Posted on February 14, 2023
Last week it looked like Saint Mary’s was ready to seal the WCC while the Pac-12 was getting tighter. Now Gonzaga has shown some life and controls its own fate to grab a share of the WCC.
UCLA’s lead in the Conference of Champions grew as the Bruins put some distance between themselves and their closest rivals.
Will we see more shake-ups this week or will it level off?
As we progress into the final month of the regular season I’ll continue to offer some postseason predictions—subject to change, as always, on a weekly basis.
Note: my final four is not my predicted No. 1 seeds but who I think will be in Houston the first weekend of April.
My NCAA Bids as of Today
Pac-12 (3): Arizona, UCLA & USC
WCC (2): Saint Mary’s & Gonzaga
MWC (4): San Diego State, Nevada, Boise State & Utah State
Bubble: New Mexico, Oregon & Utah
My Final Four (for now): Kansas, Arizona, Alabama & Houston
And finally here are this week’s SuperWest Power Rankings.
1. UCLA Bruins 21-4 (3)UCLA went to Oregon and came away with a sweep of the Beavers and Ducks.
The win in Eugene was the first time the Bruins have left Matthew Knight Arena with a win since 2019.
In the win, the Bruins created 11 more scoring chances for themselves than Oregon got, increasing their NCAA-leading mark of 9.5 more scoring chances per game than opponents have gotten.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. has reached double figures in rebounding in each of his last four games.
The Bruin defense was on lockdown against the Ducks in the second half as they built their lead. UCLA now has a two-game edge over Arizona in the loss column.
This week UCLA returns to Pauley Pavillion where they have won 21 in a row, the longest active home win streak in the nation.
2. Arizona Wildcats 22-4 (1)The Wildcats saw their seven-game win streak come to an end at the hands of Stanford.
In the loss, Azuolas Tubelis failed to reach double figures in scoring for the first time in 23 games.
He ended the game with four points on just two field goal attempts in 17 minutes of action as he collected four personal fouls.
Arizona was outscored 42-24 in the paint in the loss. Courtney
Ramey came to life against Stanford with 26 points as he knocked down eight three-pointers. If he can continue to produce and knock down threes it will be a positive down the stretch, especially if the inside game is taken away.
3. San Diego State Aztecs 20-5 (4)The Aztecs went 2-0 last week and have reached the 20-win mark for the 17th time in the last 18 seasons.
In the win over UNLV, they held the Rebels without an assist in the first half as they limited them to 25.0% from the floor, and only six made field goals in the opening 20 minutes.
The Aztecs are now 7-1 in their last eight games and have allowed just 63.7 points per game in the victories.
4. Saint Mary’s Gaels 22-5 (2)The Gaels had a rough week, they saw complete control of the WCC, and their 12-game win streak come to an end at Loyola Marymount.
They had a rough opening 20 minutes at Portland before righting the ship, turning a one-point halftime lead into a 17-point win.
Saint Mary’s will get another one on the road this week before finishing the weekend vs BYU at home, where the Gaels have won seven in a row.
Saint Mary’s entered the LMU game allowing 57.7 points per game on the season but gave up 55 in the final 25 minutes to the Lions.
The Gaels are still fourth in the nation allowing just 58.7 points per game.
5. Gonzaga Bulldogs 21-5 (5)Gonzaga won a pair of games last week averaging 93.5 points per game during the week.
The loss by Saint Mary’s puts the Zags back in control of earning at least a share of the WCC regular season title.
The scoring output from last week increased Gonzaga’s NCAA-leading scoring offense to 86.3 points per game.
The Saturday night win over BYU was not easy but the Zags outscored the Cougars 20-10 during the final four minutes.
Next up is a chance at a little payback when they head to Loyola Marymount and look to avenge their loss in the first meeting.
The Zags lead the nation in field goal percentage at 51.1% but are shooting just 49.1% on the road compared to 53.6% from the floor in the Kennel.
6. Nevada Wolf Pack 20-6 (8)The Wolf Pack pulled one out at New Mexico then got their 13th-straight win at home on Friday against Fresno State.
The win streak at the Lawlor Event Center stands as the eighth-longest home win streak in the nation.
Against Fresno State, Nevada went 23 of 26 from the free-throw line as their prowess at the stripe continues.
The Pack are shooting 79.9% from the line, fourth-best in the nation and they are making the ninth most per game in the nation at 17.5.
Nevada has yet to lose consecutive games this season.
7. Boise State Broncos 19-6 (10)The Broncos’ win streak at ExtraMile Arena has now reached 11 in a row with their win over Wyoming. The BSU win was the 10th in the last 11 meetings with the Cowboys.
Boise State is 12th in the nation allowing 61.2 points per game. The Broncos have limited opponents to assists on just 42.4%, and in home games, they have been even better, limiting foes to an assist rate of 37.3%.
BSU is 3-1 in its last four games and has a chance to build momentum this week with games at Colorado State and at home against UNLV.
The schedule gets more difficult in the final two weeks of the season with New Mexico, San Diego State, and Utah State slated among the final four opponents.
8. USC Trojans 17-8 (6)USC had about as bad of a trip to Oregon as they could.
The loss to Oregon was big because as the season winds down they could be battling it out with the Ducks on the bubble.
The loss at Oregon State was bad in the fact that it is the kind of loss that could burst the aforementioned bubble in mid-March.
The good news is the Trojans will return to the Galen Center, where they have won a dozen straight. The 12-game win streak on their home floor is tied for the 13th-longest active streak in the nation.
The Trojans failed to score more than 60 points in either game last week. They’re 12-1 this season when scoring at least 70 points and they average 74.8 at home compared to 68.0 away from Galen.
9. Utah State Aggies 19-7 (7)Utah State also had a rough week, falling behind big to San Diego State before mounting a second-half comeback, only to fall two points shy in the end.
The backbreaker for the Aggies was the loss at San Jose State. The Aggies had won nine in a row over the Spartans. That one is a big blow to their NCAA Tournament hopes.
In the two losses last week, USU averaged just 62.5 points per game. Utah State is now 5-7 when scoring 76 points or less this season compared to 14-0 when scoring at least 77 points in a game.
This week offers a chance for a big win with Nevada coming to Logan on Saturday.
10. Oregon Ducks 15-11 (11)The Ducks are now 6-3 in their last nine games and are starting to play good basketball.
Last week I mentioned that they would need a split with the LA teams with the goal of a 6-1 finish to the regular season. Mission accomplished on the first portion of the plan.
Five wins against no losses from here on out is doable with Stanford in the season finale looking like the toughest test, but they get the Cardinal at home.
The slow start to the season still may ultimately doom the Ducks but they are looking like a team that could finish the season strong.
Jermaine Couisnard averaged 16.0 points in the two games last week while N’Faly Dante has gone for 16.0 in the last three games.
11. Utah Utes 17-9 (12)The losses by Utah and Oregon at the hands of Stanford are suddenly not looking as inexplicable as they once were.
The Utes have won two in a row following their win in the Huntsman Center over Colorado, and once again, they got things done on the defensive end.
Against the Buffs, Utah limited CU to 37.1% shooting for the game and just 9.1% on threes in the second half.
The win was the 10th for Utah in Pac-12 play and is already an increase in league wins of seven from last season.
It is their largest win increase in conference play over a single season since they jumped by seven wins in the Mountain West from 1993-94 to 1994-95.
This season, Utah is holding opponents to just 61.8 points per game and is fourth nationally in FG defense at 37.97%.
12. New Mexico Lobos 19-6 (9)New Mexico went from the nation’s final unbeaten team to a team firmly on the NCAA bubble.
The Lobos have lost three in a row and five of their last six games.
The loss at Air Force speaks to the depth of the Mountain West.
It also shows where this UNM team has gone since getting wins at San Diego State and vs. Boise State in a three-game stretch in six days just under a month ago.
Jamal Mashburn continues his hot streak as he has reached double figures in 46 straight games now and 25.4 points per game in the last five.
On the season, the Lobos are still in the Top 15 nationally in scoring at 80.7 points per game. On the road, they are averaging 75.9 compared to 83.6 inside The Pit.
13. Santa Clara Broncos 19-8 (14)Santa Clara finds itself on a three-game winning streak with the most recent win coming at the hands of Loyola Marymount.
In the race for third in the WCC, the Lions have had the more signature wins getting both Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s, but the Broncos have been steadier all season.
Santa Clara owns a half-game edge on the Lions and the tiebreaker via their victory.
Brandin Podziemski collected his fourth 30-point game of the season against LMU. The win was their third straight in the series over Liona.
A trip to Provo is in store this week and BYU will be tough to beat, but a win will get the Broncos to 20 wins for the third time in the last four seasons.
14. Loyola Marymount 17-10 (NR)The Lions have knocked off both Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s in the same season for the first time since the 1995-96 season.
However, they followed up the win over the Gaels with a loss at Santa Clara. Nonetheless, the Lions have proven they can win games and own a 12-2 mark at Gersten Pavilion.
A return trip by Gonzaga will be a big test.
Cam Shelton earned WCC player of the week honors, playing 83 of 85 minutes last week and shooting 51% from the floor while he was perfect at the foul stripe to average 33.5 points, 3.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.0 steals.
15. Arizona State Sun Devils 18-8 (15)Last week I said it was looking like a pair of must-win games for the Sun Devils and they won them. Neither of them may have been the prettiest of wins but they were road wins.
Against Cal, ASU collected 56 rebounds in the overtime win, marking the first time they had at least half a hundred rebounds in a game since 1996.
Arizona State is 3-1 in their last four games. Desmond Cambridge Jr. has averaged 18.3 points in the three wins during that stretch and had just 6.0 in the loss.
16. Stanford Cardinal 11-14 (NR)Stanford gets the 16th spot this week. The Cardinal are hot right now, winning six of their last eight games.
One of the two losses during this stretch was against Arizona State in a game they led for over 34 minutes before squandering a 13-point second-half lead.
Let’s be honest, the only postseason in Stanford’s future is coming if they win the Pac-12 tournament next month.
But for the last three weeks, I have written about a team in these rankings with a “bad” or “inexcusable” loss to Stanford.
This week it was Arizona, and it gave the Cardinal their first win over a top-four opponent since 2007.
Spencer Jones averaged 17.5 points in the two games last week and was instrumental in locking down Azuolas Tubelis in the win over the Wildcats.
Maybe Stanford is starting to play like a pretty good team!
UCLA and USC are ahead of them in this power ranking….the Bruins and Trojans should be prepared.
Follow Stephen on Twitter @StephenVilardo and his organization @SERCenter.
Visit his website at sercstats.com.
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