Pac-12 Power Rankings — 1/14/13

1. Arizona (15-1, 3-1) — The Wildcats were bound to lose a game eventually, so having that come against Oregon doesn’t really change the fact that they still look like the best team in the conference. Arizona does have a troubling habit of playing down to some of its opponents, but no one else in the Pac-12 has been as impressive overall. Freshman forwards Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett had one of their best games in beating Oregon State, combining for 20 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks.

2. Oregon (14-2, 3-0) — It’s a shame that Oregon and Arizona won’t meet again in the regular season. The Ducks don’t have major weaknesses, though they still might be undone by youth in a tough road game. They’re a little prone to turnovers, but are probably the most balanced team in the Pac-12. Oregon leads the conference with a +15.1 scoring margin. E.J. Singler is still shooting 37.6 percent from the field after topping 45 in each of his first three seasons.

3. UCLA (14-3, 4-0) — This young squad still lets teams back in late, but it has also fended them off every time. It proved it could do so in tough road environments at both Utah and Colorado, and is becoming more consistent on defense. The Bruins can also survive off-nights from Shabazz Muhammad, something that wasn’t the case two weeks ago.

4. Arizona State (14-3, 3-1) — ASU believes it should have beaten Oregon. The Sun Devils played the Ducks close for the entire 68-65 loss, and have enough firepower to hang with most teams in the conference (fifth in both scoring offense and defense). Freshman Jahii Carson and senior Carrick Felix continue to impress, with the former possessing a dangerous first step. Depth is an issue, with four players averaging at least 30 minutes per game.

5. Colorado (11-5, 1-3) — The Buffs must be kicking themselves after the close calls they’ve had (Arizona, UCLA), but they’ve also been outplayed lately. Finding the 3-point shot again will help, as the team is shooting 22.4 percent in its last three games. A win at Washington this week could give Colorado some much needed momentum; the four opponents after that are a combined 3-12 in conference play.

6. Washington (11-5, 3-0) — C.J. Wilcox won Pac-12 Player of the Year after helping Washington to its first Bay Area sweep since 1985. The junior guard has been almost unstoppable since recently, averaging 21.3 points and 8.0 rebounds over his past three games. The last time Washington opened conference play with three straight road wins was 1912. The Huskies are looking better in their new high-post offense, and upcoming games against Colorado, Utah and Oregon State are all winnable.

7. Stanford (10-7, 1-3) — Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle both have the ability to go off despite their shooting struggles this season. Against Washington State, the pair combined for 37 points on 10-of-15 shooting. But three days later, Bright missed all five shots against Washington to finish scoreless in the 65-60 home less. Stanford shows flashes of putting together its talented pieces, but doesn’t look like it’s building on last year’s NIT Championship.

8. Cal (10-6, 2-2) — The Bears tied a school record with 11 blocked shots against Washington State while holding the Cougars to 33 percent from the field — something that made coach Mike Montgomery a little happier with the team’s commitment to defense. Freshman Tyrone Wallace also scored a season-high 16 points off the bench, but Cal is still heavily reliant on the scoring duo of Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs.

9. Oregon State (10-6, 0-3) — Oregon State’s had to host Oregon, Arizona and Arizona State to start the new year, so three straight losses aren’t shocking. But the Beavers couldn’t keep the final score within single digits in any of those three games, all of which came at home. Eric Moreland, the team’s best interior player, was suspended for two of those games for violating team rules, and will return after sitting out at UCLA.

10. USC (7-10, 2-2) — The Trojans were coming off a decent weekend in the mountains, including a 76-59 win at Utah that was easily their most impressive this season. Then their coach got fired. Bob Cantu served as the interim coach for USC once before, when Kevin O’Neill was suspended during the 2011 Pac-10 tournament. Players have responded well so far, at least on Twitter. Cantu also told the OC Register that he plans to try and play 7-footers Omar Oraby and Dewayne Dedmon together more often.

11. Utah (8-8, 0-4) — Utah’s three close losses to Arizona, ASU and UCLA would have had them two or three spots higher than this before its loss to USC. Larry Krystkowiak is a good enough coach that the Utes could still get back on track, but the team is approaching a bit of a crossroad right now as it prepares for a Washington trip.

12. Washington State (9-7, 0-3) — The Cougars are shooting 37.4 percent in Pac-12 play, down from 44.5 percent through their nonconference schedule. Guard Davonte Lacy has been awful recently, shooting 4 of 19 over his past three games after averaging 14.4 points in December.

Past rankings:
January 7