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CGB's Pac-12 Power Rankings: Arizona reigns supreme heading into conference play

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Kicking off a new set of Power Rankings for a new sport as it heads into conference play.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to CGB's version of Men's Basketball Power Rankings! After seeing the "great" job I did with football realizing that I made it through the entire Football regular season without quitting, Avi decided that I should be the mastermind behind Power Rankings for the Pac-12's Men's Basketball teams, kicking off with the start of Pac-12 play.

Note that with the irregular MBB schedule (contrasted with the more predictable Football schedule) and the time needed to prep the post, to vote, and for all of us to have personal lives, some votes were placed before the Tuesday slate of games for OSU, Utah, and USC.

With some recurring criticism/questioning in the Football series about what exactly a Power Ranking is supposed to measure, I asked our Basketball voters to explain their criteria for voting.

Nick Kranz: First, a note on how I'm ranking teams - it's going to be a combination of my subjective opinion of their non-conference resume, with some efficiency objectivity mixed in. That will continue to be the case all season long. Efficiency doesn't always match on-the-court results, so I'm going to try to synthesize the two in my rankings as much as possible.

ragnarok: I look at Power Rankings as "who is playing better, right now?"--i.e. recent play matters most, with early-season results fading in importance as the season wears on. I don't want to be too reactionary when it comes to these things, as one bad game or bad week shouldn't drop a team straight to the bottom, but teams do vary in quality over the course of the season - some grow up together, while others fall apart or are hit with key injuries, and this is something worth capturing.

It's also worth noting that the "eye test" is an essential part of any human poll - if we just look at stats, no matter how sophisticated, we just end up trying to duplicate what computers do, and who's as good at crunching numbers as computers anyway? That said, we'll get a much better idea of how teams stack up against each other as conference play starts, when the level of competition faced by each team becomes less...variable.

boomtho: I'm going to be using the following approximate formula for these power rankings: 50% season performance to date (overweighting good wins and bad losses), 25% recent momentum (most recent wins/loses), and 25% my subjective talent assessment.

Let's move onto our rankings. The number of first-place votes that each team earned is shown parenthetically and any tied teams are listed alphabetically.

The rankings

1. Arizona (6)

Pac-12 SBN logos- Arizona

Nick Kranz: It would take something seismic for anybody other than perhaps Utah to overtake Arizona. The talent is simply overwhelming.

atomsareenough: The Wildcats are sort of #1 by default, but I'm suspicious that they aren't as good collectively as the sum of their talent.

Reef: So much better than any other team based on any metric you care to use.

boomtho: Clearly the most talented, only one loss on the schedule. They will be tough to dethrone.

Ruey Yen: Yes, they did lose to a not all that great UNLV team, but all other Pac-12 teams have suffered a loss.

ragnarok: Arizona doesn't get to enter conference play undefeated, but they're still #1 for me. Everyone's gunning for this team.

Trace Travers: They are the class of the conference at this point, and they will continue to be until someone in-conference to take them down. Losing to UNLV in Vegas isn't too bad, but conference play can be a roulette wheel. We'll see what happens.

2. Utah

Pac-12 logos- Utah

Nick Kranz: If Jordan Loveridge comes back, easily the 2nd best team in the conference and the only team that can challenge Arizona.

atomsareenough: Very solid. Will be even moreso when they get Jordan Loveridge back.

Reef: They are a lot like Cal stylistically, except they actually make shots. The only other team with an airtight tournament resume.

boomtho: Only 2 losses to ranked teams, one on the road and one at a neutral site. I could easily see them riding their home court advantage to a high NCAA seed.

Ruey Yen: The Utes have that impressive OT win over Wichita State, and both of their losses (to San Diego State and Kansas) are understandable. They have also done this with only limited appearance from Jordan Loveridge (who has just returned from a knee injury).

ragnarok: Does the transitive property of college basketball indicate that Utah might actually deserve to be #1? They did beat UNLV earlier this week, who then went out and took down Arizona.

Trace Travers: They are better than they had been in recent memory. They've got a good home crowd and they've lost only to ranked teams. They will be the biggest challenge to Arizona's reign at the top.

3. Stanfurd
Pac-12 logos- Stanfurd

Nick Kranz: Good rim protection from Nastic, good guard play.The upset of Texas gives them a resume capper.

atomsareenough: Something about this team must create matchup problems for certain other teams, that's the only thing I can think of. I watched them play Denver and just about nobody stood out and they went through long stretches of looking awful... but then they beat Texas so who knows.

Reef: The Texas win had fluky shooting, but a win is a win. There's enough talent evenly spread throughout the roster that they'll be decent if Dawkins gets out of the way.

boomtho: Grr... that Texas win is awfully darn impressive, even with the bad loss at DePaul.

Ruey Yen: Furd is here due to their win over Texas. They do have a bad loss (to DePaul) however. Senior Chasson Randle leads the way for the Furdies.

ragnarok: Winning at Texas is worth something, but I'm still waiting for a Johnny Dawkins team to surprise more than occasionally - the Cardinal have yet to finish better than 10-8 in conference play under Dawkins, following good wins with uninspiring play.

Trace Travers: They beat Texas. Texas has one of the best frountcourts in the NCAA, so that is an excellent win for a team I abhor.

4. Washington
Pac-12 logos- Washington

Nick Kranz: Does it say something concerning about the Pac-12 that I'm ranking UW 4th despite a recent home loss to Stony Brook? Yes, yes it does.

atomsareenough: They would have been #3 on my list if they hadn't just lost to Stonybrook. Not sure how "for real" the Huskies are, but they're a lot better than I was expecting them to be.

Reef: In the 3/4 coin flip between awful coaches, I decided to go with talent, and Williams-Goss + Upshaw have more raw ability than anyone on the furd roster.

boomtho: Undefeated against an easy schedule (with one good win against Oklahoma)... and then they completely shat the bed against Stony Brook, which is pretty inexplicable to me.

Ruey Yen: After Arizona and Utah, this is where the separation is fairly small. The Huskies have that good win over Oklahoma to compensate for the lose to Stony Brook. Like the Bears, they may be really fired up in the Pac-12 opener.

ragnarok: Maybe they should be higher, but losing to Stony Brook

Trace Travers: The faceplant against Stony Brook aside, this Washington squad is very talented. There is always the Romar factor of underachieving, so stay tuned for that.

5. Oregon

Pac-12 logos- Oregon

Nick Kranz: Surprisingly solid non-con performance from a team that everybody dismissed because of a wholesale roster turnover. But if you give a good coach (Altmann) one elite offensive player (Joseph Young) and some decent role players, he can go far. Particularly, perhaps, in this Pac-12.

atomsareenough: I know their schedule has been pretty easy, but the fact that they're 9-3 with Joseph Young and a bunch of nobodies is pretty impressive.

Reef: I've watched them and I'm not buying it. Predicting regression.

boomtho: Two decent losses against Michigan and VCU, and then an OK loss against Mississippi.

Ruey Yen: No bad losses, no great win either. Senior PG Joseph Young lead the way and have the experience even if it's only his 2nd year on the Ducks after transferring from Houston.

ragnarok: The win total is better than the quality.

Trace Travers: The Ducks are solid, albeit against not so solid competition. Beating VCU is a good sign though.

6. California

Pac-12 logos- Cal

Nick Kranz: All defense, no offense.

atomsareenough: Ay yi yi, what a horrific loss to Bakersfield. The Bears would have been #4 on my power ranking if it weren't for that. I was tempted to drop them further, but the lower tier in the Pac-12 is just so bad.

Reef: The defense is phenomenal considering the ingredients. Conference success depends on how much focus they put into every defensive possession.

boomtho: I might be too homerific here. The Bakersfield loss is TERRIBLE, but the other two losses are to elite teams and the Syracuse win is pretty good.

Ruey Yen: The CSUB loss dropped the Bears from 4th to 6th in my ranking. I am still a believer that this is a NCAA tournament worthy team though.

ragnarok: I didn't expect the loss to Bakersfield, but Cal has been coming out flat quite often lately; perhaps it's a good wake-up call before conference play. I do feel like this could be a top-half Pac-12 team, but getting Jabari Bird back would surely help an offense that needs it.

Trace Travers: The loss to Bakersfield was agonizing. I was there. It's amongst the worst I've seen in my life. But maybe they'll see that they can't pull the rope-a-dope act in the first half anymore and have Ty Wallace come out to save them in the second.

7. UCLA

Pac-12 logos- UCLA

Nick Kranz: Just a really mediocre team, all the way around. They don't really excel at anything, and they needed their freshmen to not be freshmen. They have been freshmen.

atomsareenough: I knew they were gonna get completely blown out by Kentucky, and they *still* surprised me with just how overmatched they looked. Not really surprised they lost to Alabama, either. Another team that's less than the sum of its parts, but the Bruins are WAY less.

Reef: So much talent, so little clue.

boomtho: 7 points against Kentucky. The Alford seat must be getting pretty hot...

Ruey Yen: While all 5 of their losses are forgivable, they haven't beat anyone good either. Got to punish them for looking so incredibly bad in that Kentucky loss.

ragnarok: Too talented to be this undistinguished.

Trace Travers: Downward spirals are fun when it's not us.

8. Arizona State

Pac-12 logos- ASU

Nick Kranz: I literally couldn't name a player on their roster without looking it up. I kinda vaguely remember Jonathan Gilling.

atomsareenough: I have no idea about the Sun Devils, but so far they seem noticeably worse than in previous years.

Reef: Get to know Gerry Blakes.

boomtho: Don't see an impressive win on the schedule.

Ruey Yen: Another team with a many understandable losses and one bad one (to Lehigh in 3 OT). Sun Devils also haven't beat anyone of note. ASU has one good man in Savon Goodman, but need a few good men to rise on this ranking.

Trace Travers: Nothing of note here.

9. Colorado

Pac-12 logos- Colorado

Nick Kranz: I don't think the Buffs are really this bad, but they accomplished nothing before Pac-12, and their defense hasn't been good enough to make up for a typically ugly Tad Boyle offense.

atomsareenough: No idea what's gone wrong here, but the Buffs have lost multiple games they shouldn't. I know some of the losses have been close, but Colorado has been way worse than I anticipated.

Reef: There are too many really, really good players on this roster for them not to rise dramatically in these rankings as the season progresses.

boomtho: Really struggling in the first year after Dimwiddie. Lots of bad losses and and not really any good wins

Ruey Yen: Like many other Pac-12 teams, the Buffs suffered a bad loss (to Hawaii) just before the start of conference play. Otherwise, their losses are understandable.

Trace Travers: Askia Booker can't save a whole team.

10. USC

Pac-12 logos- USC

Nick Kranz: By the end of the year, the chorus of voices wondering why USC hired a coaching unknown based on two NCAA tournament games will grow louder.

atomsareenough: I don't know what to make of the Trojans. They have some bad losses (Army, Portland State), but they beat Boston College and hung tight with Penn State. To the extent Trojan fans care about basketball, I'd guess they're still patient and hopeful about Enfield, right?

Reef: This style of basketball doesn't really work, but hey, keep trying Andy.

boomtho: Good win at BC, not much else on the radar. Enfield is going to have to make major strides in season 2.

Ruey Yen: They do have two road wins over decent-ish teams in New Mexico and Boston College, but the losses to Portland State, Akron, and Army are really really terrible.

ragnarok: I'm bored about writing about some of these mediocre teams near the bottom of the Pac.

Trace Travers: At least one of their teams beat Boston College.

11. Oregon State

Pac-12 logos- OSU

Nick Kranz: OSU and Wayne Tinkle are reminding me of Utah and Larry Krystkowiak from a few years ago. Not enough talent to impress, but a coach that seems to have things moving in the right direction.

atomsareenough: I was originally going to have the Beavers up at #8 for being a relatively pleasant surprise so far, but then they went out and lost at Quinnipiac.

Reef: They are actually halfway decent, but their putrid non-conference schedule lands them here.

boomtho: First year under Kent, 9-3 against an easy schedule but minimal talent... I see them in the relative cellar for the season, but I could be wrong.

Ruey Yen: Their record looks good, but their schedule has been weak. Nevertheless, this is a big step forward for that program.

ragnarok: I'm not even sure why Oregon State agreed to play a game at Quinnipiac, but the Beavers managed to turn a no-win situation into an embarrassing loss.

Trace Travers: Their coach's last name is Tinkle. And like their loss to Quinnipac, that's high comedy.

12. Washington State

Pac-12 logos- WSU

Nick Kranz: The least talented team in the conference with a mediocre coach.

atomsareenough: They are bad, as expected.

Reef: The only team I haven't seen on minute of, but I'm confident in this ranking.

boomtho: Cougin' it.

Ruey Yen: Weak schedule give Wazzu a respectable record. Don't think Wazzu will do much in conference play in Ernie Kent's first year in Pullman.

ragnarok: They'll beat some Pac-12 teams this year, but I hope it's not the Bears.

Trace Travers: Ernie Kent has a lot on his plate. Not much chewing going on yet.

The data

This section will show you a bit of details as to how everyone voted as well as some extra data analysis. That analysis is gonna be super brief with only one data point right now, but hopefully you'll find it more interesting as time passes.

Up first, I'm going to show you the individual votes. Feel free to shower praise or hate individually based on this information. Feel free to shower praise or hate generally based on whatever criteria you please.

Rk atoms boomtho Nick ragnarok Reef Ruey Trace
1 Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona
2 Utah Utah Utah Utah Utah Utah Utah
3 Oregon Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Washington Washington Washington
4 Stanfurd Washington Washington Washington Stanfurd Stanfurd Oregon
5 UCLA Oregon Oregon Cal Cal Oregon Stanfurd
6 Washington Cal Cal Oregon Oregon Cal Cal
7 Cal UCLA UCLA UCLA UCLA UCLA UCLA
8 USC ASU ASU ASU Colorado ASU ASU
9 ASU USC OSU Colorado ASU Colorado USC
10 OSU OSU Colorado OSU OSU USC Colorado
11 Colorado Colorado USC USC USC OSU OSU
12 WSU WSU WSU WSU WSU WSU WSU

Table 1. How the voters votered.

These votes get averaged out into the CGB Hivemind Power Ranking (which I listed above). When you average numbers, you can additionally get a measure of how varied the individual entries (i.e., votes in this case) are by calculating the standard deviation. A large standard deviation means the entries were all over the place; a small standard deviation means they were rather consistent. Figure 1 below shows the ranks for the teams with their standard deviations.

MBB Power Rankings- 0101

Figure 1. The teams' ranks. The error bar represents the standard deviation.

When you look at the more accurate Fig. 1, you see that Stanfurd and Washington were nearly tied and we also have a close clustering at the basement with Colorado, USC, and OSU. The absolute basement, however, is unanimously held by WSU.

Congrats to Arizona not only for being #1 this week, but also for being the only team to rank 1st in the CGB Football and MBB Pac-12 Power Rankings. Can Oregon muster up the wins to duplicate that achievement? Probably not...

That's all folks for the first entry in our Men's Basketball Power Rankings. For those of you who read the Football rankings, you know I usually end with more analysis and charts and Madness, but none of that is relevant or interesting in Week 1. Come back next week and they will make their return!