Who to watch in the Pac-12
Only four teams in the Pac-12 were sent to the NCAA tournament last season and it could very well be the same this season. Arizona, the leagues top team could contend for the national title followed up by Oregon, who made it to the final four last year and could very well be there again this year, USC and UCLA who are the only four teams that we see being sent to the tournament, although Arizona State may get a bid with its phenomenal start to the season.
Pre-season Pac-12 rankings
- Arizona (11-3)
Arizona was the preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 and still has a very good chance as only Arizona State has a better record and better ranking. Currently 11-3 and 2-0 in conference play they are off to a good start to the season with returning players in Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins currently averaging 21.3 and 14.2 point srespectively.
2. UCLA (11-3)
UCLA lost a key player last year in Lonzo Ball as well as T.J. Leaf who averaged 16.3 points per game. However, they do have several returners, Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh but they will not perform at the same level as last year because of the loss of Lonzo’s ability to make his teammates better. The one thing that will keep UCLA afloat is their recruiting class, with five-star point guard Jalen Hands and Kris Wiles, and four-star recruits Cody Riley and Jalen Hill they have a good chance of making it to the NCAA tournament.
3. USC (10-5)
The Trojans retained almost every single player from last year and only have a single newcomer in Derryck Thornton, a transfer from Duke, who is projected to be among their top scorers. Between Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu combining for over 30 points and 13nrebounds per game it’s no surprise they have a top 10 offense in the country. Considering they were a 26-win team last year they have a shot of making it to the NCAA tournament, the only problem is that their competition has upped their game.
4. Oregon (11-4)
The Ducks have brought back only several of their players from last year’s Final Four team but have plenty of new recruits. A pair of transfers, Elijah Brown and Paul White, and a freshman, Troy Brown who was ranked 13th on Sports Illustrated list of top 50 freshman. The new recruits should prevent Oregon’s offense from falling to far from last year. However, their defense will suffer with the loss of Chris Boucher and Jordan Bell. The 6’9 four star commit to Oregon, Kenneth Wooten will also make an impact on the court.
- Stanford (6-8)
Stanford is one of the middle tier Pac-12 teams. With a bottom tier back court and a top tier front court makes a middle tier team. It’s only Jerod Haase’s second season but there will be improvement from last years record of 6-12 with the retention of Reid Travis and a trio of top 100 freshman, Josh Sharma, Marcus Sheffield, and Cameron Walker. However, it is doubtful they will make it to the NCAA tournament.
6. Utah (10-3)
It will be difficult for the Utes to make it to the tournament, without Kuzma they are extremely lacking in offense. But it is a veteran led team, Senior David Collette will need to lead his team in scoring at 13.9 ppg. He will also need junior Sedrick Barefield and Long Beach State transfer Justin Bibbins to help him from the back court with their combined 24 points and 7.5 assists. With the departure of both Kuzma and Devon Daniel’s they may not receive a bid for NCAA tournament.
7. Arizona State University (12-1)
Arizona State didn’t receive much preseason attention but currently have the best record in the Pac-12 at 12-1 with their only loss coming from fellow conference team Arizona. They have improved their defense since last year but are still outside the top 100. Their veteran roster with senior backcourt duo, Shannon Evans and Tra Holder, will keep their offense from dipping. They have also added a pair of top-80 freshman, Romello White and Kimani Lawrence, that have already made an impact combining for just under 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. They have a good chance of getting an NCAA tournament bid but there will be nights where their offense isn’t enough and they feel the sting of their weak defense.
8. Oregon State University (9-5)
The Beaver’s are likely to be tremendously improved from last seasons five wins. Steven Thompson and Drew Eubanks pulled out of the draft and are returning for another season, already showing their impact as both currently average double digits. If their star junior Tres Trinkle can stay healthy for the entire season they are expected to see vast improvement, even though they wont do much in the league.
9. Colorado (8-6)
Colorado is yet another team bringing back only several players from last year. Colorado will be relying on its returning players, George King, Dominique Collier, and Tory Stewart-Miller to pick up the slack. The Buffaloes lost a key offensive player for them in Derrick White and will need to rely on significant contributions from the incoming players if they hope to stay at the same place they were last year.
10. Washington (11-4)
Despite the loss of No.1 draft pick Markelle Fultz, the Huskies are off to a good start at 11-4. Washington is in a rebuilding stage after last year losing their best player and this year acquiring a new head coach, Mike Hopkins, but none of their top scorers are seniors which is a good sign. David Crisp will take over Futlz spot at point guard and freshman Jaylen Nowell will accompany him in the backcourt while Noah Dickerson will continue to be their go to option in the frontcourt.
11. California (7-6)
California is sitting at the bottom of the pack after bringing back only 16% of its minutes and losing the No. 61 player in the ESPN 100 coming out of high school who averaged 12.2 points and 3.5 assists during his freshman season. They did acquire a transfer from Kentucky, Marcus Lee, but he can only do so much for the Golden Bears. They will need to heavily rely on newcomers, but things aren’t looking good as only two players are currently averaging double digits.
12. Washington State University (8-6)
Washington state is going to have a very long season with the departure of four of their top scorers including Josh Hawkinson who averaged them 15.5 points and 2.5 assists per game. They did get two Division 1 transfers, Drick Bernstein and Derrien King as well as Juco guard Kwinton Hinson. Their point guard Malachi Flynn should become a solid player during his sophomore year but it won’t be enough to pull Washington State out of their nine year NCAA tournament drought.