Of the 31 conferences in Division I college basketball, the teams in Mountain West Conference have played the combined 10th-toughest non-conference schedule, while the Pac-12 Conference has played the 13th-toughest and the West Coast Conference the 25th, according to RealTimeRPI.com.
BYU has played the fourth most difficult schedule in the country, which explains why the Cougars have the highest RPI (No. 9) right now of any team in these three conferences.
The Utah State Aggies have played the 68th most difficult schedule, which is not bad, while the University of Utah has played the 348th most difficult schedule.
Generally speaking, it would be great to see higher quality non-conference games involving teams from these conferences.
Among the teams from these conferences, Arizona (Pac-12) has the only two wins against teams currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. The Wildcats have clearly established themselves as the No. 1 team in these power rankings. After that, there is not a whole lot separating the top 10 teams. Any team in the top 10 would likely be favored on its home court against any other team in the top 10.
There are some good games coming up involving a lot of these teams, so we’ll find out more soon enough.
Here is the second edition of the Pac-12/MWC/WCC power rankings (games through Dec. 3):
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Arizona solidified its place among college basketball’s early season elite when it beat Duke, 72-66, to win the Preseason NIT. The win came after the Wildcats had to rally to beat a tough Drexel team in a game Arizona could have easily lost. With its road win at San Diego State, Arizona has the only two wins over current AP Top 25 teams from among these conferences.
Arizona (7-0) is shooting 51 percent as a team while holding opponents to just 36 percent. It is also outrebounding teams by nearly 15 boards per game and winning by an average of 20 points per contest. The Wildcats are ranked No. 2 in the major polls, No. 7 in the Pomeroy Rankings and No. 14 in RPI.
Freshman phenom Aaron Gordon continued his strong play with eight rebounds and 19 points on just 10 shots in Arizona’s 79-58 blowout of Texas Tech Tuesday night. He made 4-of-12 free throws, which may be worrisome to NBA scouts.
Oregon’s neutral-site win over Georgetown is arguably the third-best win from among this group. Outside of that game, however, the Ducks haven't really played any teams capable of competing at a high level. Upcoming games against Ole Miss, Illinois and BYU will test Oregon's ranking.
Oregon (7-0) is ranked No. 13 in the major polls, No. 26 in the RPI and No. 31 by Pomeroy. The Ducks are shooting an impressive 41 percent from behind the arc, 52 percent overall and are in the top 40 in blocked shots per game. They are winning by an average of 18 points per game.
Johnathan Loyd, MVP of the 2013 Pac-12 Tournament and the brother of former BYU guard Michael Loyd Jr., is having a nice senior year in averaging 9.4 points and 6.3 assists, while shooting 54 percent from the field, including 47 percent from the 3-point line. Houston transfer Joseph Young continues to impress as well and is averaging over 20 points while shooting the ball incredibly well.
Some people were not happy to see the Aztecs in the top 10 of the first release of the power rankings, which was based largely on their competitive loss to Arizona. After neutral-site wins over two teams both ranked at the time, Creighton and Marquette, San Diego State has proven as much as any team from this group outside of Arizona.
The Aztecs (5-1) are ranked No. 21 in the ESPN Power Poll, No. 23 in RPI, No. 24 in the AP Poll and No. 33 in the Pomeroy Ratings. As usual, San Diego State’s strength is its defense, which is giving up only 57 points per game and 37 percent shooting. Looking ahead, the Aztecs will probably go undefeated in December and be 11-1 going into their game at No. 6 Kansas on Jan. 5.
San Diego State is a balanced team with 10 players averaging at least 10 minutes per game, while no one is averaging 30 minutes. Senior guard Xavier Thames leads the team at 17.2 points while shooting an amazing 59 percent from the 3-point line.
Gonzaga lost to the only impressive team it has played this season against No. 25 Dayton. On the other hand, wins over Arkansas and Washington State are decent, and the Bulldogs have dominated their competition by an average of 20 points per game. They are also leading the nation in field-goal percentage at 55.8 percent.
Gonzaga (7-1) is ranked No. 15 in the coaches poll and No. 16 according to Pomeroy’s advanced ranking system. The Bulldogs are led by guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who are combining to average 35.4 points while shooting 53 percent and 51 percent from three.
BYU has played one of the most ambitious early season schedules in the country, which largely explains why it is currently ranked No. 9 in RPI. Despite their two close losses to highly ranked teams, the Cougars also have as many total quality wins as any team in this group, defeating Texas and Utah State on neutral courts and Stanford on the road.
BYU (7-2) remaining in the top five is equally due to the lack of anything impressive from teams behind it. Additionally, the law of averages will probably favor the Cougars while it hurts some of the other top teams in this group. Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino should see their shooting percentages rise as the season progresses. Kyle Collinsworth, just back from an LDS Church mission, and freshmen Eric Mika and Frank Bartley IV should continue to get better. BYU’s biggest weakness is a lack of depth in the front court.
After beating then-ranked Marquette to move to 6-0 at the time the Sun Devils looked like they were ready to challenge for the No. 2 spot in the power rankings. They then went 1-2 in losing by a bunch to Creighton and by three to Miami from the ACC.
Look for point guard Jahii Carson, who is averaging 20 points and five assists while shooting lights-out, to lead Arizona State (7-2) to a slightly better overall season than UCLA, New Mexico and the rest of the top 10 teams.
UCLA is ranked No. 18 in both polls and may prove to be underrated in the rankings. The Bruins, however, simply have not done anything to impress yet. Their preseason schedule has been lame so far and they struggled somewhat to put away UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday night at home.
Fortunately, UCLA (7-0) will be able to show us something soon when playing at Missouri Saturday and Duke Dec. 19 in New York City. It will be interesting to see how sophomore guard Jordan Adams does in those games. Through Dec. 2, he was averaging a smooth 21.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 3.3 steals per game, while shooting 57 percent from the field, 43 percent on threes and 91 percent at the line.
Since the first power rankings were released, Colorado picked up a good win over a solid Harvard team and a decent win on the road against Colorado State. Although you can’t put too much stock in it right now, the Buffs do have an RPI of 17.
Spencer Dinwiddie’s numbers should continue to get better as the season progresses. He and his team have some big challenges coming up against Kansas and Oklahoma State. Look for Colorado to win one of those games.
If the polls extended out past the top 25, UNM would be ranked No. 27 in the AP poll and No. 28 in the coaches poll. After getting handled by UMass, the Lobos will have a chance to move back up in the next couple weeks when they play Cincinnati and Kansas.
New Mexico (5-1) might prove to be severely underrated. We’ll see. Kendall Williams, Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow are all averaging 19 points or more per game, which gives the Lobos a nice inside-out combination.
Saint Mary’s (6-0) has not necessarily done anything on the court to deserve to drop three spots, but other teams around it are playing far superior competition and showing more. The Gaels’ preseason schedule has been embarrassing and doesn’t get much better. From Nov. 16 to Dec. 14, they play only five games. Their game Dec. 14 against Boise State will be by far their biggest test of the season to that point.
The Gaels could prove to be a very good team, but we won’t know for a while.
Boise State (MWC): The Broncos beat the Utes by two at home on Tuesday night.
Utah State (MWC): The Aggies crushed Mississippi State and gave BYU all it could handle. It will be awesome to see them in a better league this season now that they have joined the MWC.
Cal (Pac-12): The Golden Bears have a Pomeroy ranking of No. 51 and some good balance with five guys averaging double figures in scoring.
Stanford (Pac-12): Stanford has a Pomeroy ranking of No. 49 and the talent to beat some good teams, if its coach doesn’t lose control of the team.
Utah Utes: (Pac-12): The Utes finally played a team we had heard of Tuesday. Boise State had all five starters back from a team that made the NCAA Tournament last season. The Utes almost pulled off the road upset. On the other hand, Utah blew out that Boise team last year and then went on to have a losing record. The game against BYU Dec. 14 will be the Utes’ only other real non-conference test.