Pac-12 men’s hoops power rankings: USC, UCLA continue to nosedive

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1. No. 17 Arizona State (9-2) — Previous rank: 1
Opponents: Vanderbilt (L, 81-65), No. 1 Kansas (W, 80-76)
Player of the week: Zylan Cheatham (11.0 PTS, 12.5 TRB, 1.0 BLK)
Last season, No. 16 Arizona State waltzed out of Allen Fieldhouse with an upset victory over No. 2 Kansas, a win that propelled the Sun Devils up the national rankings and sunk the Jayhawks. A year later, No. 1 Kansas traveled out west looking for revenge. Different players. Different season. Same story. After getting punched in the mouth by Vanderbilt on the road, Arizona State played spoiler to the cream of the crop yet again, this time in its own home, handing Kansas its first loss of the season. In a season when the Pac-12 has objectively been the most underwhelming Power Five conference, the Sun Devils have been the only team to embrace the mantra of “conference of champions.”

2. Washington (8-4) — Previous rank: 3
Opponent: Sacramento State (W, 57-41)
Player of the week: Matisse Thybulle (12.0 PTS, 7.0 STL, 4.0 TRB, 2.0 BLK)
Led by Thybulle’s monster night, Washington’s defense flexed its muscles collectively at home against a far inferior squad, holding Sacramento State to 26.1 percent from the field and forcing 21 turnovers. Despite a double-digit win, there is some concern — the Hornets led at the half, 22-19, and the Huskies only made a third of their shots before turning it on in the second half. Sooner rather than later, Washington needs Jaylen Nowell and Noah Dickerson to make leaps as scorers.

3. Oregon (8-4) Previous rank: 2
Opponents: Florida A&M (W, 71-64), Baylor (L, 57-47)
Player of the week: Payton Pritchard (12.0 PTS, 3.5 AST, 2.5 TRB, 2.0 STL)
The Ducks had a shaky start to their season even with Bol Bol in the lineup, and without the projected lottery pick, their problems have been amplified tenfold. In Oregon’s nine games with Bol, the team put up 76.8 points per game. In the team’s three games without Bol, that number dropped down to 61.3 points per game. The defense has been rock solid without Bol, but in his absence, no Duck has yet established himself as the alpha on offense.

4. Arizona (9-4) Previous rank: 6
Opponents: Montana (W, 61-42), UC Davis (W, 70-68)
Player of the week: Chase Jeter (18.5 PTS, 5.5 TRB)
All things considered, the Wildcats aren’t in the worst place in the world heading into conference play and have established themselves as one of the Pac-12’s better defensive teams. Excluding the thrashing it took against Gonzaga, Arizona is holding its opponents to 63.4 points per game. The offense still lacks a bona fide star, but Brandon Randolph and Brandon Williams are evolving into players who could be just that for the Wildcats as they become upperclassmen.

5. Colorado (9-3) Previous rank: 5
Opponents: Indiana State (L, 72-67), Hawai’i (L, 70-62 OT), Charlotte (W, 68-53)
Player of the week: Lucas Siewert (14.7 PTS, 3.0 TRB, 1.3 AST)
The mystery of the Buffaloes’ status as possible contenders is beginning to unravel, and not in a good way. The two games against Indiana State and Hawai’i were games that Colorado should have won or, at the minimum, split. There’s still a lot of the season left, but it’s time to start worrying about McKinley Wright IV, who has yet to make the leap in skill from year one to year two. Colorado’s hopes of contention lie on his shoulders, and if this is how he’s going to be playing for the rest of the season, the Buffaloes’ sights should be set on next season.

6. UCLA (7-5) — Previous rank: 4
Opponents: Cincinnati (L, 93-64), Ohio State (L, 80-66)
Player of the week: Jaylen Hands (8.0 PTS, 10.5 AST, 4.5 TRB, 2.5 STL)
The Bruins are oozing with talent: Kris Wilkes can get buckets, Jaylen Hands drops dimes. Moses Brown swats shots, etc., etc. But this UCLA team is much less than the sum of its parts. After beginning the season ranked, the Bruins might not even finish in the top three of the conference. All season long, UCLA has proven incapable of hanging with the country’s elite programs, and that ineptitude was once again on full display this past week. Against teams in the top 100 of the KenPom rankings, the Bruins are 1-5, scoring 68.7 points per game and allowing 81.7 points per game. Steve Alford’s seat is hotter than the surface of the sun.

7. Stanford (6-5) Previous rank: 7
Opponents: San Jose State (W, 78-73), San Francisco (L, 74-65)
Player of the week: Daejon Davis (16.5 PTS, 6.5 AST, 2.5 TRB, 2.5 STL)
After a relatively subpar start to the season, the real Daejon Davis has finally stood up. Since nearly upsetting Kansas on the road, Davis is averaging 17.8 points, 5.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game. Alongside KZ Okpala and Oscar da Silva, the Cardinal have a competent trio that can generate offense. Cormac Ryan, a candidate for the All-Pac-12 Freshman Team, has been sidelined the past two games after sustaining an ankle injury in practice, and it’s unclear how long he’ll be out. If Ryan is fully healthy upon return, this Stanford offense may be able to take a step forward as a unit.

8. Oregon State (7-4) — Previous rank: 9
Opponents: Pepperdine (W, 82-67), Kent State (L, 66-63)
Player of the week: Tres Tinkle (20.5 PTS, 6.0 TRB, 4.5 AST, 3.0 STL)
It feels like every week, the Beavers are involved in a game that goes down to the wire. Oregon State has played in six games that have been decided by 5 or fewer points. The team is 2-4 in those contests. The Beavers are a relatively young team, and this exposure to late-game situations is good, but that growth curve is going to plateau eventually unless the Beavers start winning more of these ballgames.

9. USC (6-6) — Previous rank: 8
Opponents: Santa Clara (L, 102-92 2OT), Southern Utah (W, 91-49)
Player of the week: Bennie Boatwright (16.0 PTS, 9.5 TRB, 4.0 AST)
Oh boy. What needs to be said? USC was heavily favored against Santa Clara. 8.5-point favorites to be exact. Not only did the Trojans get pushed to double overtime, but they lost in double overtime. It doesn’t matter that this game was on the road. Whether this game was played in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Santa Ana or Santa Barbara, the Trojans should have won this game. And they did not. Barring a complete 180, USC will remain near the bottom of these power rankings for the foreseeable future.

10. Utah (6-5) — Previous rank: 10
Opponents: Florida A&M (W, 93-64), Northern Arizona (W, 76-62)
Player of the week: Sedrick Barefield (15.5 PTS, 4.5 AST, 1.5 TRB, 1.5 STL)
Now here’s an interesting move. Barefield, Utah’s leading scorer, was moved to the bench in favor of Parker Van Dyke. As strange a move as it might be, it proved mutually beneficial for both parties. Van Dyke had a career night against Florida A&M, with 20 points and six 3-pointers, while Barefield shined as the sixth man. It’s yet to be seen if Barefield will continue to play the role of spark plug off the bench, but perhaps head coach Larry Krystkowiak has found a formula to maximize his offense.

11. Washington State (7-5) — Previous rank: 12
Opponents: San Diego (L, 82-75), New Mexico State (L, 75-72)
Player of the week: C.J. Elleby (16.5 PTS, 6.0 TRB, 1.5 AST)
Leaving Sin City with a pair of losses wasn’t the desired outcome for the Cougars, but even in defeat, they showed something. San Diego and New Mexico State are two quality opponents, and Washington State managed to hang. In a game in which Robert Franks only scored 7 points, the Cougars pushed the Aggies to the brink. Ahmed Ali and Carter Skaggs can both provide sparks off the bench, while Franks and Elleby lead the starting unit. The Cougars could be served some humble pie come conference play, but it’s not inconceivable to see them steal a couple games if they continue to play as a unit.

12. Cal (5-6) — Previous rank: 11
Opponents: Fresno State (L, 95-73), San Jose State (W, 88-80)
Player of the week: Paris Austin (14.5 PTS, 8.5 AST, 2.5 TRB, 1.0 STL)
After a pair of energizing wins against San Diego State and, to a lesser extent, Cal Poly, Cal has taken a step back. Fresno State drew a bizarre 28 personal fouls from Cal and shot 38 free throw attempts, while San Jose State refused to die and stuck around late in the ballgame. Cal has one more nonconference game against a surprisingly solid Seattle team, one that’s favored and currently leads the Western Athletic Conference with 11 wins. This game should serve as a barometer for the rest of the season, testing the Bears’ moxie as much as their talent.

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