Ranking the Pac-10: Basketball Edition


Just how bad is the perception of the Pac-10 nationally? They only have one ranked team, and USC coach Kevin O’Neill spoke up on behalf of rival UCLA today in an effort to boost the leagues credibility as the Trojans search for an at-large bid. “I can’t believe UCLA is not ranked this week,” O’Neill  told reporters on Tuesday. “I believe it’s an absolute travesty.”

1. UCLA (21-8, 12-4)

UCLA is the hottest team in the conference and has a chance to get return to the top of the hierarchy if things break their way this weekend. Their guard play has consistently improved over the course of the season, and Josh Smith adds a forceful presence inside. The defense has also improved and recorded a lot of blocks as of late.

2. Arizona (23-6, 12-4)

The Wildcats rose up to No. 10 in the polls, but were exposed in Los Angeles. Both UCLA and USC showed how one-dimensional Arizona is, and devised a blue print for slowing Derrick Williams down. To date, the Wildcats have very few good wins on their resume and have made a living on beating inferior teams.

3. USC (17-12, 9-7)

Out of nowhere, the Trojans have moved on to the bubble by winning five of their last six and four in a row. They head to Washington, and road play has b been very inconsistent. Despite the floundering of both Washington schools, it will be a tough test. USC still has a lot of work to do if they want to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. A sweep and reaching the Pac-10 tournament finals would probably put them in, so this weekend is crucial.

4. Washington (19-9, 10-6)

The vaunted Huskies are just 4-5 in their past 9 contests, but they are projected to be in the tournament according to many bracketologists. They still rank 2nd in the country in points per game and 15th in shooting percentage. In order to hold on to the 3-seed in the Pac-10 tournament, the Huskies need to win one game this weekend, which is attainable considering they are at home. The chemistry of this team still seems off ever since off-the-court allegations surfaced regarding an unnamed player.

5. Washington State (18-10, 8-8)

Washington State turned in an impressive effort against Washington and showed the potential of this team. However, the Cougars haven’t lived up to their potential. Losing to Arizona State is unfathomable, and the Cougars haven’t been able to sustain the momentum they created in the non-conference. Heading in to the final weekend, they face arguably the two hottest teams in the conference. One win will prevent them from being relegated to the bottom 7 and having to play in the first round of the conference tournament.

6. California (16-13, 9-8)

Before the UCLA game, the Bears talked about how important finishing the season out strongly was. They have won three in a row in large part because of the takeover by Jorge Gutierrez. The junior has added to his great defensive skills by putting up a lot of points, and that has vaulted the Bears to 9-8 in conference. Cal could finish 5th in the conference despite losing four-fifths of their 2010 squad that won the conference.

7. Oregon (14-14, 7-9)

It’s tempting to rank Oregon 11 simply based on their ugly court, but they deserve major credit for exceeding expectations. They are good at forcing turnovers and playing the game at their pace, and that is how they have been able to reach 7 conference wins. They also have a very strong home court advantage. As a USC fan, this is not a team I want the Trojans to face in the Pac-10 tournament because they are the only ones to sweep USC (Washington can accomplish that feat this weekend).

8. Stanford (15-14, 7-10)

All the talk coming out of Palo Alto is that the Cardinal is young, and next year seems to be the most important year for Johnny Dawkins’ job security. Will the young players develop. Jeremy Green has been the best player on the squad, but he has struggled against the good defenses in the conference. As such, Stanford hasn’t been able to keep up in conference and will very likely play in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament.

9. Oregon State (10-17, 5-11)

Perhaps head coach Craig Robinson can call brother-in-law Barack Obama and ask that he use his power to move them in to first place? Oregon State has shown progress, but they are still very young. The wins over Arizona and Washington are impressive, but its hard to understand how they also lost to Utah Valley, Seattle, and Texas Southern.

10. Arizona State (10-18, 2-14)

Watching ASU play USC in person, it was obvious why the Sun Devils are dead last in the Pac-10. They took some awful shots, and when they got good looks, they threw up bricks. Their defense was porous and watching them play was an absolute train wreck.