 points to help lead UW to a 69-52 win over Weber State. He then missed the next two games. In his absence, 6-foot-1 freshman guard Keyon Menifield put up 21 points and 26 points in wins over North Florida and Utah Tech. UW had both back on the court together against Cal Baptist at home on Thursday and lost 73-64. They combined to shoot 8-for-26 from the field and 0-for-5 from 3. UW needs those two to get off to better starts. Watch how the chemistry works between the two as they get more time on the court together.
6. Stanford Cardinal
Last week: 5th
The Cardinal is 1-2, but it has the most acceptable losses of the bunch. Wisconsin in a semi-road atmosphere beat Stanford 60-50. A strong San Diego State squad then beat Stanford in Palo Alto, 74-62. Spencer Jones has been a complete non-factor after missing the opener. He’s 2-for-12 from 3, 7-for-24 from the field, and has only played a total of 46 minutes in two games. As one of the best shooters in the league, you expect he’ll figure it out. The more concerning trend is Harrison Ingram’s slow start — though I use “concerning” loosely, it’s still early. And Michael Jones followed up a 31-point debut with nine total points on 11 shots in his next two games. He was scoreless against the Aztecs. I was really high on Stanford coming into the year. I’m holding stock here, but I am a teeny bit uneasy given the general failure to live up to expectations throughout the Haase tenure.
5. USC Trojans
Last week: 4th
USC opened its season by getting handled on its home floor by Florida Gulf Coast. It blasted Alabama State by nearly 40 points to follow that disappointing performance up, and then used a near-triple-double performance from Drew Peterson to beat Vermont by two. Uneven first three showings. There was reason to question the Trojans’ ability to score enough coming into the season and they’ve done nothing to provide an answer there so far. Putting up 96 points on an Alabama State team that ranks 349th in KenPom tells me nothing. Putting up 59 and 61 in your other two games is definitely concerning. They’re shooting 29% from 3 and just giving the ball away a little too often.
4. Oregon Ducks
Last week: 3rd
Oregon has wins of 35 points and 30 points over Florida A&M and Montana State. It has a 13-point loss at home to UC Irvine that caused coach Dana Altman to rip his team’s effort afterward. N’Faly Dante has been strong, with 14 points and eight rebounds a night through three. That’s good. But Oregon has to get hot shooting from the trio of Will Richardson, Keeshawn Barthelemy, and Quincy Guerrier for this to work the way many hope it will. Those are your three leaders in terms of minutes. They’re a combined 13-for-46 (28%) from 3. Where’s Will Richardson? To whom much is given, much is expected. The Ducks’ lead guard had two complete clunkers to open the season.
3. Arizona State Sun Devils
Last week: 8th
Hurley! On Thursday night, Arizona State beat the brakes off No. 20 Michigan for the biggest win over a ranked opponent the program has ever had. Arizona State moved to 4-1 on the year and won the Legends Classic with an 86-62 victory. The Sun Devils limited Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson to 14 points on 14 shots while the duo of Desmond Cambridge Jr. and DJ Horne put up a combined 39 points with seven made 3s. ASU has an overtime loss to Texas Southern… by one point and on the road… but still. The back-to-back wins over VCU and Michigan, however, would indicate this team has some serious talent.
2. Arizona Wildcats
Last week: 2nd
Arizona is getting outstanding play from Azuolas Tubelis, excellent shooting from Kerr Kriisa, and the starting lineup looks like it’ll once again be one of the best in the West. The Wildcats have been the best-shooting team in basketball to begin the year. They’re flying up and down the court, which has also led to a high turnover rate. Tommy Lloyd will look to curb that without taking away his squad’s instinctual desire to push the pace.
1. UCLA Bruins
Last week: 1st
Three outings, three blowouts. UCLA is winning by an average of 27 points and has held opponents to 19% shooting from 3 so far. Jaylen Clark may have already stolen the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player award. He has averaged 17 points and 54% shooting from 3-point range through his first three games. And coach Mick Cronin has been cranky about the defense amid blowouts. UCLA has championship expectations and championship standards. They’re off to a good start. Tyger Campbell is leading the team in shot attempts and has seen his 3-point clip drop to 33%. That was probably to be expected with an increase in volume. Getting only 26 points from him and Jaime Jaquez Jr. a night won’t be enough when the competition kicks up.