1. Washington (10-4) — Previous rank: 2
Opponent: Washington State (W, 85-67)
Player of the week: Matisse Thybulle (17 PTS, 4 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 4 BLK)
After teetering and tottering around the top four of the power rankings for most of the season, Washington has finally made it to the top spot. But take this promotion with a grain of salt — it has more to do with Arizona State losing to Utah (more on that in a second) than it does with the Huskies’ proficiency. Despite what the final score may say, this wasn’t an end-to-end win. A Robert Franks-less Washington State team never wavered and even took the lead in the second half, if but for a few seconds. This isn’t new for the Huskies, a team that has played down to its opponents all season (see: Santa Clara, Seattle, Cal State Fullerton). With some of its weaker opponents on the docket, Washington will have the opportunity to correct this habit.
2. Arizona (11-4) — Previous rank: 4
Opponents: Colorado (W, 64-56), Utah (W, 84-81 OT)
Player of the week: Chase Jeter (14.0 PTS, 10.5 TRB, 2.0 AST, 0.5 STL, 1.0 BLK)
Maybe the embarrassing home loss to Baylor was exactly what Arizona needed. The Wildcats have been doing quite well for themselves since that fateful day — they’re now the winners of four straight games and currently lead the Pac-12 in wins. The last three wins, particularly the 2-point win against UC Davis, haven’t been super convincing, but at the end of the day, wins are wins. Chase Jeter tied his career-high of 21 points and set a new best with 13 rebounds against Utah, while Devonaire Doutrive stepped up with 8 points and four rebounds in Justin Coleman’s absence against Colorado.
3. Arizona State (10-4) — Previous rank: 1
Opponents: Utah (L, 96-86), Colorado (W, 83-61)
Player of the week: Zylan Cheatham (14.5 PTS, 6.0 TRB, 4.0 AST, 1.5 BLK)
Here we go again. Does this deserve the Stephen A. Smith reaction? Yes, it deserves the Stephen A. Smith reaction. Arizona State needed to win its first two games of conference play to preserve any of its good standing from nonconference play. Instead, the Sun Devils were upset by Utah at home, and the Pac-12 has never looked more wide open. Head coach Bobby Hurley shuffled the starting lineup in the win over Colorado; Rob Edwards started for the first time since the season opener, while both Luguentz Dort and Remy Martin came off the bench. Considering Hurley said that may be the only time Dort and Martin come off the bench, the decision may have been made to shake things up. Better to get it out of the system now than later.
4. UCLA (9-6) — Previous rank: 6
Opponents: Stanford (W, 92-70), Cal (W, 98-83)
Player of the week: David Singleton (13.5 PTS, 0.5 TRB, 2.5 AST)
Speaking of shaking things up, no team in the Pac-12 has been discussed more this season than UCLA. Most of that talk has been about the head coach in some form or another — with Steve Alford finally gone, the conversation has shifted to who the next head coach will become. With interim head coach Murry Bartow now in place and the Alford era officially over, the Bruins have looked much more like a contender for the Pac-12 crown. In its first two conference games against Stanford and Cal, UCLA averaged 95 points while holding opponents to under 40 percent from the field. Alex Olesinski made his return to the hardwood, while David Singleton put together two back-to-back great performances off the bench. There’s still a lot of season left, but after only two games, there’s finally some optimism to be had in Westwood.
5. USC (9-6) — Previous rank: 9
Opponents: Cal (W, 82-73), Stanford (W, 77-66)
Player of the week: Nick Rakocevic (25.0 PTS, 9.0 TRB, 1.0 AST, 1.5 STL, 1.0 BLK)
It’s kind of insane just how thin the Trojans are at this point in time. With Kevin Porter Jr., Elijah Weaver and Charles O’Bannon Jr. injured and Jordan Usher having transferred, they’re relying on, more or less, the five starters who haven’t gotten injured. They’re ridiculously undermanned, but here they are, the winners of four straight. Nick Rakocevic was named Pac-12 Player of the Week; Bennie Boatwright has looked like an All-Conference talent, and Derryck Thornton is dropping enough dimes to fund a USC student’s tuition. The six-man rotation isn’t sustainable, but until Weaver returns to the fray, it’s the Trojans’ reality.
6. Oregon State (9-4) — Previous rank: 8
Opponent: Oregon (W, 77-72)
Player of the week: Tres Tinkle (28 PTS, 8 TRB, 4 AST, 1 BLK)
7. Oregon (9-5) — Previous rank: 3
Opponent: Oregon State (L, 77-72)
Player of the week: Louis King (17 PTS, 10 TRB, 1 STL, 1 BLK)
Did somebody say Civil War?! In easily the most exciting game of opening weekend, Oregon State just barely mustered enough offense to upset Oregon at Matthew Knight Arena. The Beavers carved out a huge first-half lead before the Ducks ran a suffocating full-court press that generated numerous turnovers and kept them in the game. Just when it appeared that Oregon would mount the comeback, Oregon State hit nine of its 10 free-throw attempts in the last four minutes and completed the shocker. Tres Tinkle put on a Player of the Year-esque performance against one of the conference’s better defenses, but he’ll likely be out against USC because of an ankle injury. Oregon was dealt a death blow as it has lost Bol Bol for the rest of the season, and it will have to rely on its defense to stay afloat this season.
8. Utah (7-7) — Previous rank: 10
Opponents: Arizona State (W, 96-86), Arizona (L, 84-81 OT)
Player of the week: Sedrick Barefield (25.0 PTS, 2.5 TRB, 5.0 AST, 2.0 STL)
There are two sides to every upset. Behind another monster performance by both Sedrick Barefield and Donnie Tillman, Utah upset Arizona State and then followed it up by pushing Arizona to overtime. Had Barefield not fouled out against Arizona, Utah may have done what Colorado did last season with the ASU-Arizona double upset. The Utes may only have one win over their last three games, but they’ve shown a lot of fight in those contests. For a team with four underclassmen playing big minutes, that bodes well for the future. Utah still might finish with a losing record, but with a young team that doesn’t know any better, a couple stunners might well be in this team’s future.
9. Stanford (7-7) — Previous rank: 7
Opponents: UCLA (L, 92-70), USC (L, 77-66)
Player of the week: Cormac Ryan (12.5 PTS, 1.5 TRB, 2.5 AST, 1.0 STL)
Stanford had the displeasure of being the first team to face UCLA following the firing of former head coach Steve Alford. It didn’t help the Cardinal that they were without starting point guard Daejon Davis, who was out with a left ankle injury. On a much more positive note, Stanford did welcome back Cormac Ryan, who had missed three games with a left ankle injury of his own. The Cardinal couldn’t avoid a winless road trip, but with Davis and Ryan both in the starting lineup for the latter of the two games, they did give the Trojans a run for their money.
10. Colorado (9-5) — Previous rank: 5
Opponents: Arizona (L, 64-56), Arizona State (L, 83-61)
Player of the week: McKinley Wright IV (14.5 PTS, 4.0 TRB, 3.0 AST, 2.5 STL, 1.5 BLK)
Not the best way to begin conference playn. Colorado benefited from a weak strength of schedule during nonconference play, so it was worth monitoring how the team would adjust to its much tougher in-conference opponents. So far, not so great. There were few silver linings in the defeats, though — the offense was ice cold, shooting 34.2 percent from the field and 25.6 percent from the 3-point line. McKinley Wright IV averaged four turnovers, while Tyler Bey and Lucas Siewert were subpar at best.
11. Washington State (7-7) — Previous rank: 11
Opponent: Washington (L, 85-67)
Player of the week: CJ Elleby (26 PTS, 10 TRB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK)
On the road against Washington with no Robert Franks, this matchup had very legitimate blowout potential. The Cougars ended up losing by 18 points to the Huskies, but what’s more important to take away from this one was how they competed. Before the wheels ended up falling off due to Washington’s heightened intensity, Washington State managed to take the lead at 1 point in the second half. CJ Elleby put the Cougars on his back, totaling a career-high 26 points and notching his third double-double of the season. With Bol Bol and Kevin Porter Jr. out for the season, the Freshman of the Year voting will likely come down to Elleby and Luguentz Dort of Arizona State. The “good stats, bad team” argument may be used against Elleby, but if he lights up teams of Washington’s caliber on good efficiency, there’s a case for him to walk away with the honor.
12. Cal (5-9) — Previous rank: 12
Opponents: USC (L, 82-73), UCLA (L, 98-83)
Player of the week: Justice Sueing (17.0 PTS, 10.0 TRB, 2.5 AST, 1.0 STL, 0.5 BLK)
In the latest round of the Bay Area versus Los Angeles, it was the boys down south who locked up the bragging rights. Cal’s lack of frontcourt depth was exposed against USC when Nick Rakocevic and Bennie Boatwright combined for 46 points. Without Paris Austin against UCLA, Cal totaled a season-high 18 turnovers, shot four of 20 from three and allowed a season-high 98 points. While the Bears’ defense is unmistakably the worst in the Pac-12, there are going to be nights when the offense keeps them in it. Despite the turnovers and lack of shooting against the Bruins, Cal still managed to put up 83 points. Against some of the more suspect in the Pac-12, such as Stanford and Colorado, Cal’s gameplan to victory might just be to outgun its opponent, defense be damned.