Posted on November 16, 2022
As the season progresses and heats up in December and beyond, I will bring you weekly comparative rankings of the Top 16 teams from the Pac-12, Mountain West and WCC.
This is the first such installment and we can consider it a preseason/opening week combo. A little bit of a preseason look, but not completely ignoring the first week of play.
And hopefully enough to get you through Feast Week and the end of the football regular season.
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (2-0)The Zags have a pair of big tests this week with a trip to Austin, Texas to face the Longhorns and a visit from Kentucky on Sunday.
Gonzaga already has a win over Michigan State. While the Spartans are not yet ranked, they beat Kentucky on Tuesday, and that win will look good at the end of the season.
The unique environment was challenging, and Drew Timme stepped up for the Bulldogs on the Abraham Lincoln with 22 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 assists.
2. UCLA Bruins (3-0)UCLA has a trio of wins over early-season opponents they should have made quick work of and did.
The schedule heats up for the Bruins with a weekend trip to Vegas for the Continental Tire Main Event with three other ranked opponents.
It will be Illinois on Friday night and either Virginia or Baylor on Sunday.
Jaylen Clark got seven steals and eight rebounds for the Bruins in the opener, becoming just the second UCLA player ever to record at least seven steals and eight boards in a single game.
He added 17 points for good measure. (Earl Watson had seven/eight and six points against NAU in 1997.)
3. Arizona Wildcats (2-0)Arizona has also taken care of their business in the first week of the season.
Against Nicholls State they torched the Colonels putting up 117 points, missing just 15 FGs all night and only nine two-pointers.
Over the first two games of the year, Arizona is shooting 76.5% on non-blocked two-point FGs, the fifth-best rate in the nation.
Southern kept things closer but also was a lot more physical with 35 fouls committed.
The Cats host Utah Tech before heading to the Maui Invitational.
The Wildcats are missing 13 FTs per game, the second-most in the nation, but their 30 made FTs per game are the most in the nation.
4. San Diego State Aztecs (3-0)The Aztecs needed a second-half comeback to get past BYU and remain unbeaten on the season.
Matt Bradley has struggled to find his shot early shooting just 24.2% from the floor.
Darrion Trammell Jaedon LeDee have led the way so far. Bradley will find his shot and when he does the Aztecs will be in really good shape.
SDSU’s win over Stanford was their first ever over the Cardinal and ended the Tree’s 13-0 home record in the month of November, the longest since 2018.
Now it’s on to Maui where they get Ohio State first.
5. Saint Mary’s Gaels (3-0)The Gaels are off to a 3-0 start with wins over Oral Roberts, Vermont, and North Texas.
Against the Mean Green, they owned the visitors from Denton, Texas allowing just 12 points in the first half.
It has helped SMC to the 13th-best first-half scoring defense in the nation allowing just 21.7 points per game in the opening half.
The Gaels schedule will heat up in earnest the first two weekends in December with Houston and San Diego State on successive Saturdays.
6. Wyoming Cowboys (2-1)Wyoming also faced Nicholls and the Colonels again were foul-heavy as 23 of the Cowboys’ 79 points came from the stripe.
The four-point loss to SE Louisiana at home is baffling and should not have ever happened. The Cowboys finished 13-for-42 on threes in the loss.
That could prove to be either a minor hiccup or the kind of bad loss that keeps the Cowboys from dancing in March.
I think the Cowboys will rebound from that loss; they are too talented not to, and I think this will be one that may affect seeding in March and not if they are in or not.
7. Boise State Broncos (1-1)The Broncos are 1-1 on the season, and like the Cowboys ahead of them, have a lot of promise.
The win was their second straight over Washington State and the 10-point margin was their largest ever over the Cougars.
The lone loss came in the season opener, a two-point game won by South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits are a solid program every year and the Broncos owned the paint.
BSU heads to the Myrtle Beach Invitational this weekend and the marque matchup of the non-conference season is against Texas A&M on the first Saturday in December.
8. Colorado Buffaloes (2-1)Colorado is a tough one to figure out. The only thing that has truly played out as expected was the win over UC Riverside.
So, who are the real Buffs?
The ones who lost by nine at Grambling or the team that stunned No. 11 Tennessee on a “neutral” floor in Nashville?
I’m going to say the Buffs are and will be a lot more like the team in Nashville.
Either way, the win over UT was the 24th over a ranked opponent since Tad Boyle took over in Boulder and improved them to 23-6 in November games in the last six seasons.
9. USC Trojans (2-1)The Trojans had a disappointing loss to Florida Gulf Coast but righted the ship a bit with the 38-point win over Alabama State and close win over Vermont.
Dew Peterson hit seven of his nine shots against ASU and 20 points against the Catamounts. Boogie Ellis had 15 points and seven steals against the Hornet and 10 points against Vermont.
Ellis is getting 4.5 steals per game so far to rank near the top of the national rankings.
As disappointing as the loss to FGCU was, the Trojans have enough talent that it should not hurt too much at the end of the season.
However, if they find themselves on the bubble again, these are the ones that you look back at.
10. New Mexico Lobos (3-0)Richard Pitino has got the Lobos off to a 3-0 start with wins over South Alabama, Southern Utah, and SMU.
Jamal Mashburn has reached double figures in 24 consecutive games which is the longest active streak in the MWC.
Things take off this week with a trip to Moraga to face the Gaels of St. Mary’s to see where they stack up.
11. Oregon Ducks (2-1)The running theme in this seems to be losses suffered by teams that should not have had them. And with Oregon, we saw it again.
UC-Irvine took a 12-4 lead on the Ducks and never looked back.
Looking at UO’s roster you’d again say there is the talent, but the way the Anteaters just blitzed them is a bit discouraging.
The Ducks appeared to work some of the rust off with a 30-point win over Montana State on Tuesday and getting people back, but things get real in a hurry.
Following a weekend visit from No. 3 Houston on Sunday, the Ducks will play three quality opponents in the Phil Knight Tournament all before November ends.
12. BYU Cougars (1-1)BYU is a tough team to gauge so far.
The Cougars have a four-point home-court win over Idaho and a hard-fought seven-point loss at San Diego State.
They have two games this week to get ready for the tests that await in the Battle 4 Atlantis. USC will be the first opponent in the Bahamas.
In San Diego, it was the foul stripe that was the difference with the Cougs -16 at the stripe. In the first two games, just 17.0% of BYU’s points have come off FTs. That ranks 212th in the nation.
13. Utah Utes (3-0)The Utes have collected wins in succession to open the season, over Long Island, CSU Bakersfield, and Idaho State.
That’s not exactly going to light up the strength of schedule state, but Utah has won those games in the fashion you’d expect them to.
Utah has good size in the middle with Ben Carlson and Branden Carlson, players who share a last name and an ability to rebound.
The two combined for 34.6% of the Utes’ rebounds in their first three games.
14. San Francisco Dons (3-0)Khalil Shabazz led the Dons and new head man Chris Gerlufsen to a 3-0 start ahead of a matchup with Fresno State.
Again, the opponents are not going to light the world ablaze, but the Dons have picked up the wins.
Following the trip to Fresno, SFU will head to the Hall of Fame Classic and an opener with Northern Iowa.
Good performances in the next three will go a long way in determining if the Dons keep their place on this list when we return in a few weeks.
15. Utah State Aggies (3-0)Utah State’s bench has outscored opponents 72-38 in the opening two games of the season and owns a 41-point edge over the opposing bench.
The Aggies’ total rebound rate of 58.9% is currently the 22nd-best mark in the nation.
Steven Ashworth is averaging 18.5 points per game to lead the way for USU, and as a team, they are shooting 74.4% from the foul line.
The Aggies may not show up on this list very often this year, but if they continue to put up the numbers and win games, there is no reason they can’t shock people.
16. Stanford Cardinal (1-2)Despite dropping two of their three games, the Cardinal are in my top-16, but only barely. Stanford’s two losses were to a pair of quality opponents.
They fell behind early against San Diego State and could not quite climb back as they lost their first home game in November since 2017.
The other loss was to an unbeaten Wisconsin team played in a baseball stadium in Milwaukee.
Closing out the month in Orlando at the ESPN Events Invitational gives Stanford the opportunity to pick up quality wins and see exactly where they are.
Visit his website at sercstats.com.
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