Posted on January 10, 2023
New Mexico’s run as the final unbeaten team in the nation did not last long and the Lobos went the wrong direction last week.
The teams at the top of our rankings looked vulnerable, including Arizona dropping a rare home game.
San Diego State appears as if they may have found their footing and we see a team re-enter our rankings for the first time since the preseason as Colorado’s defense locked it down last week.
1. Arizona Wildcats 14-2 (1)Arizona saw their 28-game win streak inside McKale Center come to an end with a 74-61 loss to Washington State.
The Wildcats failed to score more than 70 points in a game for the third straight outing and have averaged 66.7 points in those three outings.
The Wildcats keep the top spot, based not only upon the full body of work on the season but also because the two teams behind them that may have jumped them did not exactly set the world on fire last week either.
2. Gonzaga Bulldogs 14-3 (2)Gonzaga went on the road last week and earned a pair of conference wins.
The two-point win at San Francisco was a hard-fought battle that highlights how good the Dons can be. Against Santa Clara, the Bulldogs got a seven-point win but were outshot by the Broncos.
The WCC is an improved and deeper conference this season and getting a pair of tough road wins this week should make the Zags better in the long run.
3. UCLA Bruins 14-2 (3)The Bruins’ 11-game win streak stands as the fourth-longest currently in the nation.
The most recent win was a two-point win over USC. The Bruins put together one excellent half of basketball in that one.
The problem is the game was two halves and the second half was not a memorable one for UCLA. They were outscored 32-16 after the half while shooting just 22.7% from the floor after halftime.
The good news for UCLA is they got the win and remain a perfect 5-0 in Pac-12 play.
4. San Diego State Aztecs 12-3 (5)The Aztecs are starting to put things together and are heating up as we get into January.
Matt Bradley also continues to heat up on the offensive end as he has averaged 22.7 points per game in the last three after opening the season averaging 10.9 points in SDSU’s first 12 games.
San Diego State is forcing a turnover on 22.2% of opponents’ possessions to rank 33rd in the nation.
5. Arizona State Sun Devils 13-3 (6)Arizona State has won 13 of their first 16 games of a season for just the seventh time since World War II.
The Sun Devils have opened conference play with four wins in their first five for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
In the Sun Devils five Pac-12 games they have outscored opponents in the paint by 7.0 points per game. ASU is limiting opposing back-court players to just 34% from the floor.
6. New Mexico Lobos 15-2 (4)The Lobos had lost two straight games after opening the season 14-0 before beating Oral Roberts on Monday.
The strength of UNM has come at the FT line, against the Rebels, only 16.8% of their scoring came at the foul line a dip from their season average of 22.5%.
New Mexico is still seventh in the nation with 18.3 made foul shots per game.
7. Saint Mary’s Gaels 14-4 (10)The Gaels picked up a pair of wins last week with a nonconference tune-up over the Academy of Art and then a 42-point win over Portland.
SMC dominated the Pilots from start to finish opening a 41-14 halftime lead.
The 85-points scored against Portland was the most this season for the Gaels while the 43 allowed was the second-fewest on the season.
Saint Mary’s is third in the nation on the season limiting opponents to just 47.5% on non-blocked two-point FG.
8. Nevada Wolf Pack 14-3 (11)The Wolf Pack have won six in a row on the season ahead of a big matchup tonight at San Diego State.
Nevada dominated the paint against a San Jose State team that had been good inside. The Pack outscored them 32-16 in the lane and outrebounded the Spartans by 11.
SJSU had entered that one as one of the better rebounding teams in the nation.
The 40-points allowed was the lowest single-game total by Nevada since 2008. Nevada is turning the ball over on just 15.6% of their possessions.
9. Boise State Broncos 12-4 (12)The Broncos picked up a pair of wins over San Jose State and Utah State, giving each their first conference losses of the year.
The Broncos turned up the defense against a Utah State team that had been one of the most prolific offensive teams in the nation limiting them to their season low in points at 59.
It was the ninth time the Broncos have held an opponent to under 60 points this season.
The Broncos are the winners of seven in a row at home but will have to travel this week with trips to UNLV and Wyoming.
10. USC Trojans 11-5 (8)USC has dropped their last two games, the most recent to crosstown rival UCLA.
The Trojans got down big before they mounted the second-half comeback against the Bruins before coming up two points short.
Reese Dixon-Waters was perfect from the field in that one and scored 12 of his 16 while USC was mounting the second-half comeback.
USC is 16th in the nation with a blocked shot rate of 9.3% on the season.
11. Utah State Aggies 13-3 (7)The Aggies went 1-1 during the week, with the win coming over Air Force and the loss at at Boise State.
In that defeat, Utah State was limited to a season-low 59 points.
Despite their worst shooting performance of the season against the Broncos, USU still ranks third in the nation in effective field goal shooting at 58.0%.
The Aggies have scored at least 80 points in nine of their 16 games this season.
12. Utah Utes 12-5 (9)The Utes opened Pac-12 play at 5-0 for the first time since joining the Pac-12, marking the first time they were unbeaten in the first five conference games since 2004-05 when they were in the Mountain West.
The first conference loss of the season came at the hands of Oregon, pushing Utah’s record against the Ducks to 2-22 since joining the Pac-12.
Utah still ranks fourth nationally in field goal defense this season at 36.5%.
13. UNLV Rebels 12-3 (16)UNLV broke its two-game losing streak with a win over New Mexico in Albuquerque.
EJ Harkless picked up Mountain West Player of the Week honors for his efforts in the win as he scored 25 points and added five rebounds and six assists.
UNLV got the win despite having to play a bit of a different style of game.
The Rebels are getting an average of 5.5 more scoring chances than opponents per game this season, 21st-most in the nation.
Against the Lobos, they were -4 in that category. The Rebels shot over 50% from the floor for the fifth time this season.
UNLV still ranks second in the country with a turnover forced on 27.4% of its possessions.
14. Santa Clara Broncos 14-5 (13)Santa Clara went 1-1 last week with a win over Pepperdine and a five-point loss to Gonzaga at home.
The Broncos are 11-3 in their last 14 games played.
Brandin Podziemski is averaging 19.8 points over the last six games. On the season, his 18.7 points per outing are the most in the WCC, and rank 44th in the nation.
15. Colorado Buffaloes 11-6 (NR)The Buffs swept the Oregon schools to move to 7-1 in their last eight games played.
Colorado’s defense smothered both the Ducks and Beavers by allowing just 41.5 points per game in the two contests.
The 83 points allowed in the two games is the fewest by the Buffs in consecutive conference games since allowing 81 points in back-to-back Big Seven games in 1948-49.
Tristan da Silva shot 66.7% from the floor in the two wins last week.
The Buffs may finally be hitting their stride, and their trip to LA this week for USC and UCLA will be an indicator.
16. San Francisco Dons 12-7 (NR)The Dons re-enter this week at number 16, and it was a three-horse race for this spot between USF, BYU, and Loyola Marymount.
The Dons earned a two-point win over LMU, who knocked off BYU, and USF gave Gonzaga a scare through their meeting with the Bulldogs. San Jose State was another option, but the Spartans went 0-2 last week and did not look great.
So this week it is San Francisco that seems to be the hottest of potential teams in the last spot on this list. A total of 40.4% of the Dons scoring this season has come off the three-point shot, which ranks ninth-best in the country.
Visit his website at sercstats.com.
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