Pac-10 Basketball Power Rankings: Feb. 7, 2011
Wow, have things changed since my last Pac-10 power rankings.
The Washington Huskies have gone from clear conference front runners to a tournament bubble team. Meanwhile, Arizona keeps cruising along and has built itself a 1.5-game lead over second-place UCLA and a full two-game lead over Washington.
Up in Oregon, the Beavers and Ducks continue to pull baffling upsets and appear to be serious threats to make a run at the Pac-10 Tournament championship, which could give one of the schools an unlikely tournament bid.
If there is one thing we know in the Pac-10 this year, it's that anything can happen at any given time.
The final weeks of conference play should be as exciting as the the first ones, but for now, here are my current power rankings of the Pac-10 conference.
10. Arizona State
ASU's Trent Lockett is averaging 14 points per game
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Much like their 2010 football season, the Sun Devils have the talent in place to compete near the top of the conference, but they just can't seem to put it all together come game time.
All of Arizona State's last four losses have been by single digits, and their 1-10 conference record does not accurately portray their season. ASU is almost always still in the game with around 10 minutes to go, but for whatever reason it can't seem to ever pull out a victory.
The Sun Devils' leading scorers are Trent Lockett and Ty Abbott, but if one of them is having a bad night, there goes the team's chance of winning the game. For example, Arizona State only lost to Stanford by eight points last Saturday, but Abbott was held to only three points. If he had scored his average of 13 points per game, the Sun Devils might have won.
9. Oregon State
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Its hard to put Oregon State this low on the list after seeing them knock off both Arizona and Washington, but outside of those schools, along with ASU and USC, Oregon State has not beaten anyone else in the conference.
The Beavers are certainly a dangerous team, led by Jared Cunningham, who leads the conference with an average of three steals per game. But after Cunningham, Oregon State does not have any reliable and consistent scorers.
The key to Oregon State's shocking 12-point upset over Washington may have been Omari Johnson's 11 rebounds. The Beavers are one of the shorter teams in the conference but were able to out-rebound the Huskies by 13 boards. If they can continue to rebound at a high level, they may be a dark horse to win the conference tournament.
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Right about now is the time Trojans fans are wishing Derrick Williams and Momo Jones didn't leave Southern Cal for Arizona.
USC is one of the greatest mysteries in the Pac-10 this season because it certainly has the talent to be where UCLA is in the standings, but it has not been able to win close games.
Four of the Trojans' six conference losses have been by six points or less, and USC also missed a golden opportunity to win at Kansas.
Currently, Nikola Vucevic and USC are sitting in eighth place in the conference standings, and they still have to take trips to the Northern Cal and Washington schools, so things aren't looking too good for the Trojans' basketball team. Their football team, on the other hand...
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Stanford's two best wins of the season, one against Virginia and the other against Washington, keep looking less and less impressive. The Cavaliers are 3-6 in ACC play, while the Huskies have now lost three straight.
Although the Cardinal played well against Arizona last Thursday, it was pretty easy to tell that Stanford is still a year or two away from being a true threat to win the conference.
They are led by juniors Jeremy Green and Josh Owens, who both average over 10 points a game, but after that Stanford doesn't have much depth on its bench, and there is a significant statistical drop-off between the top starters and the bench players.
The Cardinal face a tough remaining Pac-10 schedule, with five of their final seven conference games on the road.
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As fellow B/R writer Doug Brodess highlighted, Oregon head coach Dana Altman has done a remarkable job of rebuilding the basketball program after Ernie Kent left it in a little bit of a mess.
The Ducks had an amazing home sweep of the Washington schools, and I'm beginning to think that there is something about the new Matthew Knight Arena that is giving Oregon some added mojo.
Since moving into the new court, Oregon is 3-1 at home and has moved into a tie for sixth place. Not bad for a team that was projected to be a bottom-dweller in conference play.
5. Washington State
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At this point, it looks like the only way the Cougars will make the Big Dance is if they win the Pac-10 Tournament, and the odds of that don't seem too likely.
Washington State has a lofty 16-7 record, but its RPI is only at 69. Although there are still plenty of games remaining in conference play, the Cougars fell off the bubble following their embarrassing 26-point loss to Oregon.
The turning point in the Cougars' season might have been when they let Arizona come back and win a game the Wildcats really should have had no business being in if Klay Thompson had been his usual self. But Arizona was able to keep Thompson to only nine in that game, marking the first time he had been held to single digits all season.
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The Golden Bears were on the losing end of one of the best games played this season and perhaps in all Pac-10 regular season history.
Cal lost to Arizona in triple OT by a score of 107-105 last Saturday, and after watching the entire game, I was blown away by two things from the Golden Bears, one good and one bad.
Mike Montgomery is one of the better coaches in all of college basketball, and he has kept a very young team competitive in almost every game this season. In particular, he has a freshman named Allen Crabbe who is a scoring machine when he gets the ball.
Crabbe scored 27 points for Cal against the Wildcats and made three baskets from outside. Crabbe appears to be the front runner for Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in large part due to his average of 12.4 points per game.
The biggest downside about Cal this year is its extreme lack of depth. Montgomery pretty much only played seven guys the entire game, and it was quite apparent how tired they looked by the third OT. It wasn't all that surprising that Brandon Smith missed a wide-open, go-ahead layup in the final minute when you consider that he had already played over 52 minutes.
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As Isaiah Thomas goes, so goes Washington.
The star Huskies point guard has performed well below his ability as of late, and it has dramatically hurt his team's chance of landing a good seed in the Big Dance—and perhaps there will be no seed at all.
In two of Washington's last three losses, Thomas has committed more turnovers than he had assists, and during the road trip to the Oregon schools, he was held to just 23 points in the two games combined, nearly the same number of points he scored in the Huskies' big win against Arizona.
Washington does get to return home this week, but the damage has already been done. Missing out on the NCAA Tournament is all of a sudden a possibility, and the Huskies can say goodbye to their national ranking.
The only good thing that has happened for Washington since their loss to the rival Cougars was that they found out the player accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old will not be charged.
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Ben Howland must have loved the feeling of beating his predecessor Steve Lavin on Saturday. While the win doesn't mean anything in the conference standings, it does help the Bruins in their chances to make the NCAA Tournament.
If the selections were made now, I believe UCLA would almost certainly make the tournament. Unfortunately, Selection Sunday is still five weeks away, so there is still plenty of time for the Bruins to either help or hurt their résumé.
Although they don't have anyone who scores at a frantic pace, UCLA does have five different guys who all average double figures in scoring. The main thing keeping the Bruins from being in Arizona's spot right now is their overall depth. Once you get some of UCLA's starting five in trouble, that's when they begin to have problems, as shown in the Bruins' loss to Arizona a few weeks back.
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It's official: Arizona is back to being Point Guard U.
The one thing that was keeping the Wildcats from winning the conference and being a Top 25 team this season was a solid and consistent point guard. Well, Momo Jones is the point guard Arizona was looking for. The only question Wildcats fans have is, where was he in the first half of the season?
After winning Pac-10 player of the week honors, Jones followed up with a decent performance against Stanford where he scored 17 points, which was the second most on the team, only behind Derrick Williams' 21.
On Saturday, Arizona needed Jones to step up in overtime because Williams fouled out with seconds to go in regulation. Not only did the guard from Harlem, NY step up, he was the main reason Arizona won the game as well.
Derrick Williams will always be the go-to guy for the Wildcats this season, but it's good to know that when Williams is in foul trouble or injured, there are other guys that can step up. Arizona goes 11 players deep, and because of that amazing depth, it has to be the current favorite to win the Pac-10 regular season, as well as the conference tournament.