ASU Basketball: 2018 Pac-12 Week 3 Power Rankings

TEMPE, AZ - JANUARY 11: Shannon Evans II
TEMPE, AZ - JANUARY 11: Shannon Evans II /

The Conference of Champions gave fans a rampant third week of league play, as upset victories and standout performances validated the league’s competitive nature.

At this point, is it safe to make any prediction about basketball in the Pac-12?

Two teams currently stand alone atop the conference standings, and one of them is the Stanford Cardinal. Yes, this is the same Stanford team that lost to Eastern Washington at home and held a 6-7 record after the non-conference season.

The other team is the Arizona Wildcats, having held the expectation that they would run through their opposition at this time of the year.

Although Sean Miller has now attacked his team twice for withholding their best efforts, the talent levels of Allonzo Trier and DeAndre Ayton have been able to help the Wildcats hold out for the time being.

The peculiar cases of Arizona State, USC and Colorado continue to provide for the conference its greatest sources of unpredictability. With another impressive victory against UCLA on the road, the Buffaloes now hold three of the best victories in league play.

As for the Sun Devils and the Trojans, they’d like to build off of key victories they pulled out toward the end of last week. The question is: will they be able to subside their inconsistencies?

After playing the role of shocker in Week 2, the UCLA Bruins and Oregon State Beavers failed to further themselves at the top of the conference rankings, falling in key games against two surging opponents. They’ll look to sort things out when they face each other later tonight.

Through three weeks of conference play, the race for the title remains as wide open as it was in its beginning. Let’s check out where each team stands halfway through the month of January.

12. California Golden Bears (7-11, 1-4)

Cal’s lack of offensive rhythm continued to haunt them during the third week of conference play, as they dropped both of their games on the road to the Washington schools.

The Bears amounted an average of just 54.5 points per game in the two losses, as Justice Sueing was forced to carry the majority of the offensive output for the second week in a row. In their game against the Huskies, Sueing was the only Bear to score in double figures, an issue that forces Wyking Jones to constantly revolve his offense around one player.

Until Don Coleman can break out of his offensive slump, the Bears will likely run into trouble facing some of the top tier teams in the conference.

Things don’t get any easier for Cal this week, as they return home to take on Arizona and Arizona State.

11. Washington State Cougars (9-8, 1-4)

The Cougars finally got a win on Saturday night, showing flashes of their old selves as they defeated Cal by a score of 78-53.

Robert Franks exploded for 34 points on 10-for-13 shooting from the three-point line, while Malachi Flynn chipped in 14 more points to bolster the Cougar offense. Despite playing a Cal team that holds the lowest scoring offense in the Pac-12, head coach Ernie Kent had to be pleased at his team’s defensive effort, as they held the Bears to just 53 points on 32 percent shooting.

With a victory under their belt, the Cougars will now look to subside their early-conference struggles and get back to their form at the Wooden Legacy Tournament. They’ll take on Colorado and Utah on the road this week.

10. Washington Huskies (13-5, 3-2)

The Huskies were unable to capture their first sweep of the conference season last week, dropping their second of two home games to the Stanford Cardinal.

After allowing 27 points to Cal’s Justice Sueing, the Huskies endured more struggles against the perimeter players of Stanford, as Reid Travis, Daejon Davis and Michael Humphrey combined for 45 points on 49 percent shooting.

Outside of their victory against USC, the Huskies haven’t done much else to solidify their conference resume. Their other two victories came in close margins against Cal and Washington State, while their losses to UCLA and Stanford have both been one sided.

The Huskies will look to get back on track this week on the road as they take on Utah and Colorado.

9. Utah Utes (10-7, 2-4)

After two heartbreaking losses against the Arizona schools, the Utes were unable to rekindle their early surge of conference dominion.

Two losses in road games against the L.A. schools came by an average of 18 points for Larry Krystkowiak’s squad, as they couldn’t establish their approach of winning the paint and forcing teams to play late in the shot clock.

Once holding the best scoring defense in the Pac-12, the Utes allowed their opponents to shoot above an average of 50 percent from the three-point line, a struggle that saw them immediately fall behind in first halves.

Since winning their first two conference games, the Utes have dropped four games in a row and have fallen out of the top half of the conference standings. They’ll look to get things geared in the right direction as they return home to take on the Washington schools this week.

8. Oregon State Beavers (10-7, 2-3)

Following two losses against the Arizona schools, Wayne Tinkle’s team has to be feeling disappointed that they didn’t come away with a road sweep.

The Beavers led both games at halftime, showcasing their ability to limit two of the Pac-12’s top offenses to empty possessions on that end of the floor.

However, a common theme emerged in both of those games: the struggle to suppress starpower.

Allonzo Trier of Arizona scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half against the Beavers, while ASU guard Shannon Evans II reeled off all 22 of his points in the final 20 minutes of his team’s comeback victory on Saturday afternoon.

Although the losses don’t hurt the Beavers’ chances of ascending the conference ladder once again, they have to focus on ways to close games down the stretch. Their strengths lay within their defense, a quality they’ll have to use to lock teams down rather than match them shot for shot.

7. Colorado Buffaloes (11-7, 3-3)

After dropping their opening road game to the USC Trojans, it had appeared that the heights for Tad Boyle’s young squad had peaked with their victories against the Arizona schools.

Except, it didn’t.

The Buffaloes pulled off another upset on Saturday night, defeating the UCLA Bruins at Pauley Pavilion by a final score of 68-59.

George King led the way with a double-double, posting 26 points and 10 rebounds on 58 percent shooting. Despite McKinley Wright’s struggles, the Buffaloes held the Bruins to just 37 percent from the floor while limiting the impacts of Aaron Holiday and Kris Wilkes.

Going forward, the Buffaloes have set themselves up to continually compete during Pac-12 play. Although it’s unlikely that they compete for a conference championship, their home court advantage and growing maturity will surely keep them in upcoming games.

The Buffaloes will return to Boulder this week as they get set to host the Washington schools.

6. Oregon Ducks (12-6, 2-3)

For the first time this season, Dana Altman’s Oregon squad finally proved they could play together as a team.

Elijah Brown, in spite of his early season woes, came on last week to average 21.5 points during the Ducks’ 1-1 split. His hot shooting proved to be too much for Arizona State Thursday night, and it was nearly sufficient enough to knock off Arizona at the McKale Center.

Despite the loss to the Wildcats, the Ducks proved that they have the pieces capable of winning NCAA Tournament games.

Payton Pritchard is one of the most sound point guards in the conference, and is a master of controlling the pace of the game. With Troy Brown and MiKyle McIntosh improving on the wings, the Ducks have an athletic frontcourt that can cause teams problems on the offensive end.

The Ducks will hope to extend the momentum from their promising week as they welcome the L.A. schools to Eugene this week.

5. Stanford Cardinal (10-8, 4-1)

How about the Stanford Cardinal?

After knocking off the LA schools the week prior, the Cardinal validated their two victories by defeating the Washington schools on the road and moving into a tie for first place in the conference.

In conference play, the Cardinal have shot a league-best 49 percent from the floor, as Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey now have the ability to share the wealth with Dorian Pickens and Kezie Okpala returning to the lineup.

Holding a season that was on the border just a month ago, the Cardinal now find themselves in a position to pick up more key victories and find for an NCAA Tournament berth.

The Cardinal will look to continue their hot start to league play as they host the Arizona schools in Palo Alto.

4. USC Trojans (13-6, 4-2)

Is this the turning point for USC?

After losing on a full-court heave thanks to Stanford’s Daejon Davis, the Trojans responded by defeating the Mountain schools by double digits at home.

Jordan McLaughlin and Chimezie Metu led the way in the two victories, as the Trojans finally showed the ability to expand their offense by connecting on opportunities in transition and from the three-point line.

Although the Trojans have a way to go before reaching their maximum potential, last week’s victories were a pleasing turn of events for a team that looked like it’d find itself derailed.

For now, they can look forward to two more opportunities on the road against the Oregon schools this week.

3. No. 16 Arizona State Sun Devils (14-3, 2-3)

Despite their thrilling comeback victory against Oregon State, this week showed more causes for concern than praise for Bobby Hurley’s Sun Devils.

Up 31-18 with 4 minutes remaining in the first half of their game against Oregon, the Sun Devils allowed the Ducks to go on a 23-10 run to tie the game at halftime. Things were never the same, as the inability to clean up on the defensive glass kept the Sun Devils from executing at a full-court pace and finding a way to come back.

Against Oregon State, these same problems crept up, as the Beavers crashed the offensive glass and used a 13-3 run to go up by double digits in the second half. Thanks to the efforts of Shannon Evans and Kodi Justice, the Sun Devils came back to win, but it didn’t negate the concerns that played out throughout the two games.

With questions lying around the defense and their ability to rebound, the Sun Devils hope to eliminate these concerns as they take the road to face Stanford and Cal.

2. UCLA Bruins (13-5, 4-2)

The Bruins added on to their strong start to conference play, defeating the Utah Utes by 19 points prior to a loss at home to the Colorado Buffaloes.

Despite the loss, the Bruins have recorded the conference’s best scoring offense during league play (86.3 PPG) with the highest margin of victory (+10). Aaron Holiday continues to be a star in his junior season while complementary pieces Thomas Welsh and Kris Wilkes provide stability for the scoring load.

This all comes without the depth of LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill that they were expecting at the beginning of the season.

1.No. 14 Arizona Wildcats (14-4, 4-1)

It looks like Sean Miller’s team is ready to play for him.

While the Wildcats haven’t yet maximized their capabilities on defense, they’re getting there. They limited Oregon State to just 53 points on Thursday night while recording several key stops against the Oregon Ducks in their win on Saturday night.

For the first time since their tournament in the Bahamas, the Wildcats are the highest ranked team in the Pac-12, which has to be a sigh of relief for a team that’s seen as many ups and downs as anybody in the nation.

Emmanuel Akot recorded some key minutes for the Wildcats on Saturday evening, a good sign for the bench rotation. DeAndre Ayton, Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins might be the best trio of any team in the nation, and each one of the three has shown that they’re capable of taking over a game.

Next: ASU Basketball: Evans restores belief in comeback victory

In spite of all the controversy, Arizona remains at the top of this week’s power rankings. It remains to be seen whether or not another week adds a supplementary storyline.