Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 8 (Movie edition)

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FEBRUARY 21, 2012

For the antepenultimate Pac-12 Power Rankings of women’s basketball season, we have decided to pick a movie that corresponds to each team. Enjoy.

No. 1: Stanford (24-1, 15-0) – The Usual Suspects

So the movie title is actually stolen from a Casablanca line, but it nonetheless holds true for the almighty Cardinal. In this case, it’s time to round up the usual suspects and spend yet another week deciphering exactly how Stanford can make the rest of the conference look like a youth basketball league.

As always, the Ogwumike sisters stand out. Sophomore Chiney turned in 48 combined points against the Oregon schools, while senior Nnemkadi notched 53. In fact, their season stats (Nnemkadi’s 21.9 average points and Chiney’s 15.9) utterly dwarf the leaders of the Cardinal’s men’s team; if the Ogwumikes suited up in place of their male counterparts, Stanford would no longer have a just-barely-winning record.

As we’ve known this entire season, Stanford is just too damn good. And unlike this 1995 movie, there’s no real mystery why.

 — Annie Gerlach

No. 2: California (20-7, 11-4) — Hugo

When the Academy Awards released the finalists for Best Picture, Hugo was an odd choice from the other nine. Unconventional to the usual Best Picture nominees, Hugo is a children’s movie with teenage lead actors. But the depicted beauty of the 1930s Paris and the cinematic mastery of director Martin Scorsese — who had never directed a children’s movie before — lifted Hugo from its conventional norm into critical acclaim.

Like Hugo, the Cal women’s basketball team is an ensemble cast of young players (many are still teenagers) finding success under a first-year coach. The Bears play attractive, fast-paced basketball that delivered the big 20th win, and they look primed to play a part in March Madness — the Oscars of college basketball. Although Cal will not win the Pac-12 title this season, the squad certainly overachieved to surprise a lot of the critics before the season.

— Seung Y. Lee

No. 3: Arizona State (18-8, 9-6) – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

If the Western genre of the film isn’t convincing enough when thinking of these desert devils, the title should do the trick.

The Bad: The Sun Devils saw a five-game winning streak abruptly snap during a NorCal road trip two weeks ago, and they suffered a close loss to middle-of-the-pack Utah shortly after. At that point, Arizona State’s shot at the Big Dance looked slim.

The Ugly: This team plays ugly basketball, preferring a slow pace that wears out time — and exasperates opponents.

The Good: There’s still a silver lining here. Arizona State is the hottest squad outside of the Bay Area, and its scoring defense tops the rest of the Pac-12 by a comfortable four-point margin.

— Annie Gerlach

No. 4: USC (13-11, 7-6) — Any Jaws sequel

When USC advanced to the WNIT Finals last year, the Trojans looked to be the dark horse (or a great white shark?) of the Pac-12 this season. With three top scorers returning, USC looked scary enough to tear through the conference schedule.

But surprisingly, the Trojans couldn’t carry last March’s momentum into this season. Like the Jaws sequels that struggled with the absence of Steven Spielberg, the Trojans sorely missed the contributions of injured guard Jackie Gemelos this season.

But in recent weeks, USC looks more like Jaws 2 —the best of the Jaws sequel — than the reviled Jaws: the Revenge. The Trojans have upsett Cal at Haas Pavilion and defeated crosstown rivals UCLA. Perhaps they can ride this wave to a strong season finish.

— Seung Y. Lee

No. 5: Oregon State (17-9, 8-7) — Any Jennifer Lopez movie

Oregon State is a good team. But nothing more than that. The Beavers have had their moments this season where they played below average, but even when they played their best during their five-game winning streak, they still looked no better than a good squad.

Reads a lot like J.Lo’s filmography. Lopez had good movies in her career, but never great, memorable movies. Perhaps it’s her bad taste in picking the acting roles, but I can’t even name three movies that starred Lopez. (I can only name The Cell and the infamous Gigli.) Her career is defined by the mind-numbing mediocrity and boredom, which, now that I think about it, sounds a lot like the town of Corvallis, Ore.

— Seung Y. Lee

No. 6: UCLA (12-12, 7-6) – The Three Stooges

Not the imminent reincarnation but the original masterpiece. UCLA derives its recent jump in the standings from three formidable guards: Thea Lemberger, Markel Walker and Rebekah Gardner, all of whom average above 13 points per conference tilt.

However, even the efforts of this “Big Three” can’t neutralize the Bruins’ overall erratic performance, and a three-game losing streak quickly cooled any momentum the team had built up over the past month.

— Annie Gerlach

No. 7: Utah (13-12, 6-8) – The Twilight Saga

You don’t have to lie — we know you just frowned and/or swore upon reading that particular movie title. But a trilogy of three “successful” films over-hyped this franchise far beyond the level its talent (or, rather, lack thereof) adequately deserved.

Similarly, Utah has spent the majority of the season near the bottom of the rankings, but a three-game winning streak suddenly makes the rest of the conference sit up and wonder what the fuss is all about. This close to the home stretch, an overhype like the Utes’ is exactly what other teams need to stay on their toes.

— Annie Gerlach

No. 8: Colorado (16-9, 5-9) — Groundhog Day

I love Bill Murray, but not as much as Colorado guard Chucky Jeffery. Individually, both excel at what they do, and they are just a bundle of fun to watch.

Unfortunately for Murray and Jeffery, their surrounding casts is nowhere close to their talents. The Buffaloes cannot find a win despite having arguably the best guard in the Pac-12. Loss, loss, loss, loss … it must be Groundhog Day in Boulder, because the same results are happening over and over again.

— Seung Y. Lee

No. 9: Washington (13-11, 5-9) – Sleepless in Seattle

It would be easy to harken back to some tragic Elizebethan play (I’m thinking the opening lines of Marlowe’s Faustus) to mourn the loss of a team that never lived up to its potential.

Or we could go for the pun and talk up Sleepless in Seattle, the perennial rom-com classic that stars Tom Hanks and a pre-shaggy-hair Meg Ryan.

It’s a stretch, but let’s see if we can make it work. Aside from the obvious fact that the Huskies hunker down in Seattle (that’s one connection), there’s the idea that Washington probably lost a good deal of sleep over its own roller-coaster schedule. The Huskies were never good enough to pose a serious Pac-12 threat, but they’re not an Arizona-caliber bad that would enable them to simply write the season off as a lost cause.

Still, a 7-2 home record is perhaps the only thing that keeps this team afloat. At one point in the movie, Meg Ryan ventures to Seattle on a whim, then immediately regrets it. Fortunately for the Huskies, the same thing could be the case for any Pac-12 opponent that ventures to Alaska Airlines Arena.

— Annie Gerlach

No. 10: Oregon (14-13, 6-9) — The Expendables

GUNS! ACTION! LACK OF SUCCESS! It’s either The Expendables‘ script or Paul Westhead’s CV from Oregon.

Similar to the tertesterone-pumping, hot-mess-of-a-movie The Expendables, the Ducks’ “run-and-gun” offense is fast and points-oriented but can be defensively deficient and disorganized. Whenever Oregon comes to town, you can bet points rain down on the courts like bullets in one of The Expendables‘ 215 gunfight scenes.

— Seung Y. Lee

No. 11: Arizona (14-12, 3-11) — High School Musical

What time is it? Losing time!

Beyond the Wildcats symmetry between the University of Arizona and East High School in Alburquerque, N.M., the two works of art have poor choreography on the court and critics’ ratings that makes people say “pee-ew!”

But shockingly last week, the Wildcats demolished Washington State, 90-51. Rumor has it that Zac Efron wearing a blonde wig played 28 minutes for Arizona that night, but the referees could not care less about officiating such a terrible game.

— Seung Y. Lee

No. 12: Washington State (10-17, 4-11) – High School Musical 2

The first installment of this Disney Channel mega-hit was torturous enough, but the second was (if possible) even worse: the same cringe-worthy acting, only this time coupled with an even worse plotline.

The same is true of Washington State, which is currently riding a six-game losing streak to the basement of the Pac-12. That’s not as bad as Arizona’s eight-game streak, but even the Wildcats managed to eventually find a win. With contests against the formidable L.A. schools, it doesn’t look like the Cougars will be able to do the same.

— Annie Gerlach

Contact Seung Y. Lee at  or on Twitter


FEBRUARY 21, 2012

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