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Mercury News: PAC-12 MBB Power Rankings (2021)

Mercury News

As a handful of contenders pursue the Pac-12 regular-season title, a clear frontrunner has emerged in the race for last place.

Washington is the team to beat for the bottom.

The Huskies are 0-5 in conference play, continuing a collapse unlike any we’ve seen in the modern era of Pac-12 basketball.

Less than two years ago, in March of 2019, the Huskies were 27-game winners. They went 15-3 in conference play, won the regular-season title and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Mike Hopkins earned his second consecutive Pac-12 Coach of the Year award and had seemingly turned UW into a destination program for elite recruits.

Then came the unthinkable:

The Huskies dropped to last place in the 2019-20 season, becoming the first team in the modern era to pull off the first-to-worst tumble.

Not since 1948, when the league was known as the Pacific Coast Conference, had any team plunged from first place one season to last place the next. (That team was Washington, by the way.)

But at least the 2020 Huskies won five league games.

This season, they’re careening toward a much worse showing: Combine current performance with upcoming schedule, and there are few wins available.

In fact, Washington is on pace become the first team since Cal in 1962 to win two conference games or less within two seasons of a regular-season championship.

No single factor accounts for the collapse, but the prime suspect is an offense that routinely malfunctions.

For proof, may we present the advanced analytics — specifically, the Pomeroy efficiency ratings that help inform the NCAA tournament selection committee.

UW’s national ranking in adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency during the Hopkins era:

2018: 140th/73rd
2019: 110th/18th
2020: 112th/31st
2021: 185th/107th

So far have the Huskies fallen … so bleak is their short-term outlook … that a slice of the fanbase is already chattering about the possibility of UW buying out Hopkins’ contract, which runs through the 2024-25 season.

We’re not convinced a coaching change is imminent, or justified.

But it’s clear Hopkins must take drastic measures to generate a functional offense by this time next year, or his job just might be in jeopardy.

1. UCLA (9-2/5-0)
Last week: 2
Results: Won at Arizona State 81-75 (OT) and Arizona 81-76
Next up: vs. Washington State (Thursday)
Comment: One year ago this week, the Bruins were 1-3 in conference play. Since then, they have won 16 out of 19 — and that’s about to be 18 out of 21 with the Washington schools coming to town.

2. Oregon (9-2/4-1)
Last week: 1
Results: Lost at Colorado 79-72, won at Utah 79-73
Next up: vs. Arizona State (Thursday)
Comment: Guard Chris Duarte, who’s averaging 21.6 points against Pac-12 competition, is the frontrunner for Most Improved Player, and we’re not sure anyone is close.

3. Colorado (8-3/2-2)
Last week: 3
Results: Beat Oregon 79-72, DNP vs. Oregon State
Next up: at Utah (Monday)
Comment: If every visitor could be Oregon: With their latest head-to-head victory, the Buffaloes are now 10-0 against the Ducks in Boulder.

4. USC (8-2/3-1)
Last week: 6
Results: Won at Arizona 87-73 and Arizona State 73-64
Next up: vs. UC Riverside (Tuesday)
Comment: Admittedly, we’re starting to believe in the Trojans.

5. Arizona State (4-5/1-2)
Last week: 4
Results: Lost to UCLA 81-75 (OT) and USC 73-64
Next up: at Oregon (Thursday)
Comment: Admittedly, our belief in the Sun Devils is being tested, although Remy Martin’s weekend absence is an excuse for continued denial.

6. Stanford (8-3/4-1)
Last week: 9
Results: Beat Washington 91-75 and Washington State 75-60
Next up: at Utah (Thursday)
Comment: Admittedly, we don’t yet believe in the Cardinal.

7. Washington State (9-2/2-2)
Last week: 8
Results: Won at Cal 71-60, lost at Stanford 75-60
Next up: at UCLA (Thursday)
Comment: The Washington schools are one of two sets of travel partners that drew back-to-back road trips this season. Utah and Colorado will visit the Bay Area and Oregon on consecutive weeks later this month.

8. Utah (4-4/1-3)
Last week: 7
Results: Lost to Oregon 79-73, DNP vs Oregon State
Next up: vs. Colorado (Monday)
Comment: The rugged early schedule (L.A. schools on the road, Oregon at home) makes Utah’s record a bit deceiving. Then again, it’s clear the Utes don’t belong in the top group.

9. Arizona (9-3/3-3)
Last week: 5
Result: Lost to USC 87-73 and UCLA 81-76
Next up: at Oregon State (Thursday)
Comment: Now four games out in the loss column (including the head-to-head result) and with the postseason ban, the Wildcats must dig deep or risk a collapse.

10. Oregon State (5-4/1-2)
Last week: 10
Results: DNP at Utah, DNP at Colorado
Next up: vs. Arizona (Thursday)
Comment: The Beavers were unable to make the Mountain swing because of COVID issues but were impacted by the virus even before hitting pause.

11. Cal (6-7/1-5)
Last week: 11
Results: Lost to Washington State 71-60, beat Washington 84-78
Next up: at Colorado (Thursday)
Comment: Adding context to the race for the bottom: The Bears’ head-to-head win over UW came without top scorer Matt Bradley, who’s out with an ankle injury.

12. Washington (1-9/0-5)
Last week: 12
Results: Lost at Stanford 91-75 and Cal 84-78
Next up: at USC (Thursday)
Comment: Next reasonable chance for a victory comes Jan. 24, at home against Utah. We’d bet heavily on the Huskies winning at least once, somewhere.


  • IceManLikeGervinIceManLikeGervin Posts: 331
    250 Answers 100 Awesomes 100 Comments 25 Up Votes
    edited January 19
    Mercury News (click for full article)

    1. UCLA (11-2/7-0)
    Last week: 1
    Results: Beat Washington State 91-61 and Washington 81-76
    Next up: at Cal (Thursday)
    Comment: Since Chris Smith’s season-ending injury, the Bruins have won five in a row and scored 80+ points four times.

    2. Colorado (11-3/5-2)
    Last week: 3
    Results: Beat Cal 89-60 and Stanford 77-64
    Next up: at Washington (Wednesday)
    Comment: We flipped the Buffaloes and Oregon this week based on CU’s four-game winning streak — including a head-to-head victory — and the Ducks’ COVID pause.

    3. Oregon (9-2/4-1)
    Last week: 2
    Results: DNP vs. Arizona State, DNP vs. Arizona
    Next up: vs. Oregon State (Saturday)
    Comment: The makeup date with UCLA scheduled for Tuesday has been pushed back two weeks and moved to Westwood, where it will be part of a three-game trip for the Ducks (two duels with the Bruins and one with USC).

    4. USC (11-2/5-1)
    Last week: 4
    Results: Beat Washington 95-68 and Washington State 85-77
    Next up: at Oregon State (Tuesday)
    Comment: In ESPN’s latest Bracketology, the Trojans are a No. 6 seed (along with UCLA, Colorado and UConn).

    5. Arizona (10-3/4-3)
    Last week: 9
    Results: Beat Oregon State 98-64, DNP at Oregon
    Next up: at Arizona State (Thursday)
    Comment: Not sure the Wildcats are truly deserving of this placement (or the four-spot jump after winning in Corvallis). But this week, they are the best of bad options.

    6. Arizona State (4-6/1-3)
    Last week: 5
    Results: DNP at Oregon, lost at Oregon State 80-79
    Next up: vs. Arizona (Thursday)
    Comment: Three-game homestand against the Wildcats and Bay Area schools is, in our view, ASU’s last stand.

    7. Stanford (8-5/4-3)
    Last week: 6
    Results: Lost at Utah 79-65 and Colorado 77-64
    Next up: vs. USC (Thursday)
    Comment: The Cardinal was 9-of-35 from 3-point range last week at altitude. To avoid another sweep, the perimeter shooting must improve back at sea level. (Stanford’s “home” games are a few blocks from the ocean in Santa Cruz.)

    8. Washington State (9-4/2-4)
    Last week: 7
    Results: Lost at UCLA 91-61 and USC 85-77
    Next up: vs. Utah (Thursday)
    Comment: Despite their lost weekend in L.A., the Cougars continue to operate closer to their ceiling than most teams in the conference. They’re simply a few playmakers short.

    9. Utah (5-6/2-5)
    Last week: 8
    Results: Beat Stanford 79-65, lost to Cal 72-63
    Next up: at Washington State (Thursday)
    Comment: Outscored by 21 points in the second half, at home, by a one-win opponent without its best player? Even if it’s your fourth game in eight days, it’s a bad, bad loss.

    10. Oregon State (6-5/2-3)
    Last week: 10
    Results: Lost to Arizona 98-64, beat Arizona State 80-79
    Next up: vs. USC (Tuesday)
    Comment: What we most admire about the Beavers is their consistency.

    11. California (7-8/2-6)
    Last week: 11
    Results: Lost at Colorado 89-60, won at Utah 72-63
    Next up: vs. UCLA (Thursday)
    Comment: Whatever Mark Fox said at halftime in SLC, he should get tattooed on his forehead: The first 90 seconds of the second half changed the game.

    12. Washington (1-11/0-7)
    Last week: 12
    Results: Lost at USC 95-68 and UCLA 81-76
    Next up: vs. Colorado (Wednesday)
    Comment: For all their struggles, the Huskies only lost to UCLA by five points and to Oregon by three. The common thread? Quade Green scored 25 against the Bruins and 26 against the Ducks.
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