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Pac-12 women's basketball power rankings: ASU emerging as an early favorite

The Pac-12 conference boasts five teams in the AP top 25.

Womens Basketball Team Photo Victory

ASU sophomore center Quinn Dornstauder and the rest of the women’s basketball team ring in their 21st win of the season on Feb. 6, 2015, at the Wells Fargo Arena. Dornstauder helped spark a fierce second half rally to lead her team to victory with 22 points. 

ASU women's basketball is proving it belongs at the top of the power rankings after the first week of Pac-12 conference play. Here's how the rankings have developed so far.

1. Arizona State (13-3, 4-0 Pac-12)

The No. 10 Sun Devils are sitting pretty atop the Pac-12 in the early stages of conference play, riding a ten-game winning streak into a home stand against Utah, Colorado and Arizona. After starting the season 3-3 and playing a large part of its non-conference schedule without star junior forward Sophie Brunner, ASU has finally hit its stride with everyone healthy. Four starters average between 9.8 and 11.4 points per game for the Sun Devils, and it's easy to see the balanced scoring and veteran leadership displayed out on the court. Head coach Charli Turner Thorne has instilled a kind of discipline in this team on both sides of the ball that proved invaluable in its double-digit victories over No. 11 Stanford and No. 16 Florida State.

2. Stanford (13-3, 3-1 Pac-12)

Coming in just below the Sun Devils at No. 11 in the AP poll is the Stanford Cardinal, a powerhouse in women's college basketball and champions of last season's Pac-12 tournament. ASU held the Cardinal to 31 points in the Sun Devils' victory on January 4, the lowest point total in Stanford program history. With the exception of its lop-sided loss to ASU, Stanford has been stellar so far this season, scoring just over 70 points per game while holding its opponents to just under 53. Junior guard LiLi Thompson leads the way for Stanford in points (15.3), assists (4.3) and steals (1.3) per game.

3. Oregon State (12-3, 3-1 Pac-12)

The reigning champions of the regular season in the Pac-12 are the No. 12 Oregon State Beavers, who faced a challenging non-conference schedule similar to that of Stanford and ASU. Senior guard Jamie Weisner leads OSU in scoring at 16.6 points per game, while 6-foot-6 senior center Ruth Hamblin is a handful down low and averages a near double-double. With narrow losses to No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 13 Tennessee, this veteran Beaver group has proven that it can hang with the elite teams in the country. It will be nothing short of a dogfight between OSU, Stanford and ASU for the Pac-12 crown in both the regular season and the conference tournament.

4. UCLA (11-4, 3-1 Pac-12)

No. 17 UCLA has been flying under the radar given the quality of the top three teams in the Pac-12, but pollsters have taken notice of the Bruins' impressive resume. UCLA fell by just two points to No. 2 South Carolina and pushed No. 3 Notre Dame to overtime in the Bahamas, and in conference play, the Bruins split the season series with No. 25 USC and demolished No. 12 Oregon State by 20. If there's one thing that can be identified as a calling card for this UCLA squad, it's their uncanny ability to score. The Bruins average a conference-best 80.3 points per game and have notched point totals in the 90s or 100s on several occasions.

5. USC (14-2, 2-2 Pac-12)

Another team from Southern California quietly putting together an excellent season is the No. 25 USC Trojans, led by third-year head coach and women's basketball legend Cynthia Cooper-Dyke. The Trojans started the season out strong at 12-0 but fizzled with two losses at the beginning of conference play. Before entering its Pac-12 gauntlet, USC had yet to play a team ranked in the latest edition of the AP top 25. Nigerian redshirt senior forward and 2012 Olympian Temi Fagbenle leads the Trojans in scoring and blocked shots. Fagbenle is a graduate transfer from Harvard, where she averaged a double-double in her final season for the Crimson.

6. Washington 12-4 (3-2 Pac-12)

The Huskies may not have one of the most talented rosters in the country, but they do have one of the best players in the country in junior guard Kelsey Plum — whose 27.3 points per game this season leads the nation. ASU found out in its match-up with Washington that when you can hold Plum in check, you give yourself a good chance to win if you match the Huskies' scoring pace. The Sun Devils held Plum to 21 points on 8-of-20 shooting in the 68-61 road victory on January 8.

7. Utah 11-4 (3-1 Pac-12)

While its scoring clip is solid, Utah has a tough time defending opposing teams, especially since conference play started. With a scoring margin of only +4.4 while allowing 67.2 points per game, the Utes have been no stranger to close games so far in their 2015-16 campaign. Emily Potter, 6-foot-6 sophomore forward, is a major presence in the paint, scoring just under 17 points per game and averaging 11.5 rebounds – an effective double-double machine.

8. California 10-5 (1-3 Pac-12)

Despite a few slip-ups against inferior teams, California has a road win over No. 23 Louisville and notched a thrilling 108-104 double-overtime victory over UCLA. This Bears team is a testament to the depth of the Pac-12 conference, in that the eighth best team (according to these power rankings) has an NCAA tournament-caliber resume. California's most important and impactful player is freshman center Kristine Anigwe, who has been electric in her freshman campaign. Anigwe is leading the Bears with 21.9 points per game, good enough for 12th in the entire country.

9. Washington State 11-5 (2-3 Pac-12)

Washington State is a team caught in a state of mediocrity so far this season. For the most part, the Cougars have beaten the teams that they're supposed to. However, quality teams have their way with a Wazzu side that is typically out-rebounded. Aside from freshman forward Borislava Hristova, who is scoring about 17 points per game, the Cougars don't have another player averaging more than 6.8. That lack of a second viable scoring option could prove fatal.

10. Arizona 10-6 (1-3 Pac-12)

The "team from down south," as dubbed by ASU fans, is pretty far south in the Pac-12 standings. It's hard for a team to average 59 points per game and succeed in such a strong conference, but the Wildcats make up for lackluster statistics by playing excellent defense and holding teams to 56.6 points per game. Arizona is a deep team as well, with 12 players notching over 200 minutes this season.

11. Oregon 11-4 (0-4 Pac-12)

After beginning the season with an undefeated mark against subpar teams, the Ducks have limped out of the gate in Pac-12 play and shown off their weaknesses. The rival Beavers held Oregon to 33 points in Corvallis, and things aren't looking much better for a team that has Stanford on the docket for Friday, Jan. 15. As far as scoring is concerned, the Ducks look to senior forward Jillian Alleyne (18.1 ppg) as their number one option.

12. Colorado 5-10 (0-4 Pac-12)

Far and away, Colorado is the worst team in the conference. Every other team in the Pac-12 is above .500, and the Buffaloes come into the weekend with a .333 winning percentage. Senior forward Jamee Swan is averaging 15.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, but Colorado is allowing more points per game than it scores. ASU plays Colorado in its next game on Friday, Jan. 15 at Wells Fargo Arena.

Related Links:

ASU women's basketball surges in second half to crush Washington State

No. 14 ASU women's basketball scores 26 in fourth-quarter comeback

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