Posted on February 7, 2023
Arizona and UCLA appear headed for a showdown in the regular season finale for both teams.
San Diego State got tripped up but held serve at home in the showdown with Boise State.
Here are my postseason predictions—subject to change weekly—as we embark on the final month of the regular season.
Pac-12 (3): Arizona, UCLA & USC
WCC (2): Saint Mary’s & Gonzaga
MWC (5): San Diego State, Utah State, Nevada, Boise State & New Mexico
Arizona, Alabama, Houston & Iowa State
And finally, this week’s Power Rankings.
1. Arizona Wildcats 21-3 (1)It’s hard to look at a team with a 21-3 record and think they were slumping at any point in a season, but the Wildcats definitely had a rough three-game stretch in January when they went 1-2.
Whatever was ailing them at that time has been rectified. Arizona has now won six in a row since that stretch and looked to be firing on all cylinders against the Oregon schools last week.
Azoulas Tubelis may have cemented his claim to Pac-12 player of the year in the last three games as he has averaged 28.0 points and 9.0 rebounds.
In his last three-game stretch, Tubelis has averaged 35.4 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per 40 minutes.
The Wildcat offense ranks eighth in the nation with 83.3 points per game.
2. Saint Mary’s Gaels 21-4 (2)The Gaels have won twelve straight, the second longest win streak in the nation, eclipsed only by Eastern Washington’s 14-game run.
Their thrilling overtime win over rival Gonzaga gives the Gaels control of the WCC regular season race, providing a two-game cushion with six games to play.
Aiden Mahaney scored 16 points after halftime in the win over the Zags, and in the two games last week, the Freshman averaged 17.5 points over two games this past week.
The Gaels limited Gonzaga’s high-scoring offense to just 70 points. It marks only the fifth time this season that a team has held the Bulldogs to 70 points or less.
SMC is fourth nationally in scoring defense at 57.7 points allowed per game.
3. UCLA Bruins 19-4 (3)UCLA won a pair of games at home last week over the Washington schools to run their NCAA-leading home-court win streak to 21 games.
The Bruins had their struggles with Washington in the first game of the set but looked in complete control for 40 minutes against WSU.
UCLA limited the Cougs to 52 points and is now ninth in the nation allowing just 60.3 per game.
The Bruins outscored WSU 19-7 off turnovers and 16-15 on second-chance points, as they got seven more scoring chances in that game.
For the season, UCLA leads the nation with an average of 9.6 more scoring chances per game than opponents.
4. San Diego State Aztecs 18-5 (5)The Aztecs went 1-1 last week with a loss at Nevada, but still hold a one-game edge in Mountain West play thanks to their 20-point win over Boise State.
The Aztecs limited BSU to 52 points and got the big win despite off nights from Matt Bradley and Darrion Trammell.
Nathan Mensah picked things up for the Aztecs with 17 points as the Aztecs were +15 against the Broncos with him on the floor.
The rebound win for SDSU improves the Aztecs to 19-3 in their last 22 games following a loss.
5. Gonzaga Bulldogs 19-5 (4)Gonzaga was outscored 17-9 in the overtime period vs Saint Mary’s. With the loss, the Zags have lost at least two conference games in a season for the first time since 2015-16.
Gonzaga still leads the nation in scoring with 85.7 points per game.
The Bulldogs will get a pair of home games this week against a couple of opponents that took them to the wire on the road earlier this season with San Francisco and BYU visiting Spokane.
Gonzaga is shooting an NCAA-best 51.0% from the floor and at home that figure jumps to 53.9% on the season.
6. USC Trojans 17-6 (7)USC picked up a sweep of the Washington schools last week to run their win streak inside the Galen Center to 12 games, the eighth-longest active streak in the nation.
Boogie Ellis scored in double figures in both wins, the second of which was Andy Enfield’s 200th at the Trojan helm.
The pair of double-figure games runs Ellis’s streak to 13 games with at least 10 points. In the last four games, Ellis has averaged 21.5 points and 4.8 assists while turning it over just five times in those four games.
The Trojans reached the 80-point mark in both wins and are now 12-1 on the season when scoring at least 70 points. USC’s blocked shot rate of 9.2% is 11th in the nation.
7. Utah State Aggies 19-5 (9)Utah State got a pair of wins with a big one over New Mexico and a road win at Colorado State.
In the win over the Rams, USU knocked down 18 three-pointers, shooting 46.2% for the game on triples. The 18 threes were the fourth-most in a single game in program history.
This season the Aggies have scored 37.0% of their points off the three-ball, the 31st-highest rate in the nation.
Against the Rams, 61.4% of their points come from shots beyond the arc. USU is 14-0 this season when scoring at least 77 points in a game and just 5-5 when scoring 76 or less.
8. Nevada Wolf Pack 18-6 (10)The Wolf Pack got a pair of wins last week at home over San Diego State and Air Force as they have now won 12 in a row at home.
The Wolf Pack are fourth in the nation in free throw shooting at 79.6% as a team.
Nevada is making their trips to the line count as they are making 17.5 FTs per game, the sixth most in the nation.
The 24.2% of their scoring that has come off FTs is the fourth-highest rate in the nation.
The Wolf Pack are a perfect 6-0 this season following a loss.
9. New Mexico Lobos 19-4 (6)New Mexico suffered its most lopsided defeat of the season at Utah State as they fell for the first time all season by double digits.
Jamal Mashburn reached double digits in scoring for the 44th consecutive game, the second-longest active streak in the nation.
The Lobos’ 16.4 fastbreak points per game are the fifth most in the nation. New Mexico is scoring 81.1 points per game, the 11th most in the nation.
UNM is averaging almost nine more points per game at the Pit than on the road this season.
They are going for 84.1 at home and 75.8 per game on the road.
10. Boise State Broncos 18-6 (8)The Broncos have now won 10 in a row at home but dropped one last week at San Diego State.
In the loss, Boise State was limited to 36.5% from the floor and just 11.1% from distance. The Broncos are allowing just 61.2 points per game, the 15th-best scoring defense in the nation.
Five of Boise State’s seven conference wins this season have been by at least 15 points. Given the depth of the Mountain West in 2023, that is an eye-catching stat.
11. Oregon Ducks 14-10 (11)In their last eight games the Ducks have gone 6-2. They seem to finally be finding their footing as we enter the final month of play.
A tough week lies ahead of them, however, with visits to Eugene by the Los Angeles schools.
The Ducks took entirely too long to get things going this season and now face must-wins from here on out.
The games coming this week at Matthew Knight are big, to say the least. A split with USC and UCLA and a strong finish could lead to a 6-1 finish to the regular season.
That would get them to 20 wins and momentum going into the Pac-12 tournament.
12. Utah Utes 16-9 (12)The Utah finds itselfe in a similar spot to Oregon on the season, but the Utes started off hot and have cooled slightly.
Similarly to the Ducks, the Utes also have an inexplicable loss to Stanford in Salt Lake City last week.
In completing the season sweep of Cal on Sunday they limited the Bears to 33.9% from the floor and 23.5% on threes.
Utah has limited opponents to just 38.0% from the floor this season, the sixth-best defensive mark in the nation.
On non-blocked two-point FGs, Utah is holding opponents to 49.3%, ninth in the nation.
13. BYU Cougars 16-10 (NR)BYU climbs back into our rankings after picking up two wins in the last week over LMU and Pacific. The win streak follows a three-game prior slide for the Cougars.
BYU’s defense was on display in an 81-66 win over Pacific last weekend. Not only did they limit the Tigers to 61 points, but the Cougars also recorded five blocked shots and 12 steals against Pacific.
It was the first time this season that BYU has reached at least five in both of those categories.
14. Santa Clara Broncos 17-8 (15)Santa Clara could not get past Gonzaga in Spokane last week but did manage to complete the season sweep of San Francisco.
It marked the first time the Broncos have swept the season series from USF since 2012-13 as they picked up their first win at War Memorial since the 2017-18 season.
The 84-70 victory over the Dons also marked Santa Clara’s largest win at USF since the 2012-13 season.
15. Arizona State Sun Devils 16-8 (14)The Sun Devils finally got back in the win column against Oregon State but then dropped a crucial game with Oregon.
Arizona State finds itself in a stretch in which the Devils are just 1-5 in their last six games. A season that began with such promise is on the verge of an epic collapse.
A trip to northern California awaits this week in a pair of must-win games for ASU.
16. Colorado Buffaloes 14-11 (NR)The Buffs get the 16th spot this week by way of a perfect 2-0 last week and pretty much any other team vying for the spot lost at least one game, so Colorado it is.
In the win against Stanford, the Buffs held the Cardinal to 29% from the floor in the second half.
A trip to Salt Lake City awaits this week with a chance to continue to build momentum and improve Pac-12 seeding.
Follow Stephen on Twitter @StephenVilardo and his organization @SERCenter.
Visit his website at sercstats.com.
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