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Husky Men's Basketball

The latest news and analysis on Husky men's hoops.

February 2, 2009 at 2:25 PM

Ranking the Pac

Five weeks down, five weeks to go. …
1, Washington (7-2, Pac-10, 16-5 overall) — Okay, I’m sure I’ll take hits on this from those who can think of no better retort than to call me “a homer” (lots of people at UW would laugh at that). And I’m still not sure that I wouldn’t bet on UCLA to win the conference if my house depended on it — I did pick the Bruins in the pre-season poll. However, consider the facts — each is 3-1 at home in conference play, each losing to a team that is currently 5-4 in the conference. Each is 4-1 on the road. UW beat the Bruins in Seattle, and not on a last-second shot, but in a game in which they were clearly the better team on that day. And consider further that UW is 21st in the RPI, UCLA 31st; and that UW has a strength of schedule rating of 20 compared to UCLA’s 72. Things can change rapidly in college basketball, and UCLA had a solid weekend in which it quickly got back on track. But for today, the Huskies get the nod.
2, UCLA (7-2 Pac-10. 17-4 overall) — Really, not much of a schedule edge for either UW or UCLA the rest of the way. Bruins host USC, the Washingtons and the Oregons and go to the Arizonas and the Bay Area schools. UW also hosts the Oregon schools and WSU while going to the LA schools and the Bay Area schools. Bruins got back to being more aggressive on offense last weekend instead of just settling for jumpers, as they did too often at UW.
3, USC (6-3, 15-6) — Trojans have had more issues than most dealing with injuries and illness, while also breaking in some young players, so their third-place standing indicates just how dangerous this team could be the rest of the way. A win at UCLA Wednesday night would put them legitimately in the hunt for the conference title.
4, Arizona State (5-4, 16-5) — The win at UCLA two weeks ago followed by a close shave at Arizona seemed to illustrate this team was for real. So maybe the two home losses over the weekend were just a little mid-season rut. Still, the Cougars and Huskies each exploited the fact that the supporting cast around James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph is a little suspect. ASU coaches are going to have to figure out a way to counter the swarming defenses — and using bigger players — opponents are throwing at Harden.
5, Cal (5-4, 16-6) — That fast start is beginning to look like a mirage as all those jumpers are now hitting the back iron instead of finding the net. But the Bears now have three straight at home against UW, WSU and Stanford, and if the shots start falling through, this remains a dangerous and NCAA Tournament-caliber team.
6, Arizona (4-5, 14-8) — Don’t forget, the Wildcats still have what may be the two best non-conference wins for the Pac-10 against Kansas and Gonzaga. There’s talent here, just not much depth. So when any of the big three struggle, so will the Wildcats. But all three are in a groove right now, and maybe the Chase Budinger-headstomp incident against Houston gave this team something to rally around. A sweep of the Oregon trip this weekend gets them right back in the NCAA Tournament conversation.
7, Washington State (4-5, 12-9) — The win at ASU showed how capable this team can be when it plays well. But there is just not enough overall firewpower to put the Cougars into the upper division right now. They seem headed to the NIT.
8, Oregon State (4-5, 10-10) — Beavers have won four in a row and themselves are suddenly thinking NIT, which would give Craig Robinson one of the biggest first-year turnarounds in conference history. Home games this week against Arizona and Arizona State will show definitively just how far OSU has come. Opponents may have a better feel for OSU’s unique style the second time around.
9, Stanford (3-6, 13-6) — Like their Bay Area counterparts, that glittering early start looks like a mirage now. On the other hand, the Cardinal did lose three one-point games on the road, including at UW and USC. Reverse two of those and this team is right in the hunt. Last chance to get back in contention may come this weekend with visits from WSU and UW. Those two schools have combined to win just one game at Maples Pavilion since 1996 — that by WSU in 2005.
10, Oregon (0-9, 6-15) Ernie Kent keeps insisting his young players are getting better, but the results don’t indicate that’s happening. Five of the next seven are at home, however, so an upset or two is possible. But that seems about it for this season.

Comments | Topics: UCLA


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