Thursday, April 24, 2014

Power rankings: Pac-12, WCC, MWC men's basketball, edition 7 (12 items)

by Nate Gagon
For the Deseret News

Jan. 30, 2014

There was an interesting article recently on sportsillustrated.com regarding San Diego State and the Mountain West Conference. As the article points out, the MWC looks like it may very well only get two teams into the NCAA Tournament this season, after getting five teams in last season and finishing as the No. 1 ranked RPI conference in the country.

Pete Thamel, the author of the article, points out that while San Diego State keeps winning, there are still “plenty of reasons to be skeptical.” Thamel said that the conference in general has “tanked” this season, largely because UNLV has been “one of the country’s biggest busts.” Thamel’s points are well stated about the MWC and the Aztecs.

Many of his points could equally be applied to the Pac-12 and West Coast conferences as well.

Right now, Gonzaga is the only WCC team that’s a safe bet to make the NCAA Tournament. BYU suffered a huge blow in losing to Portland and as of Jan. 30 is listed among the “First Four Out” by Joe Lunardi of ESPN. Lundardi currently has Saint Mary’s among the “Last Four In” as a No. 12 seed taking on Oregon in the play-in round.

No other team in the conference has a remote chance at an at-large bid and thus would have to pull off a shocker in the conference tourney to crack the field. If the Bulldogs of Gonzaga aren’t careful, they could find themselves on the outside looking in if such an upset did take place in the conference tournament.

Meanwhile in the Pac-12, Lunardi currently has seven teams in the NCAA Tournament, but only one higher than a No. 7 seed. There is only one team, Arizona, that is essentially assured of a spot in the tournament at this point.

Of the other six teams, Oregon and Stanford are both among the “Last Four In” playing in the opening play-in round, and Arizona State and California are both “On the Bubble.” That leaves Colorado, a No. 10 seed with its best player out for the season, and UCLA, a No. 7 seed. UCLA should be fairly safe, but the Bruins really don’t have any quality wins other than knocking off other non-Arizona Pac-12 teams.

From the state of Utah, there is but one team currently projected to make the NCAA Tournament, and it’s not the Cougars, Utes, Aggies, Wildcats or T-Birds. Try the Wolverines of Utah Valley, on top of the revamped WAC with a 6-0 conference record. Go figure.

Here is the seventh edition of the Pac-12/MWC/WCC power rankings (games through Jan. 29).

Nate Gagon is a published sports, music, and creative writer. He is also a wholehearted father, grateful husband and ardent student of life. He shoots roughly 94% from the free-throw line and can be reached at: nategagon@hotmail.com or @nategagon.

1 of 12. 1. Arizona Wildcats (Pac-12)

No change

Since the previous edition of the power rankings, the Wildcats (21-0, 8-0) have beaten Colorado at home by 12, Utah at home by nine in a close game and Stanford on the road by three in another tight one.

Two more close calls for Arizona this season; still no losses. The Wildcats thus remain on top of college basketball and these power rankings.

2 of 12. 2. San Diego State Aztecs (MWC)

No change

Since Jan. 16, the Aztecs (18-1, 7-0) have defeated UNLV at home by 11, San Jose State on the road by 25 and Utah State at the Spectrum in Logan by five in overtime.

SDSU, currently projected by Lunardi as a No. 3 seed, has perfected the art of winning ugly. The Aztecs are well below average in shooting the basketball, but they rebound and play defense like crazy.

3 of 12. 3. UCLA Bruins (Pac-12)

No change

The Bruins (16-4, 5-2) remained in second place in the Pac-12 despite their road loss to the Utes on Jan. 18. Since that loss, the Bruins have handled Stanford and California at home, each by double digits.

Even as the third-ranked team in these power rankings, the Bruins are still not a lock for the NCAA Tournament. Jerry Palm of CBS Sports has them as a No. 9 seed in his latest projections.

4 of 12. 4. Gonzaga Bulldogs (WCC)

Up one

The Bulldogs (19-3, 9-1), since the last edition of the power rankings, have gone undefeated with wins at Loyola Marymount by 10, at home versus San Diego by just three, at home over BYU by 15, and on the road over Santa Clara by a mere two points.

Not overwhelming, but any of the other teams from among these three conferences aren't either. The Bulldogs, like UCLA, are currently projected as a No. 7 seed by Lunardi and a No. 9 seed by Palm. There's not a lot of wiggle room.

5 of 12. 5. Arizona State Sun Devils (Pac-12)

Up five

Take your pick from here on out. I’ve been high on the Sun Devils all season because of their star sophomore point guard, Jahii Carson. The only consensus on the Sun Devils, as with just about all Pac-12 teams, is that they are squarely on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament right now.

Since Jan. 16, ASU (16-5, 5-3) has defeated Utah by four at home, Colorado by 21 at home, and California in overtime on the road.
1. AZUTE1
Mesa, AZ,
Jan. 30, 2014

Ranking SMC ahead of U/U and ASU ahead of UW, etc., are a few of the obvious illustrations showing this "List" for what it in fact actually is and that's something deliberately constructed to stir controversy, not accurately portray a reasonably full-proof order of ranking best reflecting reality....Well played!

2. VAggie
Bristow, United States,
Jan. 30, 2014

In terms of "where is Utah State?" That is only half true for example Marcel is struggling due to better opponents. Yes USU is in a more difficult conference, but we simply are not as good as we used to be. Many of our guys are soft and Stone is not athletic enough. We settle for too
Many outside shots. Shaw drives me crazy when he shoots just inside the arc. I feel like the team from Tai Wesleys senior year would compete to win the MWC this year and would get an 8 or lower seed. On the bright side the young guys are developing well. I'm a big fan of Moore and Kyle Davis.