Pac-10 Power Rankings

Photo: Layshia Clarendon is second on the young Bears squad with 13.4 points per game. The sophomore guard averages 3.7 assists, also ranking second for Cal.
Ryan Ballard/File
Layshia Clarendon is second on the young Bears squad with 13.4 points per game. The sophomore guard averages 3.7 assists, also ranking second for Cal.

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No. 1: Stanford

With a No. 4 ranking, three straight Final Four appearances and an undefeated conference record, the Cardinal are undoubtedly the top team in the Pac-10. Stanford has three wins over top-25 teams, including a Dec. 30 victory over Connecticut that broke the Huskies' NCAA record 90-game win streak.

The Cardinal are led by a core group of veterans. Senior forward Kayla Pedersen is averaging 11.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, and senior point guard Jeanette Pohlen is a 43.6 percent 3-point shooter. Junior forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike was an All-American and the Pac-10 Player of the Year a season ago.

Lurking Thursday is a matchup with No. 8 UCLA, the only team in the Pac-10 seemingly capable of knocking off Stanford. The game will be at Maples Pavilion, where the Cardinal have not lost since Feb. 4, 2007.

-Jonathan Kuperberg

No. 2: UCLA

Led an experienced core of upperclassmen, No. 8 UCLA has already proved itself a potent offensive force in the Pac-10. The Bruins have defeated each of their conference opponents so far by double-digit margins. Though their perfect conference record will be vulnerable against No. 4 Stanford on Thursday, the game will not be an easy one for the Cardinal.

Junior Jasmine Dixon, a transfer from Rutgers, is tied with senior Darxia Morris, averaging 11.6 points per game. With such an experienced offense, the Bruins' margins of victory in the Pac-10 carry over into their overall average as well.

They also outrebound opponents by an average of 7.4; the only conference opponent that beat the Bruins on the glass was Washington.

-Alex Matthews

No. 3: USC

The Trojans do not seem to be at the same level as the two teams above them in the rankings; they do, however, seem to be a tier above most of the squads in the conference.

USC played a tough non-conference season. The Trojans defeated No. 17 Georgia on Nov. 23 and two weeks later lost to No. 4 Xavier by only three points in Cincinnati, Ohio. USC's only blemish in the Pac-10 so far was a 42-61 loss at UCLA on Jan. 8.

After missing the NCAA tournament the past four seasons, the Trojans seem on track for a berth. How they fare on their trip this week to the Bay Area will tell how high of a seed they will receive in the tournament.

Junior guard Briana Gilbreath leads the team with 14.8 points and 2.4 steals per game.

-Jonathan Kuperberg

No. 4: Cal

It has been obvious since early in the season that a major impediment to the Bears in Pac-10 competition will be the youth of the team.

After graduating Alexis Gray-Lawson, the only Cal player named to last year's All-Pac-10 Team, the Bears are left with just two seniors on an otherwise entirely underclassman roster. The abilities of these younger players however, will likely help Cal maintain the fourth-place spot it finished with last season.

Sophomore center Talia Caldwell has averaged 8.7 rebounds per game. Additionally Layshia Clarendon and DeNesha Stallworth together have created a potent offensive dynamic for the Bears, averaging 14.6 and 13.4 points per game respectively.

-Alex Matthews

No. 5: Arizona State

Two years removed from their Elite Eight run, the Sun Devils look like they might make the NCAA Tournament again. A 79-66 win over No. 18 DePaul highlighted their 8-2 non-conference schedule. Arizona State swept the Oregon schools to open Pac-10 play, and it seemed the Sun Devils might challenge for the title.

But Arizona State went winless on a trip to the Bay Area the following week, losing by double digits in both contests. A 75-43 blowout over Arizona on Sunday gives Sun Devil fans optimism for the remainder of the season, and good shot at finishing in the top half of the conference.

Junior forward Kimberly Brandon had a double-double in the contest with 13 points and 10 boards.

-Jonathan Kuperberg

No. 6: Arizona

Arizona's recent losses, particularly a 75-43 loss at rival Arizona State, indicate an unsuccessful conference campaign for the Wildcats. But their preseason record, including just a 9-point loss to No. 3 Texas A&M, makes them contenders for the middle of the pack this season.

Senior forward Ify Ibekwe leads the league in rebounds, averaging 10.5 and has broken into the top ten Pac-10 scorers with 14.7 points per game. Davellyn Whyte rounds out the Wildcats offense with an average of 15 points per game.

If the Wildcats can piece together a stronger tactical plan from these individual standouts, they may be able to raise their standing past the bottom half.

-Alex Matthews

No. 7: Washington State

The Cougars shot the lights out against Cal (12 3-pointers and 50 percent from the field) and beat a woeful Oregon State team. In the other four Pac-10 games, Washington State has not inspired any fear in its opponents. It lost to Stanford, UCLA and USC by a combined 84 points.

In fact, the Cougars have only two wins outside of the conference - against Long Beach State and Nevada. Despite their 4-14 record, they blew out the Bears, opening the game with a 15-2 run and leading by 21 points late in the second half.

Don't expect a late surge by Washington State, but with two conference wins, the Cougars do have twice as many as their football team.

-Jonathan Kuperberg

No. 8: Washington

Hours before the Washington men's basketball team torched Cal by 21 points on Sunday, the women's team beat up on the Bears too. Like the Cougars, the Huskies' victory over Cal is their only big Pac-10 win. Unlike their conference rivals, Washington actually had a decent preseason, going 5-4.

Although they lost to both Los Angeles schools, the Huskies played them both tough. In fact, they were actually winning at half time before UCLA pulled away in the second half of their Dec. 31 tilt.

Junior guard Kristi Kingma paces the squad with just over 16 points a game.

-Jonathan Kuperberg

No. 9: Oregon

If nothing else, Oregon's most recent game, a 30-point loss to No. 8 UCLA, indicates that the Ducks will not be a top Pac-10 team this year. But not all recent scores suggest such an abysmal season for Oregon. The Ducks fell by just 3 points at 12-4 USC prior to the devastating loss to the Bruins.

Oregon's strengths can't exactly be attributed to a solid defense; UCLA demonstrated that much. However, an aggressive offense is apparently a staple in Oregon's athletic department; the Ducks have averaged 83.1 points per game, reaching over 100 in three of their preseason contests. But as the football team learned against Auburn, a past record is only as strong as the competition it was created against.

The Ducks' 80-point win against Willamette means very little against a defense, such as UCLA or Stanford, that can handle their scoring power.

-Alex Matthews

No. 10: Oregon State

The Beavers struggled through a 2-16 Pac-10 campaign last year, and this year doesn't look much better. Coach LaVonda Wagner was fired in June after a wave of players left the team and allegations of conflicts with Wagner emerged.

Head coach Scott Rueck will try to revive the team this year, but so far its 0-6 record indicates that a comeback will be a struggle.

The team has potential. Three of the Beavers' top five scorers are underclassmen. But games like Washington - in which a 52-4-lead for Oregon State ended in a 55-52 victory for the Huskies - reveal the remaining weaknesses from the rupture the squad suffered last year. A comeback is possible, but it will take time. With Pac-10 play already underway, the Beavers need more.

-Alex Matthews


Jonathan Kuperberg and Alex Matthews cover women's basketball. Contact them at [email protected]

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