Pac-12 men’s hoops power rankings: UCLA takes hit after loss to Belmont

Ariel Hayat/Senior Staff

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Writer’s note: In lieu of finals week, these power rankings reflect the past two weeks as opposed to just one week. Additionally, the new “player of the week” segment will document a player’s stats in a given week. “PPG” stands for points per game, “TRB” stands for total rebounds per game, and “AST” stands for assists per game.

1. No. 18 Arizona State (8-1) — Previous rank: 1
Opponents: No. 6 Nevada (L, 72-66), Georgia (W, 76-74)
Player of the week: Luguentz Dort (18.0 PPG, 4.0 TRB)

There are a lot of different ways to describe these Sun Devils, but the most appropriate superlative is toughness. Arizona State led Nevada at halftime, and as the Sun Devils’ offense stagnated down the stretch, Dort came to the rescue with 17 second-half points. A few days later, Arizona State mounted an 18-point comeback against Georgia in its first true road game of the season. The Sun Devils have yet to hit a major road bump this season, and through the first month of the season, they’ve easily been the cream of the crop in the Pac-12.

2. Oregon (7-3) — Previous rank: 5
Opponents: Nebraska Omaha (W, 84-61), San Diego (W, 65-55), Boise State (W, 66-54)
Player of the week: Payton Pritchard (12.6 PPG, 5.0 AST, 4.0 TRB)

Don’t look now, but here comes Oregon. The Ducks put down the clamps in their last three wins, holding opponents to 56.6 points per game on a combined 39.3 shooting percentage. Oregon managed to defeat Boise State without Bol Bol, but the Ducks’ tournament hopes rely on him being healthy going forward. Louis King made his much-anticipated collegiate debut, and while he’s still getting his game legs back, it’s a positive to see him back on the floor.

3. Washington (7-4) — Previous rank: 3
Opponents: No. 1 Gonzaga (L, 81-79), Seattle (W, 70-62), No. 13 Virginia Tech (L, 73-61)
Player of the week: Matisse Thybulle (13.3 PPG, 3.0 AST, 2.3 TRB, 3.0 STL, 1.0 BLK)

In two consecutive games, the Huskies proved both a) why they might be a menace to whomever they play in the tournament and b) why they potentially might not make the tournament at all. Washington pushed Gonzaga to the limit, and it took a game-winning jumper from Rui Hachimura to escape with the win. Several nights later, Washington did defeated the far inferior Seattle, but not before seeing its 20-point lead dwindle all the way down to 2 points. Against Virginia Tech, Washington came out flat from start to finish and posted the fewest total points of any game this season.

4. UCLA (7-3) — Previous rank: 2
Opponents: Notre Dame (W, 65-62), Belmont (L, 74-72)
Player of the week: Jaylen Hands (12.0 PPG, 9.0 AST, 6.5 TRB)

A statement win against Notre Dame. A statement loss against Belmont. After Kris Wilkes hit the game-winning 3-pointer against the Fighting Irish, it appeared the Bruins were taking steps in the right direction. All optimism was thrown in an incinerator when UCLA’s coughed up a 12-point lead at home to Belmont. The Bruins just simply have too much talent to take a loss of this caliber. The hot seat has never been hotter for head coach Steve Alford.

5, Colorado (8-1) — Previous rank: 6
Opponents: South Dakota (W, 82-58), Illinois-Chicago (W, 84-72), New Mexico (W, 78-75)
Player of the week: Tyler Bey (14.6 PPG, 11.3 TRB, 2.0 STL, 1.6 BLK)

The biggest detriment to the Buffaloes’ credibility this season has been the lack of legitimate competition. But credit must be given where credit is due. Colorado crawled out of a 17-point hole against a legit New Mexico team and stunned the Western Athletic Conference’s finest on its home floor. At the center of the Buffaloes’ win against the Lobos was Bey, who stuffed the stat sheet with 16 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks and two steals. If the Buffaloes manage to enter conference play with two or fewer losses, they might just possibly take another step up in the standings.

6. Arizona (7-4) — Previous rank: 4
Opponents: Utah Valley (W, 80-69), Alabama (L, 76-73), Baylor (L, 58-49)
Player of the week: Brandon Williams (11.3 PPG, 5.6 TRB, 3.3 AST, 1.0 STL)

It’s weeks like these when Wildcat fans can find solace in knowing the likes of Josh Green and Nico Mannion will run the show next season. Arizona’s win over Utah Valley isn’t much to flaunt, especially considering the Wildcats were down 12 points at the half at home. Arizona did nearly mount a huge comeback over Alabama on the road, but the subsequent loss to Baylor at home was ugly by every and all means, one that snapped the team’s nonconference home winning streak.

7. Stanford (5-4) — Previous rank: 8
Opponents: Eastern Washington (W, 78-62)
Player of the week: Daejon Davis (19.0 PPG, 5.0 AST, 4.0 TRB, 3.0 STL, 1.0 BLK)

It’s hard to draw any real conclusions from a team that played one game in two weeks, but Stanford did handle business against Eastern Washington. With a second consecutive 19-point game, Davis appears to finally be warming up after a cold start — a great sign for the Cardinal.

8. USC (5-5) — Previous rank: 7
Opponent: TCU (L, 96-61), Oklahoma (L, 81-70)
Player of the week: Nick Rakocevic (15.0 PPG, 11.0 TRB, 1.5 STL)

And we thought that other Los Angeles team was having a rough go. Sure, USC didn’t have Kevin Porter Jr. against TCU, but the absence of one player should in no reality translate to a 35-point thrashing. The fact that the loss happened at Staples Center too, right in the Trojans’ backyard, makes the slaughter all the more embarrassing. One embarrassing defeat was followed by another, as USC shot 34.8 percent from the field and turned the ball over 18 times against Oklahoma. The Trojans desperately need Bennie Boatwright to become the All-Pac-12 player many thought he could be, and fast.

9. Oregon State (6-3) — Previous rank: 9
Opponent: Saint Louis (L, 65-61), Texas A&M (L, 67-64)
Player of the week: Ethan Thompson (21.0 PPG, 7.0 TRB, 2.5 AST, 1.5 STL)

It’s still tough to gauge how things will shake out for Oregon State come conference play. They’ve benefitted from relatively easy opponents and have been competitive in defeat, their worst loss being by six points. Two of their losses have come on the road and there’s arguably more stock in a road defeat than a home victory. Thompson recorded his first career double-double against Saint Louis and has scored 20+ points in three straight games. If he has finally taken a step, it just might be Oregon State’s time to rise in the rankings.

10. Utah (4-5) — Previous rank: 10
Opponent: BYU (L, 74-59), No. 19 Kentucky (L, 81-66)
Player of the week: Both Gach (13.5 PPG, 4.5 TRB, 2.0 AST)

What a rough week for the Utes. Technically, the loss to BYU wasn’t the latest iteration of the Holy War, but losing to a geographical rival hurts nonetheless. Getting smacked by Kentucky at Rupp Arena isn’t a fun feeling, either. On a brighter note, Gach poured in a career-high 22 against the Wildcats and might finally be in the starting lineup for good.

11. Cal (4-5) — Previous rank: 12
Opponent: San Francisco (L, 79-60), San Diego State (W, 89-83), Cal Poly (W, 67-66)
Player of the week: Justice Sueing (14.0 PPG, 4.6 TRB, 1.3 AST)

It’s always interesting to see how teams respond to adversity. After suffering a 19-point beatdown by San Francisco, Cal quickly crafted a redemption arc with gritty wins over San Diego State and Cal Poly with the help of game-winning shots from Matt Bradley in the former and Paris Austin in the latter. The offense has looked considerably more fluid, but the defense remains a huge work in progress, and eventually, all of those wide-open 3-pointers are going to fall for the opposition.

12. Washington State (5-3) — Previous rank: 11
Opponent: Idaho (W, 90-70), Montana State (L, 95-90)
Player of the week: CJ Elleby (20.0 PPG, 7.0 TRB, 2.5 AST)

Once again, with the Cougars, it’s all about the strength of schedule. According kenpom.com, entering today, Washington State has the weakest strength of schedule in the entire country. Yup, of 353 Division I college basketball programs, the Cougars are dead last. Considering Washington State is a Power Five conference going against softball opponents, the team’s three losses are a sign of what’s to come this season.

 

Justice delos Santos covers men’s basketball. Contact Justice delos Santos at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @justdelossantos.