In October, I wrote a pre-season Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Power Rankings, which attempted to rank every team in the conference leading up to one of the most unprecedented college basketball seasons in history. Now, with several conference games behind us, it’s time for a mid-season Pac-12 Power Rankings, starting with the teams I think will finish in the bottom half of the conference.
7. Arizona State (4-6, 1-3 Pac-12)
In the 2020-21 season, Arizona State has been the biggest disappointment in all of college basketball, but with that being said, I believe they still are capable of making a run in the Pac-12 tournament. The Sun Devils arguably have the most talent in the league. Senior guard Remy Martin was a member of the All-Pac-12 First Team last season and an Associated Press Preseason All-American this year. He has declined somewhat from his 19.1 points per game last season, tallying only 16.5 on average this season, but he remains an immensely talented guard. Martin is supported by what was the No. 7 recruiting class in the nation including guard Josh Christopher and forward Marcus Bagley.
Somehow, despite the unbelievable talent on this Sun Devils team, they have some really bad losses, including against UTEP and Oregon State. With that being said, COVID-19 cancellations have prevented Arizona State from gaining any sort of rhythm, and consequently, they have played just four conference games. I am not ready to rule ASU out quite yet, and I still believe they could be competitive in the Pac-12 Tournament.
8. Washington State (9-4, 2-4 Pac-12)
Washington State is one of the most interesting teams in the league. The Cougars were picked to finish 11th in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, and they are without their star guard from last season, C.J. Elleby. However, they have some fight in them, and I think they may beat up on the bottom of the conference. Senior guard Isaac Bonton has been flawless, averaging 18.9 points per game while adding 4.5 rebounds and four assists. He is the senior leader that an up-and-coming team like Washington State needs. Center Efe Abogidi has solidified himself as one of the best freshmen in the league, putting up nearly 10 points and securing 8.2 rebounds per contest. Meanwhile, head coach Kyle Smith is working the same magic he has worked his entire career — an analytical approach replicated by few. Watch out for Washington State. While they will finish in the bottom half of the Pac-12 this season, the Cougars will win some games and may be dangerous in a few years.
9. Utah (5-6, 2-5 Pac-12)
Utah is a highly unusual team. One day, the Utes went and beat Stanford handily, and two days later, they lost at home to Cal. The Utes have a Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate in junior forward Timmy Allen, who has virtually matched his spectacular 2019-20 season statistically. Senior guard Alfonso Plummer has also been vital, contributing 13 points per game. The issue for Utah is that while its top two players are comparable to the top players on teams like UCLA and Oregon, the remainder of the roster is slightly worse. This is why Utah only lost by two at UCLA and by six and seven respectively against Oregon and Colorado. In general, I would expect this Utah team to take down one or two more teams in the top five of the conference, but to also fall again to a team like Cal. So, I am placing the Utes in ninth place.
10. Oregon State (6-5, 2-3 Pac-12)
If you had told me in November that Oregon State would beat Arizona State this season I would have called you crazy, but on Saturday it happened. Admittedly, Arizona State has severely underperformed this season, but the Beavers deserve some credit for creating a decent team after losing guard Tres Tinkle, who scored the most points in Oregon State program history.
Don’t get me wrong, the Beavers are one of the worst teams in the conference, but it’s the exceeding of expectations that makes me want to analyze the highlights of the season rather than the lowlights. Senior guard Ethan Thompson has been fantastic, scoring 16.1 points per contest while bringing down 3.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists. In the frontcourt, junior forward Warith Alatishe has been getting the job done, averaging nearly a double-double with nine points per game to go along with 8.1 rebounds. Oregon State has almost no chance of finishing in the top half of the Pac-12, but wins over ASU and Cal make me confident enough to put the Beavers in 10th, and they could very well continue to beat my expectations.
11. Cal (7-8, 2-6 Pac-12)
Cal has done Cal things this season and, for that reason, is right near the bottom of my power rankings. There have been highs, including a road win at Utah and a comeback win against the University of San Francisco. There have also been lows, like two losses against Oregon State and a home loss to Washington State.
When Cal’s star junior guard Matt Bradley went down with an ankle injury in early January, I was ready for the Golden Bears to drop to last in the conference, but senior guard Ryan Betley and junior forward Andre Kelly have impressed. What previously looked like a one-player team is evidently more than that, hence this week’s win at Utah. It will be interesting to see what this Cal team continues to do, but for now, they simply lack the talent and resume for me to believe anyone will be talking about them come March.
12. Washington (1-11, 0-7 Pac-12)
Washington is the worst team in the conference, and it’s not even close. I was skeptical about this Huskies team before the season began, picking them to finish 11th as opposed to the Pac-12 media’s pick of ninth. Washington’s best player, senior guard Naz Carter, decided to leave the school after being suspended, leaving just one player that I consider to be “good” by Pac-12 standards in senior guard Quade Green. Green has averaged an impressive 15.4 points per game while providing much-needed senior leadership, but unfortunately, he has very little support.
Washington has won just one game this season and is winless in conference play, and while some may call it a rebuilding season, I expect the woes to continue into next season. To put things in perspective, a freshman has not scored this season for the Huskies. Despite having a promising class of 2021 recruits in four-star center Jackson Grant, the loss of Green and others will leave Washington in position for back-to-back last place Pac-12 finishes.
Contact Teddy Solomon at tedsol ‘at’ stanford.edu