Pac-12 power rankings: UA No. 1 in men’s hoops

It feels like the season just started, but March is right around the corner.

After this weekend’s games, ASU will have played a third Pac-12 game.

Where do the Sun Devils stand in the conference? Do they have a shot at making the NCAA Tournament? Here’s how the Pac-12 looks:

1. UA (16-1, 4-1 Pac-12)

The No. 6 Wildcats are the best team in the conference, for now.

They’re known for making games or needing an unbelievable comeback to win in the final minutes. That will likely come back to bite them down the stretch, but the Wildcats should make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

They’re a deep team without a true point guard, but they still have two talented combo guards in senior Mark Lyons and sophomore Nick Johnson.

Lyons had a great game against the Sun Devils Saturday and named Pac-12 Player of the Week. His toughness is unmatched, and he has made some smart plays against ASU, trying to get redshirt freshman point guard Jahii Carson in foul trouble by attacking Carson in the second half when he had four fouls.

Senior forward Solomon Hill is having another solid season, and he’s a tough guy to guard for most teams given his ability to back someone down and shoots 43.5 percent on three-pointers.

2. Oregon (16-2, 5-0 Pac-12)

The No. 16 Ducks are the most surprising team in the conference.

There’s a case they could be the best team in the Pac-12 given they’re the only team to defeat the Wildcats this season.

They’re coming off another impressive win at UCLA, which gives them three wins against top 25 opponents.

This team has a freshmen backcourt and seniors in the frontcourt. It was difficult to think freshmen guards Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis would maintain their early season success, but they’re still playing well.

Artis had 14 points, six assists and three rebounds in Oregon’s win over UCLA. Dotson had 11 points, six rebounds and three assists. With the way their schedule plays out, the Ducks could be a 25-win team heading into the Pac-12 Tournament.

3. UCLA (15-4, 5-1 Pac-12)

The Bruins aren’t quite at the level expected before the season, but the impact of freshman forward Shabazz Muhammad is evident.

They had won 10 straight, including a 97-94 win over Missouri, before the Bruins lost to Oregon Saturday.

Muhammad missed the first three games of the season before the NCAA changed its ruling on the freshman. He’s averaging 17.9 points and 5.1 rebounds a game. They have a chance to grab a huge win at UA Thursday.

4. Colorado (12-6, 2-4 Pac-12)

Where would this team be if senior guard Sabatino Chen’s game-winning shot against UA was called correctly?

The Buffaloes have been disappointing in conference play since that game, dropping to ASU, UCLA and Washington.

Coach Tad Boyle did a great job with this team last season, and there’s plenty of talent on this team to do so. The Buffaloes’s problem may be that they lack a facilitator and are only averaging 10.4 assists a game.

5. Washington (12-6, 4-1)

This is where the conference gets blurry. There’s UA, Oregon, UCLA and everyone else.

Washington, ASU and Colorado could go in any order, but they’re in the second tier of the conference.

The Huskies had a bad loss to Albany the second game of the season, but they’ve won eight out of their last 10, including a home win over Colorado.

Junior guard C.J. Wilcox is having a big year, posting career numbers in nearly every statistical category.

They’re not proven much yet, but the Huskies will play at Oregon Saturday, and they’ll face UA next week at home.

6. ASU (14-4, 3-2 Pac-12)

The absence of senior guard Chris Colvin hurt the Sun Devils against the Wildcats with redshirt freshman point guard Jahii Carson in foul trouble.

The Sun Devils still have a good chance at a 20-win season, but they’ll need wins against high RPI teams. They play UA (second in RPI) and Colorado (18th in RPI) one more time this season. They also have two matchups against UCLA (43th in RPI).

It’ll be a tough road to get to the NCAA Tournament given the soft non-conference schedule, but it’s still possible.

7. Stanford (11-7, 2-3 Pac-12)

The Cardinal is part of the third tier in the conference. It still could jump into the second tier, but it’ll need to beat teams like Colorado on Thursday.

The defending NIT champions have losses to USC, UCLA and Washington in conference play and still have to play Oregon twice and UA once.

Unless it wins the Pac-12 Tournament, it looks like the best the Cardinal can do is defend its NIT crown.

8. California (10-7, 2-3 Pac-12)

The Golden Bears might be the most disappointing team along with Stanford in the conference.

They were picked third in the preseason media poll, yet they’ve had some tough losses to Wisconsin, UNLV and No. 17 Creighton.

Junior guards Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs are putting up numbers, but they’re scoring 68.7 points a game – 161st in the country.

9. USC (8-11, 3-3 Pac-12)

It’s unfortunate coach Kevin O’Neill was fired after four Pac-12 games.

He had to deal with the NCAA sanctions handed to the basketball program and attempted to piece a team together with transfers. The Trojans look like they’ll be a bottom feeder again in the conference.

10. Washington State (10-8, 1-4 Pac-12)

The Cougars had a chance to beat No. 10 Gonzaga during non-conference play but fell by two points. They also lost to Texas A&M by a point, yet they’re struggling in conference play.

Senior forward Brock Motum is fun to watch, but his team struggles to score and rebound well enough to win.

11. Utah (9-9, 1-5 Pac-12)

The Utes were awful last season, but they’re putting up a fight in conference play this year.

They lost their first three conference games by a total eight points. They picked up their first conference win at Washington, and they’ll be a tough out for the rest of the season.

12. Oregon State (10-8, 0-5 Pac-12)

This team would’ve been a lot better if Jared Cunningham came back, but defense is the Beavers’ problem. They’re giving up almost 70 points a game and allowing opponents to shoot 42.5 percent. They’re averaging 14 turnovers a game, all a recipe for an 0-5 conference start.

 

Reach the reporter at mtesfats@asu.edu