Pac-10 Women's Basketball Power Rankings

Photo: Talia Caldwell and the Bears face the Oregon schools on the road this week following a split at home against USC and UCLA.
Anne Marie Schuler/Staff
Talia Caldwell and the Bears face the Oregon schools on the road this week following a split at home against USC and UCLA.

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No. 1: Stanford

The No. 4 Cardinal should get used to this position, because it will probably be here for the rest of the season. Stanford, which is 16-2 overall and undefeated in conference play, has been the Pac-10's crown jewel the last few seasons.

Right now, it seems like the question isn't if anybody can beat the Cardinal but rather if anybody can compete with them. The squad has smoked every conference team it has faced; the closest game was its 26-point win over UCLA, and two victories were by 44-point margins.

Stanford still has the Los Angeles road trip coming up, but the location of its games hasn't made much of an impact on its performance. The only factor that has is injuries. When starting forward Kayla Pedersen sat out for a game, the team lost, 91-71, to No. 12 DePaul.

No. 2: UCLA

The No. 11 Bruins arrived in the Bay Area last week looking to stake a claim at the Pac-10 title by knocking off the mighty Cardinal. UCLA (16-2, 6-1 in the Pac-10) barely managed to split after getting destroyed by Stanford.

Nonetheless, the Bruins have separated themselves from the other eight squads in the conference. They crushed USC, 61-42, earlier in the season, but were also a few free throws away from losing to an inconsistent Cal squad.

Home games this week against the Arizona schools, which are tied for third-place in the conference with the Trojans, give UCLA the opportunity to further distance themselves from the rest of the pack. Senior guard Darxia Morris, who scored a career-high 22 points against the Bears, paces the team with 12 points per game.

No. 3: USC

The Trojans were swept on the road by the Bay Area schools, but now that their most challenging road trip is over, USC (12-6, 4-3) still sits comfortably in a third-place tie.

It hosts the Arizona schools this week and has the chance to move into sole possession of third place - and perhaps on track for an NCAA tournament berth - with a sweep. Junior guard Briana Gilbreath has done a little bit of everything, leading the team in points (15.2), blocks (1.3) and steals (2.5). She is second on the team in rebounding, pulling down just over seven boards a game.

No. 4: Cal

The Bears (11-7, 3-4) have been an enigma all through conference play. At home, they have been impressive (except for their loss to Stanford, but as previously mentioned, every team loses to the Cardinal).

They beat USC convincingly and almost upset UCLA last weekend. Earlier in the season, Cal crushed the Arizona schools by a combined 32 points. That is why the Bears, a game behind the Wildcats and Sun Devils in the standings, are placed ahead of them here.

However, despite Cal's prowess at Haas Pavilion, the team has yet to win on the road in conference play. The Bears were swept by the Washington schools in their first Pac-10 road trip this season.

This week's away games are against arguably the weakest pair of teams - Oregon and Oregon State. If Cal doesn't win both games, it will certainly drop far in the power rankings.

No. 5: Arizona State

It's hard to believe that the same school that blew out Oregon and Arizona lost to Washington State and defeated lowly Oregon State by just three points.

It has been a first half of Pac-10 play marked by extremes for the Sun Devils (12-5, 4-3). They shot just under 38 percent in their 70-65 loss to the Cougars on Thursday, allowing 11-of-17 3-pointers. Nevertheless, the Sun Devils 75-43 win over the Wildcats place them in the top-half of the power rankings. On Jan. 18, Arizona State outplayed its arch-rival in every facet of the game. The squad made more than twice as many baskets as Arizona.

That won't happen this week in Los Angeles, where the Sun Devils will be lucky to come out with a split.

No. 6: Arizona

The Wildcats (13-5, 4-3) have done two things this season that Cal has not been able to do - defeat New Mexico in Albuquerque, N.M., and sweep the Washington schools. But when Arizona challenged the Bears at Haas Pavilion on Jan. 8, it fell, 80-60.

The Wildcats have won all their home Pac-10 games this year and lost all their road ones. A .500 record in a top-heavy conference won't satisfy the selection committee though. TThey have a golden opportunity to snag some road wins this coming week against USC and UCLA. Don't expect Arizona to score over 100 points - as it did versus Oregon - against either Los Angeles school.

No. 7: Oregon

The Ducks (12-6, 3-4) like to score. A lot. They have topped the century mark on four occasions this season and only once have been held under 60.

They don't, however, seem to like to play much defense, as they have given up at least 79 points in four of their seven Pac-10 games (all losses).

Oregon shoots a lot of 3-pointers - 24 per game - but only makes 35 percent of them. Like Arizona, the Ducks have taken care of business at home in Pac-10 play, going 3-0.

Unfortunately, those wins were against the three worst conference teams. For a team that averages 82.9 points per game on the season, Oregon has only topped 80 once on the road in the Pac-10.

No. 8: Washington State

There are two ways to look at the Cougars' conference record so far. Washington State (5-15, 3-5) is either eighth in a 10-team league, or it has the fifth-best record in a 10-team league.

The traffic in the middle of the Pac-10 has allowed the Cougars - and their .250 record - to stay competitive in the conference. They are only a game and a half out of third, and with their next three games against Washington and the Oregon schools, they just might firmly plant themselves in the middle of the pack.

After all, unlike many squads in the conference, Washington State has won on the road.

No. 9: Washington

The Huskies (7-10, 2-6) must be looking forward to their Jan. 3 rivalry game against the Cougars, because bragging rights is just about the only thing they can win this season.

After a promising and decisive win over Cal on Jan. 16, Washington was swept by the Arizona schools - by six points total. That road trip might end up being the difference in the Huskies' season. How they respond against Washington State will show whether they have anything left in the tank.

No. 10: Oregon State

The Beavers (7-11, 0-7) have yet to win a conference game this season, and for that, they come in last in this week's power rankings.

That is not to say Oregon State has not competed with other teams; only one of its Pac-10 games was decided by double digits. The Beavers were a missed 3-pointer at the buzzer away from sending their Dec. 31 game against Arizona State into overtime. And they were winning late against Washington - by 13 points, no less - before the Huskies went on a miraculous 16-0 run to close the game and shock Oregon State.

The Beavers are a young squad, with four underclassmen in the starting lineup. By the end of their college careers, they will have had plenty of success in the Pac-10. Just maybe not this season.


Jonathan Kuperberg covers women's basketball. Contact him at [email protected]

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