It's Bizarro World in Arizona.
Less than a month into the college basketball season, and just about a month before Pac-12 Conference play tips off, things have turned upside down in the desert.
Arizona — the nation's preseason No. 3-ranked team featuring perhaps the most talented roster in coach Sean Miller's tenure — went 0-3 at the Battle for Atlantis in the Bahamas and looked progressively worse with each game. Arizona State, picked sixth in the league's preseason media preseason poll, is 6-0 and ranked this week at No. 20, with senior guard Tra Holder making an early statement in the Pac-12's Player of the Year race.
For the Wildcats, a combination of injuries (Arizona is playing without Rawle Alkins) and distractions (assistant Emanuel "Book" Richardson was one of four prominent Division I assistants arrested earlier this fall as the result of an ongoing FBI corruption probe) came to a head in the Bahamas. The Wildcats shot 10-for-64 (.156) from 3-point range in three games while preseason national player of the year candidate Allonzo Trier proved he was mortal. The junior guard went 0-for-5 on 3-pointers in an opening loss against North Carolina State, committed five of the Wildcats' 20 turnovers in a loss against SMU, and went 3-for-10 from the floor with another four turnovers in a blowout loss to Purdue.
According to the AP, with the Wildcats dropping out of this week's top 25, it is the first time since the 1986-87 Louisville Cardinals a team has fell from the No. 2 spot to unranked in one week.
Meanwhile, Holder and ASU haven't been denied. The Sun Devils debuted in this week's rankings at No. 20 after improving to 6-0 with a solid 16-point win against then-No. 15 Xavier. (Xavier, which hosts Colorado on Dec. 9, dropped to No. 21 this week.)
Holder earned his second consecutive Pac-12 Player of the Week award on Monday after dropping 40 points on Xavier, going 7-for-14 from the field while adding eight rebounds and six assists.
"Arizona State, a great win beating a team, Xavier, that we're going to play on their floor," CU coach Tad Boyle said. "That was a neutral-court win. It was a great win for our league. They're obviously playing extremely well.
"Obviously Arizona is as talented a team we have in our league. Struggled in the Bahamas but that's going to be a short-term thing. With their talent and their coach, they're going to continue to get better. The November scores aren't indicative of what they're going to be in January. Hopefully the same is true for us. We're 6-0 but hey, we haven't beaten a Power 5 team yet."
Winning at Wazzu
Another team that has turned heads early in the Pac-12 is Washington State.
The Cougars captured the championship of the Wooden Legacy tournament by topping San Diego State two days after defeating then-No. 21 St. Mary's behind 26 points and seven rebounds from Malachi Flynn. Flynn earned tournament MVP honors after recording 22 points, five rebounds, and six assists against San Diego State.
Washington State (6-0) was picked last in the preseason media poll and hasn't won more than 13 games in a season since 2011-12.
Holder is the first Arizona State player to win the Pac-12 Player of the Week honor in consecutive weeks since James Harden early in the 2008-09 season. ASU is ranked for the first time since the end of that same season...No. 14 USC will face a solid test Saturday night in one of the league's premier matchups of the week as the Trojans visit SMU (8 p.m. MST, ESPNU).