It was not a good NCAA Tournament last season for the three most important local conferences: Pac-12 (Utah), West Coast Conference (BYU) and Mountain West Conference (Utah State).
Not a single team from those three conferences reached the Elite 8. Only Arizona (No. 6 seed) and Oregon (No. 12 seed) reached the Sweet 16. Even then, Arizona benefited from playing No. 14 seed Harvard in the second round, while Oregon benefitted from playing No. 4 seed Saint Louis.
WCC champion Gonzaga went into the tournament as a No. 1 seed, but did not live up to that billing in losing in the second round (not counting the “play-in” round) to Wichita State.
San Diego State (No. 7 seed), Colorado State (No. 8 seed) and Cal (No. 12 seed) also lost in the second round, while New Mexico (No. 3 seed), UNLV (No. 5 seed), UCLA (No. 6 seed), Colorado (No. 10 seed), Saint Mary’s (No. 11 seed) and Pacific (No. 15 seed), then of the Big West Conference, all lost in the first round. Boise State lost as a No. 13 seed in the play-in round.
BYU, Utah and Utah State (playing in its final year in the Western Athletic Conference) all missed the NCAA Tournament.
The Cougars, after a fairly disappointing season, put it together in the postseason and made a run to the Final Four of the NIT before losing a close game to Baylor.
The Aggies also had a down season, failing to advance to the semifinals of the WAC Tournament when they were upset by University of Texas-Arlington to end their season.
The Utes, meanwhile, showed improvement, finishing 15-18 (5-13 Pac-12), after going 6-25 (3-15) the previous season. Utah was picked to finish ninth in the Pac-12 preseason media poll this season, led by third-team All-Pac-12 selection Jordan Loveridge.
In preparing this first set of power rankings for these combined conferences, the results of last season were considered fairly significantly. As the season progresses, what happened in the past will become less and less relevant because there will be more games from this season by which to judge the teams.
Although last year is relevant to these first power rankings, the most weight is still given to impressive victories this season, such as Oregon’s over Georgetown; Arizona’s at San Diego State; BYU’s at Stanford and Arizona State’s at UNLV. Thus far no team from these three conferences has defeated a team that is currently ranked.
Here are the inaugural 2013-14 power rankings:
Nate Gagon is a published sports, music, and creative writer. He is also a wholehearted father, grateful husband and ardent student of life. He shoots roughly 94% from the free throw line and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or @nategagon.
After destroying Rhode Island, 87-59, Tuesday night, Pac-12 favorite Arizona (5-0) is ranked No. 4 in the USA Today Coaches poll. The Wildcats’ best win so far was over San Diego State on the road.
Aaron Gordon, a 6-foot-8 freshman, is currently ranked fifth on ESPN’s “Big Board” for the 2014 NBA Draft.
Oregon (3-0) is ranked No. 17 in both major polls. The Ducks beat Georgetown (picked to finish second in the Big East) in a neutral-site game on a South Korean Army base, of all places. Junior guard Joseph Young, who averaged 18 points for Houston last year, is averaging nearly 30 points per game so far. Despite struggling with Utah Valley University on Tuesday night, a team Oklahoma State beat by 53 points a week earlier, the Ducks start out just ahead of Gonzaga because of the Georgetown win.
Gonzaga gets the nod at No. 3 to start, despite its embarrassing stumble in the NCAA Tournament and soft schedule to start the year. The Bulldogs are 3-0 with their best win coming over Colorado State at home by 32 points. Despite losing Kelly Olynyk, who gave BYU big problems last season, to the NBA, Gonzaga has some major pieces back. Sophomore Przemek Karnowski, a 7-1 center, is rated as the 35th-best draft prospect this year by draftexpress.com.
BYU gets a bump up the rankings because of its road win over Stanford in which the Cougars scored 112 points. The Cougars are 4-1 after a 90-88 loss to No. 21 Iowa State on Wednesday and are receiving votes in both major polls with some games coming up soon that will either solidify them near the top of these rankings or show they might be a little overrated at No. 4. A lot of it will depend on how quickly freshman power forward Eric Mika can reach his potential and on how point guard Matt Carlino plays. The Cougars pretty much know what they will get from Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth.
New Mexico is ranked No. 19 in the AP poll and is 2-0 on the season. The Lobos were picked almost unanimously to win the MWC in getting 23 of 24 first-place votes. Senior guard Kendall Williams was picked as the preseason player of the year in the conference.
Led by Pac-12 preseason player of the year guard Jahii Carson, currently ranked as the No. 20 prospect for next year’s draft by draftexpress.com, Arizona State is 4-0. Carson was incredible in beating UNLV on the road Tuesday night, shooting the Sun Devils up these rankings substantially. The team did not have any other players picked on the four All-Pac-12 preseason teams, so the key will be how well the other guys on the team play.
Saint Mary’s would be ranked No. 37, if the USA Today Coaches poll extended that far. The Gaels’ best win thus far is over Louisiana Tech, which returns four starters from a team that won 27 games last season. Unfortunately, the win over the Bulldogs is probably the best win on the season from among the remaining teams, so Saint Mary’s lands ahead of UCLA for now.
Picked to finish second in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, UCLA is off to a 3-0 start and ranked No. 22 in the AP poll. UCLA struggled to defeat Drexel in its opener, winning by only five against a team that went 13-18 last season. Sophomore forward Jordan Adams is the Bruins’ best player, averaging 19.7 points, 4.3 steals and 4.3 rebounds per game.
Although the Aztecs are only 1-1 on the season, they deserve some credit for scheduling a tough non-conference game against Arizona, which lost by only nine points. San Diego State trailed by just four points with less than two minutes remaining. They might not be in the top 10 of these power rankings for too long, but for now, the Aztecs deserve the No. 9 ranking.
Colorado could be undefeated right now, if they had scheduled nothing but cream puffs to start the season like a lot of power conference teams. The Buffs chose to kick off the season against No. 25 Baylor instead, however, and lost by 12 after trailing by just six with two minutes remaining. While they don’t have any overly impressive wins yet, they do have Spencer Dinwiddie, a guard with an awesome name and that is also ranked as the No. 21 prospect for the next NBA draft by draftexpress.com.
Boise State (MWC): The Broncos have two MWC preseason first-team all-conference players.
Utah State (MWC): The Aggies are off to a 3-0 start, and beat USC by 13. If the Aggies beat Mississippi State and BYU in the next 10 days, they will be solidly in the top-10 at that point.
Cal (Pac-12): The Golden Bears only beat Oakland at home by four, while UCLA beat the Grizzlies by 31.
Stanford (Pac-12): The Cardinal have a lot of talent and did beat Northwestern by 13.
UC San Diego: (WCC): The Toreros are off to a 4-0 start, led by junior guard Johnny Dee.