Friday, January 18, 2013
Conference Power Rankings: Pac-12
By Jason King
Fans of the Pac-12 should plan to be in front of their televisions Saturday for a pair of games featuring four of the league's top five teams. Arizona State hosts Arizona at 2:30 ET. Ninety minutes later, Oregon and UCLA tip off in Westwood. The results of those contests should have a big effect on the conference power rankings. As of now, here's how things stand.
1. Arizona. The No. 7 Wildcats bounced back nicely from their loss at Oregon on Jan. 10 by defeating Oregon State two days later in Corvallis. Sean Miller's squad hasn't played since, which is probably a good thing as it prepares for another tough road test against upstart Arizona State on Saturday. Point guard Mark Lyons is averaging 18.3 points in his past four games.
2. UCLA. The Bruins picked up their 10th consecutive victory Thursday in a 10-point win over Oregon State. UCLA, which hasn't lost since Dec. 1, is getting 8.9 rebounds per game from Kyle Anderson and 18.2 points per game from Shabazz Muhammad, both of whom are freshmen. Oregon will be UCLA's toughest Pac-12 opponent to date.
3. Oregon.E.J. Singler did a little bit of everything to help keep the Ducks undefeated Thursday night. He had 14 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds in a 76-74 victory at USC. Freshman guard Damyean Dotson also had 14 points for Oregon, which could seize control of the Pac-12 race by beating UCLA on Saturday.
4. Washington. Now that everyone is healthy, Lorenzo Romar's squad looks like a completely different team from the one we saw early in the season. The Huskies beat Colorado by 10 points at home Wednesday and should get another W this weekend against last-place Utah. C.J. Wilcox is averaging 26 points in his past two games and 19.4 on the season.
5. Arizona State. The Sun Devils are a good basketball team -- but no one knows how good. Their nonconference schedule was weak and they couldn't beat Oregon in their only marquee Pac-12 game to date. That's why Saturday's tilt with Arizona in Tempe is so pivotal. A victory could enhance Arizona State's national image and do wonders for its resume come Selection Sunday.
6. Colorado. I'm shocked that the Buffaloes are 1-4 in league play. There is too much talent on Colorado's roster for that kind of a mark. Granted, the schedule hasn't been all that kind. The Buffs opened league play on the road against Arizona and Arizona State and also have lost at Washington, which is never an easy place to play. There's no reason they shouldn't win their next four games (against Washington State, Stanford, Cal and Utah).
7. Cal. The Golden Bears haven't played since last weekend's 67-54 win against Washington State. So they should be well-rested for Saturday's road game against rival Stanford. Allen Crabbe is averaging 20.1 points for Mike Montgomery's squad, which plays its next three games away from home.
8. Stanford. The only conference win for the Cardinal thus far came against Washington State on Jan. 9. They performed admirably in a 65-60 loss to league-unbeaten Washington three days later and are now preparing for Saturday's showdown against Cal. Dwight Powell averages 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds.
9. USC. Even though I think it's ridiculous to fire a coach in the middle of the season, the Trojans certainly looked re-energized Thursday with a different coach calling the shots from the bench. Longtime USC assistant Bob Cantu was named interim coach after Kevin O'Neill's dismissal Monday. His team showed a ton of fight before bowing to Oregon 76-74.
10. Oregon State. Things are getting ugly for Beavers coach Craig Robinson, whose team fell to 0-4 in the Pac-12 following Thursday's loss at UCLA. If Oregon State doesn't bounce back with a win at USC on Saturday, Robinson's job security will no doubt come into question. Improvements have been made in the program, but unfortunately it's not showing up on the scoreboard.
11. Washington State. The Cougars picked up their first conference win Wednesday against Utah, but they could really turn some heads by beating Colorado on Saturday. A victory certainly isn't out of the question. The Buffaloes are struggling, and Washington State boasts one of the better home courts in the Pac-12.
12. Utah. The Utes' first three Pac-12 losses came by a combined eight points -- but their last two defeats both have come by double digits. Is Utah regressing? Things won't get any easier Saturday when it plays at red-hot Washington, which has yet to lose a conference game.