Posted on January 11, 2021
Seeding in the NCAA Tournament could make the difference between a First Round defeat and a Sweet 16 run, placing an emphasis on the intra-conference battles in January and February.
With a race that projects to be as close as ever, we give you our first Power Rankings of the 2020-21 season.
1. UCLA (9-2, 5-0)
Despite losing Chris Smith for the year, due to an ACL injury, the Bruins are 5-0 in conference play and 16-3 in the Pac-12 over their last nineteen games. Mick Cronin’s offense came alive in the desert, posting back-to-back 81-point outings in a sweep of the Arizona schools. UCLA’s losses, both designated as Quad 1 defeats, came against two Tournament-bound opponents in Ohio State and San Diego State.
2. Colorado (8-3, 2-2)
With victories over Oregon and USC to their name, the Buffs have the highest NET Ranking in the Pac-12. The win over the Ducks in Boulder was impressive, but the victory at the Galen Center against the Trojans appears to be even stronger after USC swept the Arizona programs. CU’s five Quad 1 matchups are the most in the Conference, and its two Quad 1 wins are tied for the most with the Bruins and Trojans.
3. USC (8-2, 3-1)
For the first time since 1985, the Trojans swept the Arizona schools in the desert. Some may be quick to point out the number of contributors the Sun Devils were missing due to COVID-19 protocols, but the 14-point win against a fully healthy Wildcat squad can’t be discounted. And with a respectable 3-point loss to UConn as its only blemish in nonconference play, USC is sitting in a strong position with the Pac-12’s second-highest NET Ranking.
4. Oregon (9-2, 4-1)
The Ducks lost their opener to Missouri, but then rattled off eight-straight wins before losing to Colorado in Boulder. N’Faly Dante is out for the remainder of the season; Will Richardson still hasn’t played this year; Eugene Omoruyi left the game against Utah without scoring a point; and LJ Figueroa appeared to suffer an ankle injury in Salt Lake City. But Oregon has the depth and talent to overcome injuries, along with a Hall of Fame coach who knows how to compensate.
5. Stanford (8-3, 4-1)
With a 4-1 start in Pac-12 play, the Tree have put it together while dealing with injuries. Daejon Davis has been out since the late-second half of the Arizona game on December 19th, while Bryce Wills missed both matchups against the Washington schools this past week. Still, true freshman Ziaire Williams has already entered the record books with a triple-double against UW, and Oscar da Silva is one of the favorites to win the Conference’s Player of the Year award.
6. Arizona (9-3, 3-3)
Swept at home for only the third time since 2008 and just the second time in the Pac-12 Era, Sean Miller and the Wildcats have to address their defensive issues. The Trojans and Bruins combined for a shocking 44 made free throws on 55 attempts over the two-game stretch, highlighting UA’s defensive woes. Even worse, starting shooting guard Jemarl Baker Jr. is 7-for-36 from the field and 3-for-22 from three over his last four games.
7. Washington State (9-2, 2-2)
Starting guard Noah Williams left the game against Stanford after a hard fall and a questionable review that didn’t result in a flagrant foul, taking the wind out of WSU’s sails in Santa Cruz. And unfortunately, the 15-point loss to the Cardinal looks bad to the East Coast media and Committee Members who may decide the Cougs’ Big Dance hopes come March. Hovering around the Top 100 in the NET Rankings, Washington State needs to get closer to the Top 50 to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday.
8. Arizona State (4-5, 1-2)
The hits just keep coming for the Sun Devils. When fully healthy, ASU arguably has the most talented roster in the Pac-12. But against the LA schools, Remy Martin, Taeshon Cherry, Jaelen House, and Jalen Graham were out due to a combination of either personal, COVID-19 protocol, or illness-related reasons. Bobby Hurley’s team hasn’t won since December 13th, and the program has been on pause two separate times due to the virus. But Arizona State still has two full months to turn things around.
9. Utah (4-4, 1-3)
The Utes haven’t won since December 18th, and all four of their wins are designated as Quad 4 victories, yet UU still led Oregon at halftime by ten. And even though the Ducks outscored Utah by 16 in the second half, Larry Krystkowiak’s team also took UCLA down to the wire at Pauley Pavilion. If Utah can consistently put together a complete game, it has proven it can compete with the Tournament-caliber teams in the Conference.
10. Oregon State (5-4, 1-2)
On pause last week due to Coronavirus protocols, the Beavers enter the matchups with the Arizona schools having played just three conference games this season. And as the only Pac-12 program yet to play in a Quad 1 game, it’s not clear how much higher OSU could move in the pecking order. But Wayne Tinkle does have two victories over California and a close loss to Washington State to his name.
11. California (6-7, 1-5)
Mark Fox is searching for answers after two separate injuries to Matt Bradley have forced the All-Conference guard to miss four games this season. Fortunately, the win over Washington could spark confidence in his transfer-heavy team as they head to the Mountain schools. Grant Anticevich finally returned after his emergency appendectomy, and Andre Kelly is coming off a monster 22-point night.
12. Washington (1-9, 0-5)
On a six-game losing streak, Mike Hopkins’ program is in dire straights. Other than Quade Green, there isn’t much firepower on the Huskies’ roster. Optimistically, Wichita State transfer Erik Stevenson could build on his 27 points against California, and recently enrolled freshman Dominiq Penn could add an additional scoring threat. But UW has given up 80 points or more in four-straight games, an untenable stat for Hopkins’ zone.
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