Pac-12 12 Things: power rankings, non-conference by the numbers

via OSU athletics
via OSU athletics /

This week in Pac-12 women’s basketball features a slate of games even lighter than last week. With league play (partially) set to begin this weekend, here are my Pac-12 power rankings going off of what we’ve seen in non-conference play, plus one key stat for each team. (All stats listed were obtained via Her Hoop Stats.)

Tier 5: Still need to show they’ve improved

12. Washington

Noteworthy number: 21.2, Amber Melgoza’s free throw rate

It’s one of the few numbers up from last season, in addition to her monster usage rate of 36.4. She’s getting to the line 6.4 times per game through 12 games, good for 37th in the country. However, this team is not going to win very many games with its best player shooting below 28 percent from deep. Her teammates haven’t helped the cause much, either. More than a third of the team’s shots have been triples but they have made just 27.9 percent of them.

11. Washington State

Noteworthy number: 54.4, Chanelle Molina’s 2-point percentage

Indeed, Molina has taken a big step forward this season. That’s an impressive mark inside the arc for a guard, particularly for one that has doubled her attempts from the previous season (8.2 per game up from 3.9). This is a top-heavy team, heavily reliant on Molina, Borislava Hristova and Alexys Swedlund to do the majority of the scoring. They don’t get many offensive rebounds, nor do they have a physically imposing frontcourt. Molina’s mini-leap makes life easier for Hristova and has keyed Swedlund’s hot start (45.8 percent on over six 3-point attempts per game).

10. Colorado

Noteworthy number: 40.1, Kennedy Leonard’s assist percentage

If this holds, that mark will have increased each season of Leonard’s career. She’s done it thus far even with the team is shooting 30.2 percent from deep and she is their best shooter. She can’t assist her own 3-pointers, but she can reap the benefits of a well-rounded addition to the frontcourt.

Peanut Tuitele is shooting nearly 56 percent inside the arc. She rolls hard to the rim, sprints the floor in transition and has the skill level to finish straight line drives. There was no doubt as to whether Leonard could create advantage situations for her teammates. Now with somebody else that can cash those in, this team might be ready to pick up some wins against the top half of the league.

9. USC

Noteworthy number: 79 3-pointers made through 11 games

This team was starved for a regular outside shooting presence last season. Aliyah Mazyck, more of a volume scorer than spot up shooter, was their most consistent threat. Grad transfer Mariya Moore and redshirt freshman Shalexxus Aaron have parachuted in to bolster those efforts this season. That duo has been good for 57 percent of those 79 makes. If Aaron continues to see the floor in Pac-12 play, we may continue to see the ripple effects on point guard Minyon Moore, who will see cleaner driving lanes and have reliable shooters to kick it out to around the arc.

Tier 4: Lurking, waiting to upset somebody

8. Utah

Noteworthy number: 41.1% team offensive rebounding rate

They were a good defensive rebounding team last season. Through 11 games, that mark on the offensive glass is 20th best in the nation. They finished the 2017-18 season at 34.7. Starting bigs Megan Huff and Dre’una Edwards are the primary drivers of that success. Both are skilled enough to use their dribble to work quickly to get up another shot or find somebody spotting up for one of the most dangerous shots in basketball—the standstill 3-pointer off an offensive rebound.

7. Arizona

Noteworthy number: 38.7%, Aari McDonald’s usage rate

This UW transfer is going to have a big say in who wins the Pac-12 regular season crown. Though top teams in the conference will still be likely favorites against the Wildcats, she’s good enough to beat them on the right night. With a star player in the lineup, the team’s supporting players have been able to slide down into more practical roles.

That usage rate currently ranks sixth in the country and first among Power 5 players. Arizona ranking this high may be the biggest surprise of my list. Against teams below them, I just think McDonald is the best player on the floor by a comfortable margin. If UA played any of them 10 times, McDonald alone probably swings at least six of them.

Tier 3: If enough jump shots go in…


Noteworthy number: 47.1 team offensive rebounding rate

That’s the second-highest mark in the country. And unlike Mississippi State (50.5 OReb%), this iteration of the Bruins sure does each one of them. They’ve been an awful jump shooting team through 11 games, shooting 23 percent from beyond the arc.

Japreece Dean is the only rotation player hitting more than 30 percent of her 3-pointers. They desperately need Lindsay Corsaro and Kennedy Burke to start hitting more shots. Their defensive talent won’t match what they had last year. To compete with the Oregon squads and Stanford, they’ll need to put more points on the board.

5. ASU

Noteworthy number: -8, the combined margin in their neutral court losses to Baylor and Louisville

I’ve laid out my concerns with this team plenty. They float through too many close games without getting Kianna Ibis enough touches. But what can I say? Their core group almost led them to victories over two top-10 opponents.

ASU may continue to prove me wrong with their usual stout defense and timely execution in halfcourt sets. I still feel uneasy about the offensive fit of their starting unit. One of their shooters off the bench will need to step up and become a part of their crunch time units.

4. Cal

Noteworthy number: 1, the number of slots they’re still looking to consistently fill around their four best players

We know Asha Thomas, Recee Caldwell, Kianna Smith and Kristine Anigwe are going to be out there for 30-plus minutes. That second slot up front is still up in the air. By the way: Caldwell has been a nice fit next to Thomas, whose spot up shooting I’ve failed to properly appreciate (over 35 percent on more than four attempts per game in all four seasons). Jaelyn Brown, McKenzie Forbes, Alaysia Styles and CJ West have each gotten chances next to Anigwe. It can be tough to find a groove in limited minutes. That committee will likely remain in tact unless one pops against a top-tier opponent.

Tier 2: Still too good to worry about anything this early

3. Oregon State

Noteworthy number: 15.0, the combined drop in minutes per game for Katie McWilliams and Kat Tudor

Again: It’s very early. While they’ve played the likes of Notre Dame, South Carolina and Texas A&M, OSU has also played six of their 11 games against teams that they were going to run off the floor with ease.

But there’s no sense in avoiding it. This is going to be the biggest storyline of the Pac-12 season. Scott Rueck has five really good guards for three spots, not to mention freshman Jasmine Simmons, perhaps the biggest victim in this numbers game. There have been some growing pains with the Destiny Slocum experience. She’s partly been compromised by iffy shot selection, but more so by the lack of a reliable pick and roll partner at center.

Rueck can get on the right side of this numbers game if he rolls more with Taya Corosdale at center and/or Katie McWilliams at the 4. We’ve seen plenty of the latter already. The former will make for some very difficult (and new) defensive assignments for Corosdale against Anigwe, Stanford’s front line and Oregon’s pick and roll attack.

I like that Rueck used the non-conference slate to get a look at everybody. It will be much easier to trim the rotation down the line than to give up on somebody now then have to go back to them later.

The easy compromise is to ride McWilliams at the 4 in the non-Corosdale minutes, which they’ve done some already. They could dip their toe into the water with Corosdale at the 5 against backups or teams with bigs that won’t be able to overwhelm her with their size and strength.

Tier 1: Just get to March with your full team still standing

2. Stanford

Noteworthy number: 41.5, the combined 3-point percentage (on 65 attempts) of DiJonai Carrington, Lexie Hull and Lacie Hull

Lexie Hull has missed all but three games due to injury. If they get her back at full strength, they’ll have the best wing depth in the conference. I had Stanford as one of my eight national championship contenders going into the season. But I was cautious, unsure if their offense would click.

As the calendar turns, that question seems more appropriate for the Beavers than for the Cardinal. The book on Stanford is pretty cut and dry for me at this point. Alanna Smith probably won’t shoot 50 percent from deep all season. But if this trio is in the mid-to-high 30s, they’ll cruise into postseason play with two conference losses at most.

1. Oregon

Noteworthy number: 59.7, the team’s effective field goal percentage

That’s good for tops in the country. eFG% is a shooting percentage that accounts for the value of 3-pointers. The Ducks have canned 40.4 percent of those, 8th best in the country. They’ve also made 59.1 percent of their 2-pointers (2nd). Maite Cazorla, Erin Boley and Satou Sabally are shooting it well from deep. Ruthy Hebard is shooting 73.3 percent from the field. If you look to process over results, Taylor Chavez has given them quality minutes off the bench.

On a macro level, nothing has changed. Beating Oregon relies more on them missing decent-to-open looks (or getting into foul trouble) than anything you can do to make them uncomfortable.

One more number at least worth a mention: Sabrina Ionescu is at 42.9 percent on twos, down from 2017-18’s mark of 49.0. You’ve likely seen reminders to be cautious of numbers skewed by blowout victories. This is the opposite of that. Six of their 11 games have been comfortable wins. Pull up jumpers and shots over length at the basket are the one thing you have to live with against Ionescu and this offensive machine.

Last season it was Oregon State who did an excellent job of limiting Ionescu to those looks and it helped them win a game in Corvallis. A parade to the foul line and shooting efficiently on the right amount of those shots would be a crushing blow for Ionescu to deliver to a Stanford or Oregon State while sending an important message to those at the next level that are watching her closely.

Previous editions of the column: Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1