Best of the West: UCLA, Arizona on top, followed by Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga, and Eastern Washington earns a mention
Feb. 2, 2023 Updated Thu., Feb. 2, 2023 at 10:03 p.m.
With 38 days until the NCAA Tournament field is unveiled, conference races are tightening across the West.
In the Pac-12, UCLA’s three-game lead over Arizona is down to one.
San Diego State’s edge over Boise State has vanished in the Mountain West.
One game separates Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference.
The stretch run will begin to take shape this weekend with Boise State visiting SDSU on Friday evening (FS1) and the Zags heading to Saint Mary’s on Saturday night (ESPN).
The top matchups in the Pac-12 both involve Oregon, which swings through Arizona.
Meanwhile, the Bruins have what should be a respite from high-pressure games. They host the Washington schools this weekend before a trip to Oregon next week.
To the latest Best of the West rankings …
Also considered: Eastern Washington, Loyola Marymount, Southern Utah, UC Santa Barbara, Utah and Utah State
Last week: 1
NET ranking: 5
Comment: One reason UCLA’s position in the NET has held steady despite back-to-back losses: Three of its four defeats have come to teams that will be high seeds in the NCAAs (Arizona, Baylor and Illinois).
Last week: 2
NET ranking: 10
Comment: With the Wildcats in Los Angeles the week before the Pac-12 Tournament, they could face both USC and UCLA twice in a nine-day span.
3. Saint Mary’s
Last week: 3
NET ranking: 6
Comment: Officially, SMC’s arena has a capacity of 3,500. We’ll set the Over/Under for Saturday night at 4,000 (and will probably never know the true total).
Last week: 4
NET ranking: 12
Comment: Of note for Saturday: The Zags have won five of the past six in Moraga, California.
Last week: 6
NET ranking: 55
Comment: The Trojans would make the NCAAs if the field were selected today. But their path will narrow quickly with losses to the wrong teams. Two of those teams visit this weekend.
6. Boise State
Last week: 7
NET ranking: 21
Comment: The Broncos are this close to a perfect record in MW play. Both of their losses have been by two points on the road (Nevada and New Mexico).
7. San Diego State
Last week: 5
NET ranking: 27
Comment: The Aztecs don’t have an easy path to the top seed in the MW Tournament. Their stretch run includes two dates with Boise State and trips to New Mexico and Utah State. Yikes.
Last week: 9
NET ranking: 34
Comment: The Wolf Pack have beaten SDSU, Boise State, Utah State and New Mexico – but all have come in Reno. We’re waiting for a breakthrough on the road.
Last week: NR
NET ranking: 57
Comment: The Ducks are showing signs of life at just the right time with four wins in their past five games. The lone loss – at Stanford – is a major blemish, however.
10. New Mexico
Last week: 10
NET ranking: 37
Comment: We strongly considered Utah State for this spot after the Lobos’ head-to-head loss in Logan. But UNM’s victory over Saint Mary’s was the difference. USU doesn’t have anything to match.
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