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CGB's Pac-12 Power Rankings: Utah makes its case for the top spot

Arizona & Utah battle it out for the top spot, UCLA & USC battle it out for the worst team, and grading Cal is impossible after splitting the Washington schools.

This guy sure thinks they're #1!
This guy sure thinks they're #1!
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

What a crazy week of Men's Basketball it's been for the Pac-12 and for Cal. UCLA got thrashed and Cal decided to turn in a pair of utterly baffling performances. Well, let's see how that affected the votes!

Tied teams will be listed alphabetically and the parenthetical numbers in front of two teams indicate the number of first-place votes they received.

The rankings

1. Arizona (4) Arrow_neutral__9-8-14_medium

Pac-12 SBN logos- Arizona

Last week: 1

atomsareenough: Opened league play with a blowout of ASU. Nothing unexpected here.

Nick Kranz: We didn't learn anything in particular about Arizona.

Ruey Yen: Blow out win over ASU was not unexpected, but they get to keep the top spot until otherwise.

boomtho: Did exactly what you'd expect at home against a mediocre ASU team. The scoring balance, however, was really impressiveall 11 players who played scored, and no one had more than 13 points.

ragnarok: Took care of business vs. ASU.

Reef: Ho hum, blowout win. We'll know more after a trip to Oregon.

2. Utah (2) Arrow_neutral__9-8-14_medium

Pac-12 logos- Utah

Last week: 2

atomsareenough: With Jordan Loveridge back, they look like the best team in the league, and up there for the best in the country. If you take both sides of the ball into account, I suspect they might be better than Arizona.

Nick Kranz: An eye-opening weekend that legitimately announces Utah as title contenders.

Ruey Yen: Impressive weekend beating the LA schools (who may just be bad this year), but doesn't leap frog Arizona because these games came in Salt Lake City.

boomtho: I'm giving Utah some love due to their utter destruction of the LA schools. They basically doubled up a decently talented UCLA team for most of the game! Not saying they would beat Arizona if they played today, but 2 dominant wins at home, in my mind, is more impressive than one dominant win at home for Arizona

ragnarok: Could consider them 1A at this point, the Utes have been very impressive.

Reef: Not really sure we learned anything about them, either. We probably won't until January 17.

3. Stanfurd Arrow_neutral__9-8-14_medium
Pac-12 logos- Stanfurd

Last week: 3

atomsareenough: Much as I hate to acknowledge it, the Cardinal have enough size and scoring ability to be tough against any opponent. They're playing pretty consistently as well, unlike Cal.

Nick Kranz: They shouldn't be the 3rd best team in this conference, but such is the state of the Pac-12 in 2014-15.

Ruey Yen: Big separation between 3 and top 2. Furd's loss of leading rebounder Reid Travis will probably catch up to them soon.

boomtho: GAH! Swept the Washington schools at home including a reasonably impressive win against UW in OT. Chasson Randle is going to be a problem, man.

ragnarok: Home sweep of the Washington schools is the right way to begin conference play, and it's not like Cal can say they did the same *grumble*.

Reef: Yet another team who performed pretty much exactly as expected. Did not seem too hurt in the rebounding department losing Travis, so that's a plus.

4. Oregon Arrow_up__9-8-14_medium

Pac-12 logos- Oregon

Last week: 5

atomsareenough: The supposedly undermanned Ducks began conference play with a solid win in the basketball Civil War series against OSU. Joseph Young continues to be a scoring machine.

Nick Kranz: Win or lose, playing Arizona at home should be a solid litmus test. Even losing a close game would be more impressive than beating Oregon State.

Ruey Yen: Win over OSU doesn't tell us much.

boomtho: Beat OSU at home, which by itself isn't that impressive. Still, they are undefeated in Pac-12 play and Joseph Young put up 27 on 15 freaking shots. There are some really good guards in this conference.

ragnarok: Beat the Beavs, but I still don't have a read on whether the Ducks are any good or not.

Reef: More effective against OSU than I might have expected, but really the reason they move up is because everybody else lost.

5. Colorado Arrow_up__9-8-14_medium

Pac-12 logos- Colorado

Last week: 9

atomsareenough: The Buffs hold serve on their home court by sweeping the LA schools, even while missing key players. Things seem to be turning around in Boulder, just in time for league play.

Nick Kranz: Evaluating the mountain teams are always so tough. This is a big jump for Colorado in my rankings, because they are 2-0. But is it really impressive for them to beat two flawed teams at home, at altitude? The jury is out until the Buffs beat somebody halfway decent on the road.

Ruey Yen: 2-0 is 2-0, whether it came from the mountain advantage (and poor LA teams this year) or not.

boomtho: Only beat UCLA by 6, but beat down USC to complete a 2-0 homestand. Askia Booker is not the most efficient player, but he sure can score.

ragnarok: Handled the LA schools at home.

Reef: Their offensive performance is improving, but still not up to what their talent should be producing. They might not return from this week's road trip alive.

6. California Arrow_neutral__9-8-14_medium

Pac-12 logos- Cal

Last week: 6

atomsareenough: Who are these Bears? Seems like it changes entirely from game to game, or even half to half. Solid win against UDub, horrific loss against Wazzu this weekend.

Nick Kranz: The Bears failed to defend their home court, and losing home games to anybody other than Utah and Arizona is bad.

Ruey Yen: Sure, losing to Wazzu is more negative than beating UW is positive, but the rest of the Pac was winless (or for Wazzu, just not that good).

boomtho: impressive win against UW completely offset by a bad loss to WSU. Can't tell if this is a homer pick or notmaybe we should be lower?

ragnarok: Had trouble ranking Cal even this high, but they did win a conference game last week. Still, losing at home to the Cougs is a real momentum-killer, especially after a nice win over the Huskies.

Reef: Consistently inconsistent. They've shown the ability to play above their talent level, but aren't bringing the focus.

7. Washington Arrow_down__9-8-14_medium
Pac-12 logos- Washington

Last week: 4

atomsareenough: The good feelings generated by the hot non-conference start and the top-25 ranking have all evaporated after 3 losses in a row to Stony Brook, California, and Stanford. Romar is still a lousy tactician.

Nick Kranz: Took on the 2nd toughest roadie in the conference and lost two close games. More talented than at least two teams above them on the rankings, but talent isn't everything.

Ruey Yen: They showed that they were pretty good (athletic-wise, but not coaching-wise) in both games against the Bay Area schools. Have to drop them for losing both close one though.

boomtho: The best of the unwinning schools, IMO. Competitive in both and Upshaw looks like he's going to be a load to handle in conference, but Romar's in-game management leaves much to be desired.

Reef: Bay Area trip is toughloss to furd on the road doesn't hurt much, but loss to Cal is a killer. Their coach's inability to make in-game adjustments will hurt what is a boatload of talent.

8. Washington State Arrow_up__9-8-14_medium

Pac-12 logos- WSU

Last week: 12

atomsareenough: Getting a split on the Bay Area roadie is a good start for Ernie Kent, relative to expectations and talent level.

Nick Kranz: Kent has them punching above their weight, which is more than I expected from him.

Ruey Yen: Beating the Bears has to mean something, so they have to jump a few spots.

boomtho: I don't think they're as good as Washington (not even close), but they got a win on the Bay Area trip and the Huskies didn't. I fully expect them to slide back into the bottom 3 soon, though.

ragnarok: Cougs snapped a nearly 2-year conference road skid at Haas. Of course it came against the Bears, especially as this is what I wrote about the Cougs last week: "They'll beat some Pac-12 teams this year, but I hope it's not the Bears." Sigh.

Reef: Beat Cal, move up! May not get another win this month, though.

9. Arizona State Arrow_down__9-8-14_medium

Pac-12 logos- ASU

Last week: 8

atomsareenough: At least the Sun Devils played it close in the 2nd half against Zona?

Nick Kranz: I still have nothing intelligent to offer about ASU.

Ruey Yen: Looks bad against Arizona, but rivalry game (and Jason Terry uniform retirement) meant Zona wasn't going to let up.

boomtho: Not much they were going to be able to do against the Wildcats on the road. Sendek's seat must be feeling pretty hot, though he definitely had a tough job replacing all the talent and production the Sun Devils lost

ragnarok: No shame in losing at Arizona.

Reef: Beating Harvard is actually kinda, sorta decent.

10. Oregon State Arrow_up__9-8-14_medium

Pac-12 logos- OSU

Last week: 11

atomsareenough: I don't know what to make of either OSU or ASU at this point. OSU at least has the new coach excuse, and I think they're going to get better over the course of the season.

Nick Kranz: I thought the Beavers would give Oregon a bit more of a challenge.

Ruey Yen: One loss is better than two losses on the week.

boomtho: Only one loss, and closer than the LA schools' losses.

ragnarok: The schedule sets up that I don't have to care about these guys until March.

Reef: Beating UCSB is also kinda, sorta decent.

11. UCLA Arrow_down__9-8-14_medium

Pac-12 logos- UCLA

Last week: 7

atomsareenough: I know Utah is a top-10 team and all, but LOL there is some serious program rot in Westwood. Grab some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the show.

Nick Kranz: The NCAA tournament isn't even worth talking aboutcan they stay above .500 for the season? And out of curiosity, how rare is it for a coach to get fired exactly one season after being given an extension?

Ruey Yen: It doesn't matter that much for this particular season, but Cal is doing much better than UCLA.

boomtho: Wow, this is really shocking me. I didn't think they could win the conference but I thought they'd be right there with furd, Colorado, and us competing for the top of the second tier. Instead, they can't score (it's not all Alford's fault, no matter what you might read), can't defend, and can't rebound. Parker has showed nice improvement and Looney is going to be a good one once he gets some seasoning, but their guard play might be their offensive undoing.

ragnarok: I don't think UCLA will finish in the bottom two in the conference (the mountain road trip is a tough one), but they drop here for looking so mediocre in getting swept last week.

Reef: When you lose five in a row, and you're still better than a handful of teams, you know it's a scewy year in the conference.

12. USC Arrow_down__9-8-14_medium

Pac-12 logos- USC

Last week: 10

atomsareenough: It looks like USC can't afford to lose Jordan McLaughlin for long. OTOH, they're probably playing for a CBI berth at best anyway.

Nick Kranz: If Wazzu's friskiness is for real, then USC instantly becomes the worst team in the conference.

Ruey Yen: Somebody has to be on the bottom. USC is a bad team that will get some wins.

boomtho: Year 2 under Enfield is not going so well.

ragnarok: This team is not good. The Bears better not lose to these guys.

Reef: The road trip to the mountains is tough. They are not.

The data

First up, take a look at how our writers voted:

Rk atoms boomtho Nick ragnarok Reef Ruey
1 Utah Utah Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona
2 Arizona Arizona Utah Utah Utah Utah
3 Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd
4 Oregon Colorado Oregon Colorado Oregon Colorado
5 Cal Cal Colorado Oregon Washington Oregon
6 Colorado Oregon Washington WSU Colorado Cal
7 Washington WSU Cal Cal Cal Washington
8 WSU Washington UCLA Washington ASU WSU

Table 1. The votes!

I average out all of these ballots and get the following rankings (and the rankings listed above). That vertical error bar is the standard deviation and tells you how varied the individual votes for each team were.

Pac-12 MBB Power Ranks- 0201

Figure 1. Where each team ended up; the error bar represents standard deviation.

I'll be tracking these values for the coming weeks to show you how the teams move up and down with time.

Pac-12 MBB Power Rankings- 0202
Figure 2. The precise rankings graphed over time.

We see Arizona's hold on the top spot is slipping, whereas Washington's poor play (and plummet) means Stanfurd developed a stranglehold on 3rd place. We've also got an almost-tie for fourth place, but the Ducks just barely edged out the Buffaloes.

Of course, in all rankings teams are listed in pretty little rounded numbers, unlike those shown in Figures 1 and 2, but like the list given up in the bulk of the article. Don't you worry your pretty little head as I've got that covered, too!

Pac-12 MBB Power Rankings- 0203

Figure 3. The rounded ranks as a function of time.

In this view, the stability at the top of the conference is looking even stabler. Speaking of stable, we see that Cal is holding steady at 6th place for splitting the Washington schools with a great performance and a faceplant. The bottom half of the Pac, on the other hand, is a bit of a jumbled mess. We've attempted to quantify this messiness with a measure termed "Madness."

Madness is just a measure of how much the teams are moving up and down each week, as well as the season as a whole. In our Football ranks, we've found Oregon to be the least Mad team (with a great run at #1) while USC's inconsistent performances made them the Maddest Pac-12 team. Who's gonna win those titles in MBB?

Change on week
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Team's Madness
Arizona 0 0
ASU -1 1
Cal 0 0
Colorado 4 4
Oregon 1 1
OSU 1 1
Stanfurd 0 0
UCLA -4 4
USC -2 2
Utah 0 0
Washington -3 3
WSU 4 4
Total Madness 20

Table 2. Pac-12 Madness!