Pac-12 MBB power ratings: Arizona on top, WSU surges as road teams flounder (we have the data)

Don’t bother searching for the root cause of Arizona’s come-from-ahead loss at Oregon State. The Hotline solved the riddle. The same answer applies to Arizona’s loss at Washington State two weeks ago and Arizona’s loss at Stanford two weeks before that.

Winning on the road is hard, folks.

At the midpoint of the Pac-12 season, road teams have a 16-40 record in conference play — a winning percentage of just 28.6.

Each game follows a different course. Perhaps poor shooting by the visitors is the cause. Or officiating that leans toward the home team. Or a singular performance akin to what we saw last week in Corvallis from OSU guard Jordan Pope.

It all adds up to the same conclusion. And in the Pac-12, winning on the road this season is substantially more difficult than in recent years.

We avoided pre-COVID data, and we skipped the 2020-21 season because of the obvious disruption caused by the pandemic.

But it’s worth noting that road teams won 42.5 percent of conference games (raw record: 51-69) during the 2021-22 season, a high level of success perhaps attributable to the lingering impact of COVID on attendance. (Home games carried a neutral-court vibe.)

The numbers dropped in the 2022-23 season, which was normal in every regard: Road teams were just 44-76, a winning percentage of 36.7.

If the current pace (28.6 percent) holds through the final five weeks of conference play, the visitors will finish this season with a 34-86 record.

And that pace could be worse. Five of the 16 road wins thus far have come by three points or less. Had a few bounces gone for the hosts instead of the visitors, the win rate for road teams would be on the low side of 25 percent.

We could get there by March. As the grind of the season takes hold and legs become heavy, energy from the home crowd will assume a greater role in shaping the course of events.

To the power ratings …

1. Arizona (15-5/6-3)

Last week: 1
Results: lost at Oregon State 83-80, won at Oregon 87-78
NET ranking: No. 4
Next up: vs. Cal (Thursday)
Comment: At the risk of offending, allow the Hotline to offer another theory for the Wildcats’ erratic performances: midseason boredom. They know March will define the season. Unless they have the McKale energy or feel threatened on the road (i.e., Eugene), a first-rate effort is difficult to muster. And if that’s the case, well, Arizona would hardly be the first team to experience a midseason lull.

2. Oregon (14-6/6-3)

Last week: 4
Results: beat ASU 80-61, lost to Arizona 87-78
NET ranking: No. 54
Next up: at USC (Thursday)
Comment: The glaring shortcoming within Oregon’s resume: 11 of the 14 victories are classified as Quadrant III or IV results. That lean to the low end will not sit well with the selection committee.

3. Washington State (15-6/6-4)

Last week: 6
Results: beat Utah 79-57 and Colorado 78-69
NET ranking: No. 40
Next up: at Washington (Saturday)
Comment: If the season ended today, Kyle Smith would be our selection for Pac-12 Coach of the Year. Then again, he wasn’t the pick two weeks ago and might not be the pick two weeks from now.

4. Colorado (15-6/6-4)

Last week: 3
Results: won at Washington 98-81, lost at WSU 78-69
NET ranking: No. 29
Next up: at Utah (Saturday)
Comment: Success in road and neutral-court games is central to the NCAA selection process, because the tournament isn’t played on home floors. The Buffaloes are 3-6 outside of Boulder, a tick better than their Mountain neighbor, Utah, which is 3-7.

5. Utah (14-7/5-5)

Last week: 2
Results: lost at WSU 79-57 and Washington 98-73
NET ranking: No. 37
Next up: vs. Colorado (Saturday)
Comment: Doesn’t matter if the venues are at sea level or the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Utah should not lose by 20-something points to the Huskies or Cougars — not if Craig Smith and Co. hope to avoid the NCAA bubble.

6. Arizona State (11-9/5-4)

Last week: 5
Results: lost at Oregon 80-61 and Oregon State 84-71
NET ranking: No. 118
Next up: vs. Stanford (Thursday)
Comment: ASU’s adjusted offensive efficiency ranking last season (per the Pomeroy ratings): 101st nationally. ASU’s adjusted offensive efficiency ranking this season: 214th nationally (out of 358 teams).

7. Cal (8-12/4-5)

Last week: 9
Results: beat Stanford 73-71
NET ranking: No. 133
Next up: at Arizona (Thursday)
Comment: We noted above that WSU’s Kyle Smith would be our pick for Pac-12 Coach of the Year at this point, but Mark Madsen is clearly in the discussion and could very well emerge as the winner if the Bears finish in the middle of the pack.

8. Stanford (10-9/5-4)

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Best of the West rankings: Utah (the state) is No. 1

Last week: 7
Results: lost at Cal 73-71
NET ranking: No. 109
Next up: at Arizona State (Thursday)
Comment: Recent results in the desert suggest trouble ahead: Stanford has one win in Tempe in the past decade and a single victory in Tucson in the past 15 years. A split should be treated like a sweep.

9. Washington (12-9/4-6)

Last week: 8
Results: lost to Colorado 98-81, beat Utah 98-73
NET ranking: No. 73
Next up: vs. WSU (Saturday)
Comment: From what we’ve seen, the Huskies are slightly more competent offensively than they have been in recent years, but that improvement hasn’t translated to a better bottom line. After 10 conference games last season, UW was … 4-6.

10. UCLA (9-11/4-5)

Last week: 10
Results: won at USC 65-50
NET ranking: No. 136
Next up: vs. Oregon State (Thursday)
Comment: Combine the notable uptick in success (and confidence) with the manageable upcoming schedule and the Bruins could very well claim one of the top four seeds in Las Vegas. Seriously.

11. Oregon State (11-9/3-6)

Last week: 12
Results: beat Arizona 83-80 and ASU 84-71
NET ranking: No. 158
Next up: at UCLA (Thursday)
Comment: Sure, it was a memorable weekend for the Beavers, but the Hotline is not on OSU’s bandwagon. In fact, we aren’t even in line to buy tickets. Get back to us in a few weeks if OSU keeps winning.

12. USC (8-12/2-7)

Last week: 11
Results: lost to UCLA 65-50
NET ranking: No. 99
Next up: vs. Oregon (Thursday)
Comment: Not on our bingo card for the 2023-24 season: The Trojans looking up at Oregon State and Cal in the Hotline power ratings.

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