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Pac-10 Power Rankings

Posted by Jeff Nusser on January 17, 2008

Two weeks into the Pac-10 season seems like a good time to take stock of how the league is shaping up. Here are my initial power rankings, which we’ll update each week before the weekend action.

1. UCLA (4-0) — Pretty tough to argue with this one. The Bruins have dominated in league play so far, and look like they’re only getting stronger. I ran out of time this week, but I was going to write another followup post on the UCLA game, mostly focusing on how good Kevin Love is. I may yet do that, but to whet your whistle, consider this: The guy is 56-of-67 from the line in his last 11 games — 83.6 percent. If a 6-foot-10, 270-pound big man is going to make shots around the basket, make shots from behind the arc, and hit almost all of his free throws when you foul him, you really have no chance.

2. WSU (2-1) — Some might argue with this one, given the soft schedule and the way the Cougs were handled by UCLA. But really, who else are you going to put at No. 2? I think you can chalk much of that UCLA game up to the matchup, and three road wins to open Pac-10 play counts for a heck of a lot to this writer, no matter who you play. The Cougs are still very good, as will be evident when they exit this weekend 4-1 in the league.

3. Oregon (3-1) — The Ducks look like they’re finally living up to their potential. They seem to finally have found a bit of an identity without Aaron Brooks, now that Tajuan Porter is coming off the bench and hitting his shots again. That swagger looks to be back, although some of that had to be hitting a bit of a roll in front of the friendly quackers at Mac Court. We’ll see how they do on the road this weekend at the Washington school before we’re full believers in the return. I know I’ll have fun watching the two most underrated big men in the country — Maarty Leunen and Jon Brockman — duke it out tonight on FSN.

4. Arizona State (3-0) — Sun Devil fans will be mad at me over this one. “What? Fourth? But we beat Oregon! We’re undefeated!” But you also haven’t left Tempe since DECEMBER 2. That is not a typo. So while I want to believe in the Devils, playing just one true road game all year — that’s not a typo either — leaves me less than convinced in a team that features a freshman guard as its lead player. They’ve played very good defense in conference play, allowing an average of around .85 points per possession, but again, the home floor makes a difference in intensity. Getting a split this weekend in the Bay Area, and looking good doing it, would make me feel a lot better.

5. Stanford (2-2) — No shame in a closer-than-it-looked loss to UCLA at home and a come-from-ahead loss to Oregon on the road. This strikes me as a team that’s still feeling its way, although I know Bay Area fans are starting to get impatient with Trent Johnson after being spoiled by Mike Montgomery for so long. (As an aside, don’t be surprised if you see Montgomery back on the Stanford sidelines next year. I think he’s just about done collecting checks from the Warriors, and he’s been a fixture at Maples this season.) Anything less than a sweep this weekend, though, would have to be considered a disappointment.

6. Cal (2-2) — This team looks like one that might be a season away from being really good, if Ryan Anderson decides to stick around for another year.  The offense looks like it might be one of the best in a conference quickly becoming known for its defense, and if the Bears can figure out a way to hover around the .500 mark, they’ve got an excellent shot at getting in the NCAA Tournament. The question is, will they be able to compete against truly defensive-minded teams? They didn’t do so hot against UCLA, which held them to their only efficiency rating of under 100 all year — 89.9.

7. Arizona (1-2) — The return of Jarryd Bayless could send the Wildcats vaulting up this list. Arizona won just one of the four games it played without the playmaking freshman, who returned to score 33 points against an underrated Houston team. But let’s not anoint the Cats just yet — they were wildly inconsistent even when Bayless was playing, so let’s see if they can hit their stride now.

8. USC (1-3) — I’m sure this isn’t what O.J. Mayo expected when he called Tim Floyd and told him that he had chosen USC … even though USC wasn’t recruiting him. Just one win in the conference, and that one over lowly Washington? (By the way, no, I will never get tired of the phrase “lowly Washington.”) I think everyone vastly underestimated the impact losing Nick Young and Lodrick Steward would have on the Trojans. The offense has been OK without them, but Floyd has really missed their toughness on the defensive end. The Trojans have been the anti-UCLA: Loads of athletic ability, but just not buying into the program yet.

9. Washington (0-3) — The Huskies aren’t as bad as people think. Stop laughing. Really, stop laughing. This team is getting better, but the record just isn’t showing it. They’re not playing better because of the so-called “renewed defensive emphasis” since that embarrassment at Oklahoma State, as everyone likes to claim. They’re playing better because they’ve slowed down the tempo and are taking better care of the basketball. They’re still allowing more than a point per possession in Pac-10 play, but they are only averaging 62 possessions in the three games. Dick Bennett used to say that he’d love to run and gun, but he never had the athletes to do it, so he played slow down ball to keep his teams competitive. Romar seems to have taken a similar strategy. The Huskies should get their first win by the end of the weekend, and don’t be surprised if it comes tonight against an Oregon team that, as we mentioned above, just doesn’t play as well on the road. As hard as it is for most Cougs to imagine, the Huskies get as fired up to play Oregon as they do WSU.

10. Oregon State (0-4) — The bad news for the Beavers is that they are one of the worst teams in any major conference. The double bad news is that they are that bad in one of the best conferences in the country. When the Beavs hired Jay John away from Arizona, he was one of the hot assistants in all of the NCAA. Now, six years later, he might not even make it through the season, if you believe reports. They’ve lost to Division II Alaska-Fairbanks, Tennessee Tech and Montana State, and have lost all four Pac-10 games by double digits. They really might not win a game the rest of the year.

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One Response to “Pac-10 Power Rankings”

  1. Nuss said

    Boy, I look pretty smart for ranking Oregon No. 3. Friggin’ Ducks.

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