Pac-12 Basketball Power Rankings: Utah Utes Rise While USC Trojans Plummet

Tom Greenhalgh@@Tom_GreenhalghContributor IIIDecember 10, 2012

If you're not yet sold on the vast improvement of Pac-12 basketball, consider this:

In 2011-12, the Pac-12 won just 61 percent of its out of conference games. That number has been elevated to 70 percent thus far this season.

Further, in 2011-12, the Pac-12 finished No. 10 in RPI and strength of schedule. As of today, the Pac-12 ranks No. 3 and No. 1, respectively.

Granted, projects the Pac-12 will drop to fifth in RPI by season's end, that same projection would still place the league above two other power conferences.

So, while the Pac-12 has not yet returned to elite status, take solace in the fact things are looking up.

With that in mind, here are your weekly Pac-12 basketball power rankings, listed from 12-1.

Click here for last week's power rankings.

*The numbers below take into account games played through December 9, 2012.


12. USC (3-6, 112 RPI, 107 Sagarin, 154 KenPom)

Credit Kevin O'Neill for scheduling tough. His USC team—fresh off of an 0-3 week—appears to be a slightly more competitive version of Long Beach State. They'll play anyone but won't promise to win any. 

Had the Trojans not lost to Nebraska, I wouldn't have felt compelled to drop them all the way to the bottom. But they did, so I did. USC should be able to snap its five game losing streak when UC Riverside pays a visit to the Galen Center Saturday.


11. Washington (4-4, 111, 87, 96)

Hec Ed is regularly mentioned among the toughest places to win out west. That might soon change. Washington has already dropped home games to Albany, Colorado State and Nevada. They also narrowly escaped Cal State Fullerton. 

The problem is: Lorenzo Romar's team isn't very talented and is much less cohesive. The 2011-12 Pac-12 regular season champions look like an extreme long shot to repeat. They're more likely to finish dead last.


10. Washington State (6-4, 149, 89, 89)

Washington State narrowly missed out on a big home win against then-No. 10 Gonzaga. The 'Zags, thanks to a running banker by Kevin Pangos in the final seconds, escaped the upset bid despite Brock Motum and DaVonte Lacy combining for 45 points.

Ken Bone's team did regroup four days later to knock off Fresno State. Brock Motum (19.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG) is arguably the Pac-12's best player and will keep the Cougs competitive moving forward.


9. Utah (6-3, 100, 122, 195)

The Utah coaching staff honored the late Rick Majerus by wearing gray sweaters on the sidelines during Utah's matchup with Boise State. The players made the legendary coach proud by manhandling a quality Boise State team—the same Boise State team that beat Creighton by 13 and almost stole a win in East Lansing.

Despite enduring a difficult three point loss in Provo, the heavy-hearted Utes proved they may in fact be a team worth worrying about in the Pac-12.


8. UCLA (6-3, 116, 58, 36)

It can be argued that UCLA's win over Texas was more the product of Texas giving one away than UCLA asserting its will. Regardless, UCLA pulled out an ugly come-from-behind victory at a time they desperately needed it. The Bruins can certainly still salvage the season, but to many of the UCLA faithful it has become all too obvious that UCLA needs a new coach.

Ben Howland's team still has a date with Missouri before Pac-12 play starts up.


7. Stanford (6-3, 99, 45, 42)

Stanford was the only Pac-12 team not in action this past week. They won't take the court again until Saturday when UC Davis visits Maples Pavilion. Stanford doesn't have any particularly awe-inspiring wins, but they don't have any bad losses either.

Stanford's projected RPI is is in the mid-50s, indicating that the Cardinal will likely wind up on the bubble come March. A return visit to NC State is all that's left for Stanford in terms of high-profile non-conference opponents.


6. Oregon State (5-2, 148, 65, 66)

Oregon State was in action just once this past week—an 85-54 victory over win-less Grambling State. Craig Robinson's team has already notched respectable wins against Purdue and New Mexico State but failed to capitalize against its highest-profile opponents in Kansas and Alabama.

Its remaining schedule before conference play—Portland State, Chicago State, Howard, San Diego, Towson and Texas Pan-Am—is high risk, low reward.


5. Arizona State (8-1, 33, 95, 137)

Jordan Bachynski recorded the first triple-double in school history in ASU's 87-76 win over Cal State Northridge. ASU now ranks 31st in the nation in points per game (79.0) and field goal percentage (.048).

The downside? The Devils' best win comes against a borderline top-100 team in Arkansas. Six of its other seven wins come against opponents with projected RPI's above 200. Still, ASU looks primed to enter Pac-12 play at an impressive 12-1.


4. Cal (6-2, 26, 33, 43)

UNLV's Quintrell Thomas stuck a dagger through the hearts of Bears fans with a game-winning putback in the final seconds of Cal's 76-75 loss Sunday. And as a result, many Cal fans feel that big wins are still elusive for Monty's club.

Cal does own a solid 6-2 mark but has squandered its opportunities to collect a signature win thus far. With Creighton visiting Berkeley Saturday, Allen Crabbe and co. will have another opportunity to make a statement before Pac-12 play.


3. Colorado (7-2, 3, 50, 73)

Colorado didn't stand a chance in Lawrence. If anything, CU's 90-54 loss at Kansas just goes to show the gap between a Final Four contender hitting its stride and an NCAA tournament contender on an off night. On the bright side, Tad Boyle's team notched a quality win over rival Colorado State earlier in the week. The Buffs now have noteworthy wins against Baylor, Murray State and Colorado State, all of which could wind up in the RPI top 50.


2. Oregon (8-1, 55, 52, 45)

Oregon routed overmatched Idaho in its only game of the week. The Ducks also have an excellent win on the docket—an 83-79 win at UNLV. What Oregon doesn't have is an outstanding computer profile. The Ducks current and projected RPI both place in the mid-50s, suggesting they'll likely be on the bubble alongside Stanford come March.

Dana Altman's team must avoid stumbling in the remaining non-conference slate, starting with Nebraska on Saturday.


1. Arizona (7-0, 15, 13, 13)

The Wildcats survived 27 turnovers in a 63-55 win over Southern Miss on Tuesday. Four days later, the 'Cats overcame 35 percent shooting in a 66-54 win at Clemson. Nick Johnson was instrumental in helping Arizona avoid both upset bids. He averaged 18 points, 4.5 steals, four rebounds and 2.5 assists for the week. Sean Miller's bunch will strive to iron out these issues in time for a visit from fellow unbeaten and highly ranked Florida.

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