In the inaugural Pac-12 season, the conference has gotten off to an embarrassingly bad start. The teams projected to finish at the top have yet to prove why they were deserving of early season hype and the bottom third of the conference appear to have little hope to improve.
There have been a few bright spots like the better than expected play of a couple under the radar teams but for the most part, this has been a very disappointing first couple weeks of the season.
Here are this year's first Pac-12 power rankings.
Note: All records are as of the December 6th
It's very possible that Utah is the only BCS school that has yet to beat a Division I team. Their only win was a three point victory against San Diego Christian College and their best loss was losing by only six points against Montana State. Utah will almost certainly finish towards the bottom of the Pac-12.
Why the Bruins were voted to win the Pac-12 is mind boggling. While it's still possible that Josh Smith could lose 30 pounds and that Reeves Nelson might all of a sudden become a good teammate, all signs point to UCLA going through a very very tough year. The Wear twins haven't lived up to the hype and Lazeric Jones, the team's leading scorer, is shooting 34.3 percent from the field. So far, the Bruins' only Division I win has come against Pepperdine.
Yes the Sun Devils are awful but so far, they have played better than the two teams below them. ASU has beaten Wake Forest and Tulsa but neither of those schools are going to have a good season.
Jahii Carson's eligibility has still not been determined yet but if he is ruled ineligible, the chances of ASU winning more than a handful of conference games is doubtful. Trent Lockett is a solid player but nothing special and no one else on the team can be considered a reliable scorer. If ASU does do poorly in 2011, it might be the end of Herb Sendek as the Sun Devils' head coach.
There are 342 schools that play D-I college basketball. The Trojans are 334th in points and rebounds per game and 336th in assists and they scored 36 points against Cal Poly. Yet somehow, there are three teams with worse records than USC in the Pac-12, including their LA counterparts. Dewayne Dedmon has been dealing with a foot injury and USC has gotten minimal points from their bench. With all this said, they still might end up being the second best team in the Pac-12 South.
The Cougars have two good players in Brock Motem and Faisal Adel but as a whole, they are a very young and inexperienced team. Washington State will go into conference play with no respectable victories so their win column shouldn't be looked at too closely.
The Buffaloes are not a very good team but have decent wins against Air Force and Georgia. Right now, they don't appear to be a threat to compete for the Pac-12 title but could possibly finish in the upper half. Their top two scorers are seniors Carlon Brown and Austin Dufault but sophomore Andre Roberson might be their best player, as he averages 12 rebounds a game, third in the entire country. Colorado is in a rebuilding and transition year so if they even have a winning record, Buffalo fans will likely be satisfied.
The Huskies knew this might be a tough season when Isiah Thomas left early to play in the NBA and so far, it looks that way. In OOC play, Washington has narrowly defeated FAU and lost to Saint Louis and Nevada, both respectable teams.
Their next two games against highly ranked Marquette and Duke will give the Huskies a better idea of what they need to work on. As always under Lorenzo Romar, Washington is scoring lots of points and this year are led by Terrence Ross, CJ Wilcox, and freshman Tony Wroten. With how bad the Pac-12 is this season, it wouldn't be surprising if Washington was among the conference's top teams come March.
It is still not known why star freshman Jabari Brown left the Ducks but regardless of his motive, the loss of a talent like Brown is going to set Oregon back. Since his departure, Oregon is 3-1 with wins against Nebraska and UTEP but in their most recent outing, they lost by 14 points to a rebuilding BYU team.
The Ducks are led by Garrett Sim and EJ Singler. Both average double figures in scoring and are threats from deep. For the most part, Oregon has not backed down after losing Brown, which is sometimes hard to do, and may very well compete in the upper half of the Pac-12 but it seems unlikely the Ducks will be a threat to win the conference.
The Golden Bears were a popular preseason pick to win the Pac-12 but so far they have gotten off to a bit of a disappointing start. After a couple nice wins against inferior opponents, Cal faced Missouri and got run out of the building in a 39 point route. Then on Sunday, they lost to the same San Diego State team that upset Arizona. Jorge Gutierrez and Allen Crabbe are both very good players and Justin Cobbs has been a pleasant surprise but as a team, Cal still has some problems. The Golden Bears have yet to pick up a "quality" win but they will have a chance to when they play at UNLV in a few weeks.
The Wildcats being this high up in the rankings should show just how poor the conference has done in the first weeks of this season. Arizona has gotten off to a shaky, inconsistent start. There are times when they look like they can compete with any team in the country, but there's been just as many stretches where the Cats look like a team that would be a bottom feeder in a good conference.
Solomon Hill and Nick Johnson have been the only guys that have not struggled much in the first eight games and Josiah Turner is getting more comfortable with the offense day by day. Right now, this is a team still struggling to find who they are but once they come together, Arizona should have the ability to win any Pac-12 game.
In what could be a make or break season for head coach Craig Robinson, the Beavers so far have risen to the challenge, winning six of their first eight games highlighted by an overtime victory against Texas. Oregon State's lone loss came at Vanderbilt, a then-top 25 team. Like Stanford, the Beavers have no challenges left in non conference play so they will likely head into the Pac-12 season with a 10-1 record.
Jared Cunningham has to be an early conference play of the year favorite as he is averaging about 20 points to go with three assists per game. No one expected a lot out of Oregon State at the beginning of this year but they could potentially challenge for the Pac-12 championship.
After their come from behind victory against North Carolina State on Sunday, it looks like the Cardinal are the real deal. They have perhaps the conference's two best OOC wins against NC State and Oklahoma State and they nearly knocked off No. 3 Syracuse. Stanford has no real challenges left before conference play so they will likely start the season 11-1.
The key to their success might be how they spread the scoring, as three players average double digits. Sophomore Aaron Bright has quickly proved he is a threat from three point range, shooting 53.8 percent. It is still very early but Stanford has gotten often to a surprisingly good start.