Well, that went about as expected -- if not in result, certainly in unpredictability.
At the end of the first weekend of conference play, three teams made it out unscathed -- two of which were at least somewhat expected (Cal and USC) and one unexpected (Oregon, for multiple reasons I certainly don't need to rehash here). The rest of the conference is a jumbled mess.
On to the rankings!
Rank last week: 2
Record last week: 3-0
Overall Record: 9-4
Well, the Bears have finally ascended to the spot I figured they would be in all along. After struggling early in the season (due in large part to injuries), Cal is now rolling with Theo Robertson fully back in the swing of things. How dominant were the Bears last week? How about posting offensive efficiencies of 132.1, 127.7 and 130.8 in their wins? Sure, it was against Utah Valley, UC Santa Barbara and Stanford, but I don't care -- that's really good no matter the opponent.
Question mark: The offense will face its stiffest test since Kansas when the Bears lace up against the Trojans on Saturday -- USC actually is one spot ahead of Kansas in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Jayhawks held them down pretty good -- 89.3, low mark of the season; will they be up to the challenge this time?
Rank last week: 3
Record last week: 2-0
Overall Record: 10-4
Well, what a weird week for the Trojans. They're the hottest team in the conference, they possess the best nonconference resume of any team in the Pac-10, they're sitting pretty on top of the standings and ... they won't be able to play in the postseason, thanks to O.J. Mayo hanging out with a man of ill repute. These players deserve better with the way they've been playing. My guess is that these penalties were in the works long before the team got its crap together, but still -- this really, really sucks for both the USC players and the Pac-10 in general. The Trojans might have been the conference's best shot at a second at-large bid.
Bright spot: The defense is still ridiculous. How ridiculous? The Trojans held ASU to 61.6 efficiency on Saturday. That is not a typo. Funny thing is, that's only the second-lowest performance of the season -- Sacramento State posted 55.5. Coug fans will get a kick out of watching these guys play defense.
Question mark: The offense still stinks. It hasn't mattered yet, but Kevin O'Neill is playing essentially seven guys. One has to wonder if the defense isn't going to tire as the season wears on -- never mind the fact that it's worthwhile to question whether the Trojans will keep playing hard.
3. Washington State
Rank last week: 5
Record last week:
Too high for the Cougs? Well, here's my reasoning. First off, no way am I putting the Ducks ahead of them. Second, they won a pair of games without playing their best basketball -- they sleepwalked through the first half of Oregon, and beat an OSU team that hung with Washington most of the night without Klay Thompson doing diddlysquat. Only an assist from the officials, Tajuan Porter having one of his out-of-body experiences and Malcolm Armstead making a spectacular individual play kept the Cougs from sitting at the top of the standings with USC. You just can't convince me that Oregon is better right now.
One last note: This is the last time you'll hear snarky remarks from me about what record we should have. I've now said my peace, and I'm done. No more whining about what we actually earned versus what we actually have.
Question mark: If they don't get better this week, they'll be whimpering back to Pullman with a pair of losses at the hands of Arizona and ASU. They're going to have to bring it on the road. A sweep in either direction is not out of the question.
Rank last week: 7
Record last week:
Look -- no matter how we feel about the Ducks getting a "win" in Pullman, you have to admit that they made their own opportunities in that game. Armstead and Michael Dunigan gave the Ducks a lead in the first half, they were able to get to overtime, and then Porter went crazy before Armstead made a great play to win it. It might have been helped out a lot by a fortuitous call, but the Ducks earned the win in every other respect. They also exposed UW in a bad way.
Bright spot: In a conference with a dearth of quality big men, the Ducks' front line has the potential to be dominant. I'm still not the biggest Dunigan fan -- after all, does the fact that you only started playing basketball in 10th grade prevent you from working hard in the offseason to get in shape? -- but the sheer size and rebounding ability Oregon will give most everyone fits on any given night.
Question mark: The defense still comes and goes. Into the second half against the Cougs, I wrote on the game thread that if the Cougs could take care of the ball and defensive rebound, they'd win the game, because Oregon had tired of playing defense. That was absolutely true. Is their offense good enough to carry their inconsistent defense? I'm not sold yet.
Rank last week: 1
Record last week: 1-1
Overall Record: 10-3
Too low for UW? I think the Huskies have been cruising for this for a while. The win over OSU wasn't even remotely convincing -- the Beavers blew numerous chances to take the lead late in that game -- and then Oregon slapped them around in the heretofore impenetrable fortress known as Hec Ed. UW could have easily been 0-2. The offense isn't nearly as potent as previous vintages, and when they have an off defensive night ... well, you get what happened against the Ducks. Washington is a merely average shooting team that tries to makes up for a that deficiency with excellent offensive rebounding and free throw rates. It's not going to be enough on nights they don't play defense.
Question mark: Washington has some serious issues with interior toughness, something I openly wondered about before the season. Their block percentage is misleading; it was built against smaller, less athletic opponents. None of UW's guards are especially good at preventing penetration -- sorry, Venoy Overton fans, but of all the things he's good at, staying in front of somebody is most certainly not one of them -- and Armstead showed there's just not a lot of reason to fear heading into the lane against Washington. You can bet guys like Mike Gerrity, Nic Wise and Reggie Moore took note.
Rank last week: 6
Record last week: 1-2
Overall Record: 7-7
Too bad the week started off with such a shellacking at the hands of BYU, because there's just no shame in splitting on the road in Los Angeles. They gave the Trojans a heck of a battle, and then looked far superior to a UCLA team that had picked up a nice win over ASU a couple of days before. Even more impressive was that they handled the Bruins so easily without Nic Wise doing much at all. A nice win for a team that has survived a brutal schedule and is still growing.
Bright spot: Kyle Fogg had a huge game against UCLA; if he turns into a legitimate third scoring option for the Wildcats, this becomes a completely different team -- in a good way.
Question mark: This team's offense is severely limited by its shooting -- as one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the country, really the only way they're able to score is by shooting the ball well. It'll be interesting to see if their shooting improves at all, or if their offense remains inconsistent.
7. Arizona State
Rank last week: 4
Record last week: 0-2
Overall Record: 10-5
Well, that went about as poorly as one could possibly imagine for the Sun Devils. They lost a close one to the Bruins, then got absolutely shut down by that suffocating USC defense. When this team isn't shooting the 3-ball well, it's going to struggle to score points. This weekend's visits from UW (Friday) and WSU (Sunday) suddenly loom really, really large.
Bright spot: Gonna have to stretch for this one, after that trip. How about this? Jamelle McMillan is doing his best impersonation of his father, filling the stat line. Most like Nate? The 2.8 steal percentage.
Question mark: Does this team have enough athleticism to compete in this conference? The Cougs were able to pile up a lot of wins in the nonconference schedule last season with experience and fundamentals, but once they had to play athletes, they couldn't keep up. We'll no more after taking on UW on Friday.
Rank last week: 10
Record last week: 1-1
Overall Record: 6-8
I keep saying the Bruins are heading in the right direction, and they went ahead and validated it with a nice win over the Sun Devils. They were more or less torched by the Wildcats (and we'll talk about what issues that exposed here in a second), but don't scoff at the win over ASU. It's a good one for a team that desperately needed to defend its home floor.
Bright spot: So what if the Bruins didn't play any defense against the Sun Devils? When you shoot like they did, it doesn't matter. UCLA has the weapons to beat teams from outside; perhaps this is a harbinger of things to come.
Question mark: There are now some serious questions about the Bruins' athleticism and just how vulnerable that will leave them the rest of the Pac-10 season. I was shocked at how easily Arizona's perimeter players were able to penetrate -- I mean, nobody penetrated like that in years past against Howland's teams. And there are plenty of quick guards left on the Bruins' docket..
Rank last week: 9
Record last week: 1-1
Well, the Cardinal got whipped by Cal. Not exactly shocking, but perhaps a little discouraging. Stanford's results seem to be heading in the wrong direction, in terms of scoring margin. Even the win against James Madison was closer than Stanford would have hoped. Things are not looking up right now for the Cardinal.
Bright spot: Landry Fields is still really good -- 20 points, 10 rebounds and four assists against Cal. I have a feeling this is going to become a redundant theme.
Question mark: Fields scored 20, Jeremy Green had 23 ... and no one else had more than five. Ouch. This team needs more scoring punch than these to alone can provide.
10. Oregon State
Rank last week: 8
Record last week: 0-2
Overall Record: 6-7
This team is bad right now. Very bad. They turn the ball over a ton -- which is really odd considering it's a veteran squad. They should be able to take care of the ball better than they do, and it's mess. They also don't shoot well. That's kind of a lethal combination -- and not in a good way.
Bright spot: Tough again, after the 0-2 weekend. They did get a lot of offensive rebounds against the Cougs, although that's not exactly a huge accomplishment against the WSU front line..
Question mark: It's borderline unbelievable how much OSU turns the ball over. It's not like it's due to ball pressure; they just give it to the other team. If it continues to be an issue, the Beavers will continue to remain here at the bottom of the rankings.