Photo credit: AP PHOTO – Denis Poroy
No shift in the top four, but we’ve got a whole lot of movement starting at No. 5 where Stanford checks in largely because of Landry Fields (above). Despite some minor improvements from a couple of teams, it’s hard to imagine the Pac-10 sending more than four teams to the NCAA tournament. Heck, some think the conference will be lucky to get three invitations. The Pac-10 has a 40-19 record against non-conference teams and just one team (Washington) ranked in the AP poll.
1. (1) Washington (5-0): These are halcyon times for the Huskies who moved into the top 10 of the coaches’ poll this week. UW hasn’t been this high in the rankings since January 2006 when it went to the Sweet 16 that season. The first five games were interesting, but we’ll really see what Washington is made in the next five when it faces Texas Tech, Cal State Northridge, Georgetown, Portland and Texas A&M.
2. (2). Arizona State (6-1): An 1-1 record and third-place finish in the NIT Season Tip-Off isn’t a bad showing for the Sun Devils, who many thought were rebuilding this year. They were expected to lose Duke, which they did. But the 71-52 LSU win was fairly impressive. ASU has a cupcake schedule until Pac-10 play, which means they’ll likely remain near the top of the rankings for the next several weeks.
3. (3) California (4-2): Seems like the flu bug that bit the Huskies hard before the season is now tormenting the Bears. Starting center Markhuri Sanders-Frison stayed home because of illness and sixth man Jorge Gutierrez played just seven minutes in Sunday’s win over Princeton because he was also ill. Cal was already missing forward Theo Robertson (foot) and center Harper Kamp (knee).
4. (4) Washington State (5-0): Someone asked last week why the Cougars were ranked here when they have a perfect record and the teams above them have losses. Well it’s simple, Wazzu hasn’t played anybody. You think the Huskies schedule is soft, well the Cougars schedule is tissue-paper soft. WSU’s RPI is 334 and its strength of schedule is 321, both conference lows. The combined record of its opponents: 12-26.
5. (9) Stanford (4-3): While you were bemoaning the Pac-10’s slow start, you forgot about the Cardinal didn’t you? Admit it. It’s okay. You’re not alone. Few people took Stanford seriously this season even though it won 20 games last season. But the Cardinal has won three of the past four games and they took No. 5 Kentucky into overtime, which is just as good as a win in the Pac-10. Another reason not to ignore Stanford: Fields is 10th in the nation with a 23.3 scoring average.
6. (5) Arizona (3-1): Just one game this week for the Wildcats and it’s a pretty good one: No. 24 UNLV. The Rebels average 82.6 points per game (21st in the nation), which should tests Zona’s defense that allowed 84 points in its previous game, a loss to Vanderbilt.
7. (6) Oregon (4-2): You can imagine Ernie Kent’s hot seat got pretty toasty after the Ducks followed a loss against Portland with a defeat against Montana. Not sure if blowing out Montana State quieted his critics. Kent needs a quality win to keep the skeptics at bay and Oregon plays at Missouri (4-1) on Saturday.
8. (10) Oregon State (2-3): Few people, myself included, thought the Beavers could travel across the country and knock off previously unbeaten George Washington. Sure it was the Colonials who were picked to finish 13th in the 14-team Atlantic 10 Conference, but considering OSU lost the previous game to Sacramento State, it was a good win.
9. (8) USC (2-2): The only good news for new coach Kevin O’Neill: the football team beat cross-town rival UCLA this week. Not sure if anybody in Los Angeles even knows the Trojans basketball season has started.
10. (7) UCLA (2-4): Wow. How the mighty have fallen. And just when the Bruins, which have lost three straight, thought it couldn’t get any worse, No.1-ranked Kansas comes to town on Sunday. It’s going to get a whole lot worse for UCLA before it gets better.