Posted on January 11, 2022
Basketball season is officially in full swing as the College Football Bowl Season comes to a close.
If you haven’t been paying close attention, the narrative around the Pac-12 in 2021-22 is that it has three elite teams capable of making a deep run in March.
But no one knows which is the fourth-best.
The potential is there for a program to get hot and make a Cinderella run for the second year in a row. The question is: Who will it be?
I provide my take on the situation here, with my first Power Ranking of 2022.
1. USC (13-0, 3-0)
The Trojans didn’t need a cupcake nonconference opponent before going on the road to take down California.
USC’s 77-63 victory over the Bears advanced Andy Enfield’s team to 13-0 and No. 5 in the AP Poll.
Sitting at No. 12 in the NET, the Trojans’ 4-0 mark in true road games and 5-0 record in Quad 1 and 2 matchups are both top in the Pac-12.
2. Arizona (12-1, 2-0)
The Pac-12 administration played favorites in its scheduling of postponed games, and Arizona got the short end of the stick.
Despite having zero COVID issues this season, the Wildcats have played just once since December 23rd.
The lack of opportunities has dropped UA to second in the Conference in Quad 1 and 2 matchups, as Tommy Lloyd’s squad now sits at 4-1 in the pivotal games.
3. UCLA (10-1, 3-0)
There wasn’t another team in the Pac-12 that needed a nonconference opponent after coming off a COVID pause.
But Mick Cronin felt his team wasn’t prepared to face Arizona, and the Pac-12 administration obliged.
Sitting with a 3-1 record in Quad 1 and 2 games, UCLA has fewer wins against the top two quadrants than both UA and USC.
4. Colorado (11-3, 3-1)
The Buffs shut down the Huskies on Saturday to secure a home sweep of the Washington schools.
Tristan da Silva flashed his potential against UW, scoring a career-high 22 points.
The sophomore could be a game-changer for CU moving forward, and might be what Tad Boyle needs to establish the Buffaloes as the fourth-best team in the Pac-12.
5. Washington State (9-6, 2-2)
Winning on the road is never easy, but the Cougs got it done in Salt Lake City.
The victory snapped an 18-game losing streak against the Mountain programs on the road, and was WSU’s first win at Utah since 1946.
Kyle Smith’s team is 5-0 when getting 14 assists or more, securing wins with outside shooting and offensive rebounding.
6. Oregon (9-6, 2-2)
The Ducks win ugly. After scraping out a victory in Corvallis, UO has strung together a three-game winning streak and is 2-2 in conference play.
At 90th in the NET, Oregon still doesn’t have a Quad 1 win, but is 8-0 when scoring 70 points or more.
Two months remain for Dana Altman to get his team up to expectations.
7. Stanford (8-4, 1-1)
On a COVID-pause, the Tree are a wildcard.
Stanford is one of only five Pac-12 programs with a Quad 1 victory this season and has the clear favorite to win Pac-12 Freshman of the Year on its roster.
But Jerod Haase’s team is 0-3 on the road and 1-4 in Q1 and Q2 games. With competing signals, the jury is still out on the Cardinal’s season.
8. California (9-7, 2-3)
Mark Fox and the Bears can’t close out close games.
Over the last two years, Cal is 3-11 in conference games decided by less than 10 points. But that doesn’t take away from the leaps and bounds the program has taken this season.
Recruiting is on the upswing and momentum is building. Yet, until California finds ways to win on the road, it will still be stuck around the middle of the Pac-12.
9. Arizona State (5-8, 1-2)
The hits just keep coming for Arizona State.
The Sun Devils have played only twice since December 15th and were blown out by California in Berkeley.
But Bobby Hurley’s team has respectable wins on the road against Creighton and Oregon, along with a home victory over Grand Canyon University.
10. Washington (6-7, 1-3)
Rebounding problems have hounded the Huskies throughout the season.
Mike Hopkins’ system leaves UW vulnerable to offensive boards, and opponents take full advantage. Shoring up those problems should give the Dawgs a chance, thanks to the emergence of Cole Bajema on offense.
Washington has more Quad 2 wins than every team in the Pac-12 outside of Arizona and USC.
11. Oregon State (3-11, 1-3)
The Beavs had their two-game winning streak snapped after Jarod Lucas finally came down to Earth.
His 0-for-8 from deep was too much to overcome against Oregon, despite the raucous home crowd.
The defeat is a setback, but it shouldn’t derail the momentum OSU has built over the past few games.
12. Utah (8-8, 1-5)
Craig Smith’s team has fallen off a cliff.
It was just two weeks ago that Utah appeared to be in contention as one of the Best of the Rest teams in the Pac-12. But the Utes have lost four straight, with three of the defeats coming by double-digits.
Fortunately, Smith appears to be an excellent X’s and O’s coach that will have success with the right players.
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