Friday, February 22, 2013
Conference Power Rankings: Pac-12
By Jason King
In most leagues, the race for the conference title is down to two or three teams. The Pac-12 is different. Arizona and Oregon are tied for first place in the conference standings at 10-4. But five other teams are within two games of the Wildcats and Ducks. The final two weeks of the regular season should be riveting. And so should the Pac-12 tournament. In the meantime, here are the latest power rankings.
1.California. These rankings generally reward the teams that are playing the best at the moment, and no Pac-12 squad is hotter than Cal. The Golden Bears have won six of their past seven. Included in that stretch are victories over UCLA, Arizona and Oregon (twice). Cal plays at Oregon State on Saturday before returning home for its final three games against Colorado, Utah and Stanford. Could Cal be the Pac-12 champion? Heck, why not?
2. Oregon. The Ducks are just 4-4 since losing guard Dominic Artis to a foot injury. They lost 48-46 to Cal on Thursday when Golden Bears standout Justin Cobbs drilled a long jump shot at the buzzer. Dana Altman's squad can still claim the league championship by winning the rest of its games. The schedule is favorable with remaining tilts at home against Stanford and Oregon State and on the road against Utah and Colorado.
3. Arizona. The Wildcats are getting strong play from point guard Mark Lyons, who is averaging 16.8 points and 4.2 assists in his past five games. Arizona is tied for the league lead with Oregon, but it has a tougher remaining schedule with road games remaining at UCLA and USC.
4. Arizona State. The Sun Devils looked like they were ready to fold after losses to Washington, Stanford and Utah. But Herb Sendek's squad bounced back nicely with an overtime win at Colorado and a home victory against a pesky Washington State team. Arizona State's remaining schedule is brutal. It hosts Washington on Saturday and then plays its final three games -- against USC, UCLA and Arizona -- on the road.
5. Colorado. Tad Boyle's squad has won four of its past five games, with the lone setback coming in an overtime defeat to Arizona State in Boulder. Forward Josh Scott suffered a concussion in that game, which forced him to miss Thursday's victory over Utah. The Buffaloes don't play again until Wednesday's road showdown with Stanford.
6.UCLA. The Bruins have won three of their past four games, with the only loss coming against a sizzling Cal team. Shabazz Muhammad is averaging 19.8 points in his past five contests, including a 25-point performance in Saturday's win over Stanford. Ben Howland's squad faces USC in a crosstown battle on Sunday.
7. USC. The Trojans' four-game winning streak was stopped with a loss at Cal on Sunday, but Bob Cantu's team has a chance to get back on track with three straight home games. The opponents (UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State) will all be tough, but USC has shown it can hang with any team in the league. J.T. Terrell is averaging 10.9 points on the season and 14.8 points in his past four games.
8.Stanford. Don't rule out the Cardinal's chances of making the NCAA tournament just yet. Stanford is 16-11 overall and 7-7 in league play. There are still chances to pick up quality wins against Cal, Colorado and Oregon. And while it seems unlikely, Johnny Dawkins' squad is good enough to get hot and win the Pac-12 tournament.
9.Washington. It's amazing that last year's regular-season Pac-12 champion is this bad. The Huskies have lost eight of their past 10 games, and the last three of those setbacks have come by double-digits. C.J. Wilcox averages 17.5 points for a team that plays at Arizona State on Saturday before closing out its season with three straight home games.
10. Oregon State. Four of the Beavers' past seven losses have come by four points or fewer. Oregon State has just three conference victories, and with three of its final four games being on the road, it seems unlikely that things will get much better.
11. Utah. The Utes shocked Arizona State last week and nearly defeated Arizona before falling 68-64. Jarred DuBois and Jordan Loveridge combine to average 23.5 points and 13.3 rebounds. The Utes are one of the Pac-12's most improved teams, even though their record doesn't show it.
12. Washington State. Ken Bone's squad has lost seven straight games. Four of the setbacks were by four points or fewer, including one in overtime. Royce Woolridge had a career game against Oregon on Saturday with 36 points. Brock Motum averages team highs in points (17.8) and rebounds (6.2).