Friday, January 25, 2013
Conference Power Rankings: Pac-12
By Jason King
Oregon has been the best team in the Pac-12 thus far. And also the luckiest. The Ducks already have defeated Arizona and UCLA -- the league's other top teams -- and because of the scheduling imbalance, they don't have to face either school again. That's right. Oregon only has to play UCLA and Arizona once each. Talk about drawing a good hand. At this point there's no excuse for Oregon not to win the Pac-12 title. Here are the latest Pac-12 power rankings.
1. Oregon. Kudos to Dana Altman for having his team at the top of the Pac-12 standings. If the Ducks indeed win the conference crown, Altman should garner serious consideration for national coach of the year. Oregon's backcourt features two freshmen (Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis) who have adapted quickly to the Division I level. Dotson leads Oregon in scoring (11.9 points) and Artis averages a team-high 3.8 assists.
2. UCLA. Former Bruin Bill Walton said Thursday's 84-73 win at No. 6 Arizona was one of the most impressive victories in the history of the program. That seems like a stretch, but it was a dominating performance nonetheless by a team that has now won 11 of its past 12 games. Ben Howland is doing an excellent job with the Bruins, who got 23 points from Shabazz Muhammad and 12 rebounds from Kyle Anderson.
3. Arizona. Despite Thursday's home loss to UCLA, this is still a very good basketball team, although it's now tough to include the Wildcats in that "upper tier" of squads that have a chance to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats probably will be ranked between Nos. 10 and 15 in the next Associated Press poll, which is probably about where they should've been all along. The ceiling is still very high in Tucson, though.
4. Arizona State. One of the best games of the Pac-12 season to date occurred Thursday, when the Sun Devils escaped with a 98-93 overtime victory against USC. Evan Gordon scored 28 points and Jahii Carson added 21 points and 8 assists in the victory, which came five days after Herb Sendek's squad suffered a 17-point home loss to Arizona. A victory over UCLA on Saturday would thrust Arizona State into the NCAA tournament picture.
5. Colorado. The Buffaloes won their past two games, against Washington State and Stanford. With Cal and Utah up next, the win streak could easily reach four. Andre Roberson snared a career-high 20 rebounds in Thursday's 75-54 victory over Stanford. Roberson now averages 11.9 rebounds a game, which leads the country. Free throw shooting continues to plague Colorado, which entered the game making 66.8 percent of its foul shots. Colorado went 11-of-22 from the charity stripe Thursday.
6. USC. These rankings are all about who is playing the best at the moment, and over the past few weeks the Trojans' strides have been glaring. USC whipped Utah on the road Jan. 12 and, strangely, coach Kevin O'Neill was fired two days later. The Trojans responded by nearly upsetting Oregon before falling 76-74. They then beat Oregon State at home before falling in overtime at Arizona State on Thursday. Jio Fontan (25 points) played the best game of his college career. USC went 15-of-28 from 3-point range.
7. Washington. The Huskies' 4-2 conference record might look impressive, but Lorenzo Romar's squad has dropped its past two games to two of the Pac-12's worst teams in Utah and Oregon State. Even worse is that the Utah loss occurred at home. Washington visits league leader Oregon on Saturday before hosting Arizona and Arizona State next week. C.J. Wilcox is averaging 19.3 points.
8. Stanford. Johnny Dawkins' squad is just 2-4, but the Cardinal defeated Cal, which is why they are ahead of the Golden Bears in the rankings. Still, Stanford's performance in a 21-point loss at Colorado on Thursday was disturbing. The Cardinal shot just 31.3 percent and were out-rebounded by the Buffaloes 45-29. A loss at Utah on Sunday could land Dawkins squarely on the hot seat.
9. Cal. The Golden Bears have lost four of their past seven games and haven't posted back-to-back victories since mid-December. They won on the road against a much-improved Utah squad Thursday, which isn't easy. Sunday's game at Colorado also will be a beast, but Cal is capable of winning if Allen Crabbe continues to excel. He had 23 points in the victory over Utah and is averaging 19.8 points on the season.
10. Oregon State. Disappointing as the Beavers have been, Craig Robinson's team is staring at a golden opportunity to get back on the winning track. Oregon State's next four games are against Washington State, Cal, Stanford and Utah -- all beatable teams. The Beavers also don't have to play UCLA, USC or Arizona a second time. Oregon State already has lost to each of those schools. The Beavers' first Pac-12 win came Wednesday against Wsahington.
11. Washington State. The Cougars' lone Pac-12 victory came Jan. 16 against Utah. Washington State is still showing a lot of fight, but it's just not making a difference on the scoreboard. The Cougars simply don't have enough good players. Brock Motum (18.8 points) and Mike Ladd (11.2) lead Ken Bone's team in scoring.
12. Utah. The Utes upset Washington on the road Saturday for their first Pac-12 win, but they couldn't capitalize on that momentum in Thursday's home loss to Cal. Four of Utah's six conference losses are by five points or fewer. Home games against Stanford and Colorado are next.