1. Arizona Wildcats (6-2)
The Wildcats picked up both their losses in the Maui Invitational, where they fell to top-ranked Gonzaga and a Top 10 squad in Auburn. Neither of those defeats should hurt their NCAA Tournament hopes. However, Arizona’s ability to go to UCONN and knock off the Huskies in this squad’s true first road game of the season showed something about the true colors of this roster.
2. Arizona State Sun Devils (7-0)
It’s hard to punish a team for remaining unblemished and the Sun Devils might have deserved the top spot for that alone, but this is power rankings after all and not standings for standings sake. Arizona State looked strong in their five-point win over Mississippi State, but the road gets much tougher from here. Nevada, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Kansas all await on the horizon.
3. UCLA Bruins (6-2)
UCLA’s two showings against the only imposing competition on their schedule left a whole lot to be desired and it’s those kinds of losses that have kept Steve Alford’s name in the bad graces of many people in the rabid Bruins fan-base. The fellas from Westwood will have to prove something more in their upcoming tests against Notre Dame, Belmont, Cincinnati and Ohio State.
4. Washington Huskies (6-2)
Mike Hopkins and company will travel to Spokane on Wednesday to square off with #1 Gonzaga, who already has defeated the likes Texas A&M, Illinois, Arizona, Duke and Creighton this season. The Huskies’ zone will have to quell the high-octane Bulldogs offense in what is hands down, their toughest match-up of the campaign, with some in-state braggin’ rights on the line.
5. USC Trojans (5-3)
As the Trojans inch back to full health, USC will have to begin to close out some of these more competitive contests, where in flashes, they’ve played as arguably the best group in the Pac-12. The amount of blown leads and inconsistent decision making at crucial times can sometimes fracture a depth chart that’s already in flux. A strong week could change USC’s whole outlook.
6. Oregon Ducks (4-3)
Unless the wheels fall off the wagon for the Ducks, this likely the lowest that Oregon should be ranked all season with the undeniable talent on their roster. However, it’s important to remember that Dana Altman’s team dropped a stunner to Texas Southern and (despite a furious comeback to make it close), almost got ran off the floor against Houston. The room for error is dwindling.
7. Oregon State Beavers (6-1)
It’s really been a dream start for the Beavers, who needed these type of early-season victories to build some confidence within a veteran cast that’s become a bit accustomed to losing. This unit is finding youth depth, scoring at an effective enough pace and defending in key moments, but consistency is the name of the game. Oregon State has to keep the good vibes rolling.
8. Colorado Buffaloes (5-1)
The concern for the Buffs at the moment is that they haven’t been much of all that tested and that in reality, there’s not too much time to find that level of opponent before Pac-12 play comes around. Colorado kicks off the league portion of their slate with road trips to Arizona and Arizona State, which won’t help a developing roster that’s yet to seen that kind of quality opponent.
9. Stanford Cardinal (4-4)
The Cardinal put their best effort of the season out there in an overtime loss to Kansas at Phog Allen, which may have been the most convincing they’ve looked all year long. Three other defeats at the hands of North Carolina, Wisconsin and Florida (all likely NCAA Tournament teams) mean that all hope isn’t lost just yet for Stanford. Jerrod Haase has to regroup this team quickly.
10. Utah Utes (4-3)
Nobody expected it to be easy for the Utes, as a complete roster turnover has forced the program to rely on the foundation that’s been set over the years by Larry Krystkowiak and his staff. The Holy War (BYU) comes to the hardwood on Saturday night and then the Utes have a week to prepare for Kentucky, in what could be their toughest stretch on their non-league schedule.
11. Washington State Cougars (4-2)
Ernie Kent’s group took one step up the cellar stairs, as some credit has to be given to a 4-2 start with the roster Washington State currently has. Sure, there’s no denying that the team has basically been mostly Robert Franks (as expected) but some other talents are beginning to find their footing in Pullman. Let’s just hope Cougar fans enjoy these victories while they still can.
12. California Golden Bears (2-4)
It hurts to put California at the bottom of the list since it seems like Wyking Jones has fixed so many of the personnel issues that plagued this group through last year’s abysmal campaign, but the reality is that at 2-4, the results just haven’t been there. The Golden Bears have five players averaging double-digits in scoring each night but only two wins so far to hang their hats on.