Pac-10 Weekly Wrap: Someone finally makes a statement

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Hey, look at that! No bad conference losses this week!

Sure, there were some close calls -- Oregon's near loss at home to Idaho State and Arizona's near loss at home to Lipscomb come to mind -- but in the end, teams picked up wins over Texas A&M, LSU, NC State (all solid big conference teams) as well as St. Mary's and UNLV (excellent mid-majors). If Cal had somehow been able to take Kansas down to the wire, it would have looked even better. Alas, the Bears just ran out of gas against a deeper squad.

On to the rankings! It shouldn't take too much effort for you to figure out who the big mover and shaker was this week ...

1. Washington

Rank last week: 1
Record last week:
2-0
Overall Record:
9-2

The Huskies remain No. 1, but more out of default than anything else. Nice win by the Huskies over Texas A&M, but again, it was a home win. I didn't see any of it because I was at the WSU/LSU game across town at KeyArena, but I did hear about Derrick Roland's leg breaking in about the most grotesque fashion possible. That the Huskies went on a 15-4 run immediately thereafter to turn a close game into what was looking like a blowout was hardly unexpected, though the Aggies are to be commended for fighting back. I'm just not sure how much to make out of this game because of the weird circumstances. Fortunately for UW, no one else in the conference is looking any better than the Huskies.

Bright spot: Only two Washington opponents have exceeded 100 offensive efficiency (or 1.00 points per possession) against the Huskies. They're not quite as elite as last year's squad yet, but those that thought last year's defense was a flash in the pan for the offensive-minded Huskies are looking to be wrong.

Question mark: Last week, I told you to keep an eye on the UW offense. Well, the Huskies were unable to exceed 100 efficiency against A&M (95.7), to go along with their 101.3 against Texas Tech and 82.5 against Georgetown. With 100 being average, you can see where UW fans ought to be getting at least a little concerned.

2. California

Rank last week: 2
Record last week: 0-1
Overall Record: 6-4

No shame in losing on the road to No. 1 Kansas. Some will look at the final margin and conclude the Bears were outclassed. That would be inaccurate. They were down just one at halftime, and kept fighting to stay close with the Jayhawks, whom they trailed by just five with about seven minutes to go. Kansas ran away with it down the stretch, but the Bears hardly embarrassed themselves. They're still looking like about as good a bet to win the conference as Washington, as I wonder if the Huskies would have an appreciably different record than the Bears if they had played identical schedules.

Bright spot: Jamal Boykin is grabbing close to 20 percent of available defensive rebounds. That's nice. Even nicer? He picked up 15 rebounds against the Jayhawks while battling some guy named Cole Aldrich. Boykin was the best big man in that game. Impressive.

Question mark: Five players played 30-plus minutes against the Jayhawks. Mike Montgomery has some horses in Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson, and it appears he's going to ride those horses when the going gets tough. Will their legs hold up on that kind of load?

3. USC

Rank last week: 5
Record last week: 3-0
Overall Record: 8-4

Time for mea culpa. I picked the Trojans last in the Pac-10 back in the spring, and only moved them up to No. 9 after Stanford's chaos in the preseason. Clearly, I underestimated the defensive talent left behind in the wake of Tim Floyd and what Kevin O'Neill would be able to do with it.

The win over Tennessee can no longer be considered a fluke -- soundly beating both St. Mary's and UNLV in Hawaii put to rest any more of that talk. We've been waiting for a team to step up and show us that it was good by getting a quality win. Well, the Trojans did just that. They're doing it with some ridiculously good defense; think WSU last year kind of good. Unfortunately, their offense is about as bad as the Cougs' was last year. Fortunately for them, they're playing in a much weaker Pac-10 than WSU was, which makes the Trojans a dangerous team going forward.

Bright spot: St. Mary's has posted an average offensive efficiency of 117.5 this year; the Trojans held them to 76.8. UNLV has posted an average 107.2 offensive efficiency; the Trojans held them to 82.9. This is a really, really good defensive squad.

Question mark: Can the return of Mike Gerrity at the point has give USC an offense that allows the Trojans to truly compete for an NCAA berth? In just four games, he already has been an efficient scorer and distributor, and the USC offense has seen a bit of an uptick already.

4. Arizona State

Rank last week: 3
Record last week: 2-0
Overall Record: 10-3

Another week, another couple of weak home wins for the Sun Devils (UC Santa Barbara and South Carolina Upstate). Not really too much to read into here, so I'll forgo further analysis.

Bright spot: Unlike most other teams in the conference, the Sun Devils don't possess a "bad" loss. Even that home loss to Baylor isn't looking so bad after all, as the Bears emerge as a dark horse in the Big 12.

Question mark: I'm excited to watch the Sun Devils play in Los Angeles this weekend, if only for the fact that it will be their second and third true road games this year. Plus, I'm curious to see just how many decades the USC/ASU tilt sets the game of basketball back. First to 60 wins!

5. Washington State

Rank last week: 4
Record last week: 1-0
Overall Record: 10-2

The win over LSU was a good one, no doubt about it. And while it gave me reason to get excited about the team, it was more about relative expectations than their actual ability to challenge for a Pac-10 title. We hoped this team could be a top half of the conference kind of team. I think that's a reasonable expectation, as LSU is akin to most of what we'll see in the conference slate. But I think there are still question marks about the team's true ceiling, given that they've played just two teams ranked in the top 100 by kenpom.com -- and lost to both.

Bright spot: The defense seems to really be coming along. LSU is by no means an offensive juggernaut, but they're better than what they showed against the Cougs. I think WSU gets a lot of credit for that. The frequent breakdowns we saw in scheme earlier this year are becoming much less frequent, and it's becoming plainly obvious that an average defense will be good enough to compete in the Pac-10 this year.

Question mark: When Klay Thompson isn't hitting, the offense still stalls, as LSU exposed again last week. Reggie Moore might be a potential solution there, as he showed on the final possession of regulation to tie the game up, but this will bear watching.

6. Arizona

Rank last week: 7
Record last week: 2-0
Overall Record: 6-5

The week was nearly disaster for the Wildcats. First, they needed overtime to beat Lipscomb, and only won on a Nic Wise 3-pointer with 0.1 of a second remaining. Then they nearly blew an eight-point lead in the final minute to NC State. Alas, they won both, and results are really the only thing that matter in the end. The win over NC State was a big one for a team that desperately needed one. The Wildcats have played a brutal schedule, and anything that boosts confidence for them is welcome. The Wildcats now have an opportunity to make a real statement when a very good BYU team (ranked No. 10 by kenpom.com) visits McKale Center tonight.

Bright spot: Nic Wise has hit game-winning shots in two consecutive games. If the Wildcats are going to make any noise in conference play, they're going to need him to lead the offense to places it has yet to go because, like the Trojans, they possess a very good defense.

Question mark: Last-second wins are better than last second losses. But are the close margins more indicative of a team with fortitude or a team that's vulnerable?

7. Oregon

Rank last week: 6
Record last week: 1-0
Overall Record: 7-4

A way-too-close win over Idaho State at home does not inspire confidence. We'll know more about these Ducks this weekend when they travel to Seattle and Pullman.

Bright spot: Sophomore Malcolm Armstead scored a career-high 23 points to help beat the Bobcats. He's been starting in place of injured Tajuan Porter. He's provided a steady hand at the point, scoring efficiently (50 percent 3-point shooting, although on only 22 attempts) and taking care of the ball (greater than 2:1 assist to turnover ratio).

Question mark: Joevan Catron is hurt. Porter is hurt. Michael Dunigan still can't seem to play more than 25 minutes a night. Lots and lots of issues here.

8. Oregon State

Rank last week: 9
Record last week: 1-0
Overall Record: 6-5

A solid win over Fresno State at home was the only game of the week for the Beavers. Most encouraging for OSU fans has to be the fact that the Beavers really controlled the game from tip to buzzer; they've been one of the most inconsistent teams in the conference so far. An angst-free win was probably exactly what they've needed.

Bright spot: The Beavers look like they really have solved their shooting woes. We mentioned last week that the offense seemed to be coming around, and another good shooting night against the Bulldogs (57.1 effective field goal percentage) seems to confirm that.

Question mark: The defense has been incredibly inconsistent. That's not going to be a recipe for success in conference play this year.

9. Stanford

Rank last week: 8
Record last week: 0-1
Record: 5-6

No shame in losing on the road to Texas Tech. But the Cardinal probably would like to get another win sooner rather than later; they haven't tasted victory in more than two weeks. That should change tomorrow night against James Madison, but they've got a tall order at Cal on Saturday.

Bright spot: Landry Fields is still really good -- 27 points, 11 rebounds against the Red Raiders. People around the country better start to sit up and take notice.

Question mark: Are the relatively close losses to some good opponents indicative of a team about to break through, or a team that still just not very good?

10. UCLA

Rank last week: 10
Record last week: 2-0
Overall Record: 5-7

The Bruins really seem to be heading in the right direction. They beat a solid Colorado State team then destroyed a bad Delaware State team, both at home. That's what you're supposed to do in nonconference play, and it's something the Bruins had failed to do early on.

Bright spot: One of the major eyebrow raisers of the nonconference season was the Bruins' porous defense. Well, look at what they did to Colorado State and Delaware State: 92.0 and 80.1 defensive efficiencies, respectively. When put in the context of an excellent defensive effort against New Mexico (87.0), that now makes three out of four games.

Question mark: What's the ceiling for this team? Fourth? Fifth? That might even be too generous. I wonder if those writers who voted UCLA first in the media poll would like to rethink that.

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