Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes
The first NET rankings of the season, released earlier this week, were as kind to the Pac-12 as you might expect after all the unseemly non-conference losses.
Which is to say, they were accepting of only three teams, tolerant of a few more and downright dismissive of the masses.
Arizona and USC made the top 10, while UCLA is solidly positioned in the 30s.
But that's it.
If we assume that only the top 40 teams at the end of the regular season could be considered locks for the NCAA Tournament at-large field, the Pac-12 is staring at the potential for three measly bids.
Yes, the rankings will change as conference play ramps up, but not necessarily for the better. The metrics underpinning the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET), which replaced the RPI several years ago, rely heavily on non-conference results in November and December.
In that regard, the most significant development for the Pac-12 in the initial NET rankings wasn't the number of teams on the top tier but, rather, the quantity of bottom feeders.
A quarter of the conference is currently ranked in the 200s: Washington (No. 214), Arizona State (No. 221) and Oregon State (No. 267).
That compares … poorly.
— Number of teams ranked No. 200 or below in the NET, per Power Six conference:
Big East: one
Big Ten: one
Big 12: zero
— Percentage of teams ranked No. 200 or below in the NET, per Power Six conference:
Big East: 9%
Big Ten: 7%
Big 12: 0%
Unless the Pac-12 bottom feeders raise the floor over the next three weeks, a sinkhole will form that could swallow several NCAA Tournament hopefuls and leave the conference back where it was a few years ago.
To the power ratings …
Note: We have included each team's current NET ranking and will do so weekly through Selection Sunday.
1. UCLA (7-1/2-0)
Last week: 1
Results: beat Colorado 73-61, won at Washington (forfeit)
Next up: at Marquette (Saturday)
NET ranking: No. 30
Comment: The lower-than-expected NET ranking reflects a schedule that, thus far, features two marquee opponents (Villanova and Gonzaga) and an array of creampuffs.
2. USC (9-0/2-0)
Last week: 2
Results: beat Utah 73-63, won at WSU 63-61
Next up: vs. Long Beach State (Sunday)
NET ranking: No. 9
Comment: The Trojans could very well produce a perfect non-conference season, but the final stretch is challenging: After LBSU, they face UC Irvine (5-1), Georgia Tech (5-3) and Oklahoma State (6-3).
3. Arizona (7-0/1-0)
Last week: 3
Results: beat Washington (forfeit), won at Oregon State 90-65
Next up: vs. Wyoming (Wednesday)
NET ranking: No. 3
Comment: For now, the first season under Tommy Lloyd looks like the middle of the Sean Miller era, when the talent and wins flowed freely and expectations followed.
4. Washington State (6-2/1-1)
Last week: 5
Results: won at ASU 51-29, lost to USC 63-61
Next up: vs. Weber State (Wednesday)
NET ranking: No. 60
Comment: From the standpoint of maximizing NCAA bids, the conference needed WSU to beat the Trojans. It would have counted as a Quadrant I victory for the Cougars, who don't have many of those opportunities left.
5. Colorado (6-3/1-1)
Last week: 4
Results: lost at UCLA 73-61 and to Tennessee 69-54
Next up: vs. Eastern Washington (Wednesday)
NET ranking: No. 120
Comment: Beware the EWU Eagles, who won at Washington State 10 days ago. Actually, the Buffaloes need to beware of everybody given their current state of play.
6. Utah (6-2/1-1)
Last week: 6
Results: lost at USC 93-73, beat Cal 66-58
Next up: at TCU (Wednesday)
NET ranking: No. 57
Comment: We expected UNLV transfer David Jenkins to make an immediate and consistent impact. So far, he has done exactly that.
7. Oregon (5-4/0-1)
Last week: 7
Results: beat UC Riverside 71-65, lost to ASU 69-67
Next up: at Stanford (Sunday)
NET ranking: No. 136
Comment: A few more scoops of dirt, and the hole will be too deep to climb out of. As it stands now, the Ducks must climb 70 spots in the NET to have a shot at the at-large pool.
8. Arizona State (3-6/1-1)
Last week: 8
Results: lost to WSU 51-29, won at Oregon 69-67
Next up: vs. Grand Canyon (Thursday)
NET ranking: No. 221
Comment: If so inclined, one could describe the opening month of ASU's basketball season as a false start. That said, the victory in Eugene was a pleasant surprise for Bobby Hurley's beleaguered group.
9. Stanford (4-3/0-1)
Last week: 9
Next up: vs. Oregon (Sunday)
NET ranking: No. 158
Comment: On a lengthy break for exams, so we'll expect a sloppy first half Sunday in a game the Cardinal desperately needs to win to have any hope for anything.
10. Cal (4-5/1-1)
Last week: 10
Results: beat Oregon State 73-61, lost at Utah 66-58
Next up: vs. Idaho State (Wednesday)
NET ranking: No. 172
Comment: Make no mistake: The Bears are a below-average team. And yet, they're substantially better than we expected.
11. Washington (4-4/0-1)
Last week: 11
Results: lost at Arizona (forfeit), lost to UCLA (forfeit)
Next up: at Gonzaga (Sunday)
NET ranking: No. 215
Comment: First, let's hope none of UW's COVID cases required hospitalization. Second, the 10-day isolation period would suggest that even if the Huskies can field a team this weekend, the majority of the roster would have had limited — or zero — practice time ahead of tipoff.
12. Oregon State (1-8/0-2)
Last week: 12
Results: lost at Cal 73-61, lost to Arizona 90-65
Next up: vs. Sacramento State (Saturday)
NET ranking: No. 267
Comment: Now we're starting to wonder if March 2021 was real, or if the Hotline was in some psychedelic haze, like that 'Mad Men' episode when Roger tries LSD.
Jon Wilner's Pac-12 Hotline is brought to KSL.com through a partnership with the Bay Area News Group.
Jon Wilner has been covering college sports for decades and is an AP Top 25 football and basketball voter as well as a Heisman Trophy voter. He was named Beat Writer of the Year in 2013 by the Football Writers Association of America for his coverage of the Pac-12, won first place for feature writing in 2016 in the Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest and is a five-time APSE honoree. You can follow him on Twitter @WilnerHotline or send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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