Saturday was a great day for the Pac-12 as its teams went 8-0. The three impressive wins were Arizona over Michigan on the road, Oregon over Illinois and Utah’s demolition of BYU.
The Utes were the big winners in the power rankings this week, jumping over the likes of UCLA, New Mexico, Boise State and BYU all the way into the Top 10. In the WCC, Saint Mary’s finally played a decent team and showed well in beating Boise State on the road.
Those that had the worst weeks were New Mexico and BYU.
There are some good games coming up this next week. These are the most impactful to keep an eye on:
1. Thursday: UCLA at No. 8 Duke (5:30 p.m., ESPN)
2. Friday: Pacific vs. Princeton (8:30 p.m.)
3. Saturday: No. 7 Oklahoma State at No. 20 Colorado (9:30 p.m., ESPN2)
4. Saturday: BYU at No. 13 Oregon (8:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
5. Saturday: Texas Tech at Arizona State (4:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
6. Saturday: No. 21 Gonzaga at Kansas State (1:30 p.m., ESPN2)
Here is the fourth edition of the Pac-12/MWC/WCC power rankings — games through Dec. 18.
Arizona keeps finding a way to win close games. For most of the game at Michigan on Saturday it looked like the Wildcats were going to lose. As they have multiple times this season, however, they found a way to pull it out at the end.
After also beating New Mexico State last week by 26 — a team that just beat New Mexico on the road — Arizona is now 11-0 and remains ranked No. 1 in both major polls.
Like Arizona, Oregon found a way to win a tough competitive game. The Ducks trailed Illinois by one at home with just more than three minutes remaining but pulled ahead in the final minute for a big victory. The Ducks were once again led by Johnathan Loyd, the brother of former BYU player Mike Loyd, who scored the final six points to seal the win.
Oregon also beat UC Irvine on Tuesday by 28 to move to 10-0 on the season. The Ducks are ranked No. 11 in the Coaches Poll and No. 13 in the AP.
In between huge games against Kansas and Oklahoma State, Colorado took somewhat of a week off last week, playing just one game against Elon. The Buffaloes won the game easily to move to 10-1 on the season.
Colorado is ranked No. 20 in the AP Poll and No. 24 in the Coaches Poll.
Gonzaga jumped on South Alabama early Saturday night, racing out to a 22-3 lead. The Jaguars cut the lead to single digits a few times in the second half but the Bulldogs were never truly threatened in the game.
The Bulldogs (10-1) have their final non-conference test this Saturday vs. Kansas State.
The Aztecs (8-1) have not played since Dec. 8 and do not play another interesting game until they take on Kansas on Jan. 5.
The Mountain West looks to be wide open this year with San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico, Boise State and Utah State likely the Top 5.
The Sun Devils shot 64 percent against the Grambling State Tigers last Saturday on their way to a 42-point win.
Arizona State is a fun team to watch and will be interesting to follow in Pac-12 play. With Jahii Carson leading the way, the Sun Devils could get hot and beat just about anybody in a tournament setting.
Saint Mary’s gets the nod over Utah since the Gaels pulled out a close win over Boise State, while the Utes lost to the Broncos.
The Gales raced out to a big 36-20 lead versus Boise State Saturday night but had to hold on at the end, leading by just one with fewer than two minutes remaining.
Saint Mary’s and BYU should stage an interesting battle for second place in the WCC this season — that is if Pacific doesn’t overtake them.
Not ranked previously
The Utes shocked everyone with their easy rout of the Cougars on Saturday night. It will be interesting to see if the Ute basketball team will follow a path similar to the Ute football team, or if these Utes will be able to find a groove and maintain steady success against good competition.
The Utes also beat BYU in football and rose up to pull a huge upset of Stanford at home. It’s easy to see the Ute basketball team complementing its win over BYU with a similar upset of a ranked Pac-12 team at the Huntsman Center. The question will be whether the Utes can consistently beat the likes of Washington State, Washington, Oregon State, USC, California and Stanford throughout conference play to establish themselves in the upper half of the league.
If nothing else, the Utes certainly established themselves as a team to watch through January, which concludes with road games at Arizona State and Arizona.
Interestingly, the Bruins (9-1) played Prairie View A&M Saturday — the team BYU recently thrashed by 48 points at the Marriott Center. The Panthers fell behind huge to UCLA in the first half but actually outscored the Bruins in the second while putting 47 points on the board.
It is debatable whether UCLA deserves to be ahead of BYU given its horrendous schedule, though the Bruins face No. 8 Duke on Thursday. If the Cougars had at least been in the game against Utah they may have stayed in front of the Bruins. A lot of teams would be 9-1 with UCLA’s schedule, including BYU.
BYU is a better team than it showed against Utah on Saturday, but not as good as they appeared to be going into December.
As of Dec. 16, even after the loss to Utah, Joe Lunardi of ESPN still had the Cougars in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 10 seed in the south region. It would be interesting to know if Lunardi watched BYU’s game versus Utah. If he did, I’m not sure what he saw from the Cougs to view them as a Top 40 team in the country.
BYU has a huge game at No. 13 Oregon on Saturday night. The Cougars can quickly rewrite the conversation from the Utah game if they can beat Oregon.
Wednesday was a good day for BYU, though, as a pair of opponents the Cougars already defeated this year won big road games. Stanford knocked off No. 10 UConn and Texas upset No. 13 North Carolina, surely boosting BYU's tournament resume.
Stanford (Pac-12): The Cardinal (8-2) picked up a big win, handing No. 10 UConn its first loss of the season Wednesday night. Stanford's first victory over a top 25 opponent away from Palo Alto since the 2008 NCAA tournament will come in handy come tourney time in March.
UNLV (MWC): The Rebels (5-4) bested locally beloved Southern Utah by 22 last Saturday.
New Mexico (MWC): The Lobos had a bad week, getting thumped by Kansas and then losing at home to New Mexico State.
Boise State (MWC): The Broncos’ win over the Utes certainly looks more impressive after what Utah did to BYU. The game against Saint Mary’s was a big opportunity lost, however.
Pacific (WCC): The Tigers beat Menlo on Saturday in fairly pedestrian fashion, winning by just 11. Pacific gets the nod over Utah State since it beat the Aggies in Logan.
Earlier this week, the Aggies’ leading scorer, Jarred Shaw, was suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. That’s never a good thing.
Utah State was already struggling without that distraction, having lost to BYU and Pacific in back-to-back games before beating Utah Valley at home by 11.
The Aggies’ schedule offers nothing too compelling until the end of January.