Pac-12 Power Rankings: Who Will Get the Fourth Bye?Posted by RJ Abeytia on February 16th, 2017
With three weeks of league play left, both the the regular season title and the cherished final Pac-12 Tournament bye are still very much in play…
- Arizona– The Wildcats are experiencing their three talented freshmen (Lauri Markannen, Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins) running smack into the proverbial freshman wall. Despite that ongoing issue, they were still able to sweep the Bay Area schools without playing their best basketball. One of the biggest signs for optimism comes in the form of Chance Comanche, who has fortified Arizona’s post rotation by shooting 17-of-29 (59%) over the last two games.
- UCLA– How about a little love for Aaron Holiday? Upstaged by the arrival of superstar freshman Lonzo Ball, the sophomore guard has drastically improved upon what was a very good freshman campaign. He has already converted more three-pointers than all of last season (42) and has flipped his assist rate (24.4%) and turnover rates (21.5%) as well. He isn’t playing as much this season, but he is still a key cog in the Bruins’ devastating offensive machine.
- Oregon– The Ducks were about 15 minutes away from looking like the best team in the Pac-12. A furious comeback, however, orchestrated by UCLA’s Lonzo Ball proved that the conference is still up for grabs. As balanced as Oregon is across its rotation, the need for a closer is still an issue. Dillon Brooks has played that role very well for most of this season, but when he’s having an off game, the Ducks need another player to provide late-game production.
- California– The Golden Bears should be lauded for their defense — ninth nationally, according to KenPom. But Cal’s offense? Cuonzo Martin‘s squad owns the lowest rated offense (146th) among the top 50.
- USC– Bennie Boatright has made more than six free throws in a game exactly four times: once last season against Washington and three times in the Trojans’ four games this month. That he’s making them at a 90 percent clip is a particularly exciting development. Once his three-point shooting comes around (and it will), Boatright may turn out to be the best addition for any team in the country so late in the season.
- Utah– The Utes are right in the middle of the Pac-12’s three-team race for the fourth Pac-12 Tournament bye. They continue to walk the offensive tightrope as the fourth-most efficient offense in the conference while getting virtually nothing from three-pointers or free throws. With three of its remaining five games on the road and only one against the teams they are battling (Cal in Berkeley) for the fourth spot, Utah may have the toughest path to avoid the dreaded Vegas Wednesday.
- Colorado– Imagine if Colorado had won both of its overtime games on its late January trip to Washington. Are those hypothetical Buffaloes (17-9, 7-6 Pac-12) now a bubble team? It’s crazy to consider given that Colorado started 0-7 in conference play, but the Buffs are finally showing they are much better than their record indicates. Don’t look now, but if Colorado runs the table and makes some noise in the Pac-12 tournament, there may still yet be hope.
- Arizona State– Tra Holder is shooting 40/50/80 in conference play, and while this shooting percentages game usually fixates on 40/50/90, those are some ridiculous numbers for a 6’1″ guard playing the most minutes in the conference.
- Stanford– The Cardinal returned home reeling from another desert meltdown. Stanford was tied with Arizona with two minutes remaining, only to allow Arizona to score seven straight points to finish the game. It also held a nine-point lead with nine minutes left against Arizona State, only to watch a road victory drown in a veritable storm of missed free throws and turnovers. Reid Travis continues to dominate and Michael Humphrey is rising, but Stanford still plays like less than the sum of its pieces.
- Washington State– Losers of five of their last six games, the Cougars have taken their rightful place in the basement of the conference standings. Luckily for Washington State, Oregon State and Washington can’t seem to stop losing either. Over the last six games, it has been the Cougars’ defense that has caused their steady descent — giving up 83 points per game. Their point differential over that stretch has been an equally disturbing -11.7, definitely not a winning formula.
- Washington– Before the season began, it was worth wondering if the Huskies could get shots off faster than last year’s 13.6 second average possession length. They’re currently tracking behind that mark at 15.1 seconds, and the recent absence of Markelle Fultz from the lineup hasn’t helped. The Dawgs played their two lowest possession games of the season without their future lottery pick.
- Oregon State– At this point in the season, it’s time to feel sympathetic for Oregon State. We all knew the Beavers weren’t likely to be very good this season and losing Tres Tinkle six games into the season guaranteed that. But still, 4-22 and 0-13 in Pac-12 play is just rough. With just five conference games left, Oregon State is barely averaging 63 points per game and have scored better than 70 points only three times all season. Look on the bright side Beaver fans, baseball season begins Friday!