While the Pac 12 Conference should be dominated by Arizona this season, the rest of the conference should be very competitive within like it was a season ago. Arizona comes in ranked #2 nationally and Utah started 25th. The Pac-12 may not be at the peak it was last year where 3 teams made the Sweet 16 and six teams went to the NCAA Tournament, but it should be a fun conference to watch because a lot of these teams could be on bubble watch come March.
After Arizona, teams from 2-9 in the preseason media poll, will be fun to watch. There are some very good teams this season coming off of down years looking to get back close to the top. While nationally the conference may not be as relevant as past years, there should be some excitement out west.
Preseason Media Poll:
- Arizona State
- Washington State
- Oregon State
My Prediction Rankings with Team Previews (KenPom.com rankings as of November 18th):
- Arizona (5): This is a no-doubter. Arizona comes into the season ranked 2nd in the country and they have a freshman class to go along with that ranking. In addition, Arizona has 5 returning players that go significant playing time last season and with their aforementioned freshman class, they should be dominant in the Pac 12. With point guard TJ McConnell running the floor and big man Kaleb Tarczewski down low, those are two guys that can will get lots of assists and rebounds while forwards Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brandon Ashley, and Stanley Johnson doing most of the scoring. The offense should be there, but what about the defense? According to KenPom.com, their defense shouldn’t skip a beat. They are ranked 4th overall in the country in AdjD, which calculates points allowed per 100 possessions. Look for Arizona to dominate this conference with probably only 1 or 2 losses just because it is so hard to run the table. That isn’t out of the question, but Arizona, barring major injuries, will win this conference.
- Colorado (47): Colorado isn’t a lock to make the Big Dance by any means, but because of their returning players, this team could make some moves. Returning players Askia Booker, Xavier Johnson, and big man Josh Scott bring a dynamic skill set to a team that is capable of making some noise in a down year in the Pac 12. Scott is a big man that is a load inside. He will get his double double most nights and he’s going to be a force to be reckon with. Coach Tad Boyle has been very successful in his 5 years at Colorado. Not being below .500 and never losing more than 21 games are two stats that stick out on his resume in Boulder. They have a solid team that takes the floor and they should get back to at least 21 wins which should get them back to the tournament if they can get some solid non conference wins.
- Utah (44): The Utes have finally made it to be nationally recognized. They come into the season ranked 25th and I could definitely see them make a run a tournament berth. Guard Delon Wright who is quite a playmaker to say the least leads this Utes squad. He averaged nearly 16 points per game last season and didn’t stop there. He grabbed 6.3 rebounds and even dished out 5.3 assists per game in last years’ campaign. He returns to the Pac 12 as the leader in shooting percentage. This guy is the real deal and he has some great role players to go along with him in Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor. Don’t be surprised if this Utah team wins around 22 or so games this year and make a run at the NCAAs.
- Stanford (53): After coming off a surprising Sweet 16 appearance last season, the Cardinal come into this season looking to get back to the place their season ended a year ago. Coach Johnny Dawkins got this team to the Tournament last season mostly because of the play of his big man Dwight Powell. Now without Powell and Huestis to the NBA, Chasson Randle is a player that will need to step up for this team to be successful. Stefan Nastic and Anthony Brown are two role players that are key for the success of the Cardinal because Randle cant do it all by himself. Freshman Reid Travis, a McDonalds All American, should add another playmaker to this team at the power forward position. The Cardinal may not make it back to the Sweet 16, but an NCAA Tournament berth should be plausible.
- UCLA (17): This isn’t the UCLA team of old. They lost their three best players in Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams, and Zach LaVine to the NBA Draft. No other team in the nation lost as much as the Bruins did. But, coming into this year, coach Steve Alford will have to coach this team up behind experienced point guard Norman Powell. Then, they lost two of their top recruits because of ineligibility issues. With all of cards stacked against them, they will have to make the most of what they have, which really isn’t as bad as it sounds. They have players that have skill, but not many outside of Bryce Alford and Norman Powell with experience. The talent might be there, but they might struggle with consistency as that will come along with experience. KenPom really likes this team because of their offense and their AdjO is in the top ten. Look for the Bruins to be competitive, but not necessarily a lock for to be a tournament team.
- Washington (66): After a tough season last year, the Huskies brought in a plethora of recruits and JC transfers to help boost this team. Coach Lorenzo Romar has two key pieces in place with returning starters Nigel Williams-Goss and Andrew Andrews at guard. Two big men as well that will definitely help are Jernard Jarreau who tore his ACL in the first game last season along with Shawn Kemp Jr. who is in much better shape and will be much improved this year. Transfer center Robert Upshaw is going to be quite player to watch. He is a big 7-footer who has a tremendous presence down low in the post. Darin Johnson is a key role player who will have to account for some of the loss of CJ Wilcox to the NBA who was one of the best scorers in UW history. Williams-Goss is a player who runs the floor very well and in the first game of the year flirted with a triple double. If they Huskies can get consistent scoring from the outside, this could be a dangerous team because of their depth.
- California (61): When Mike Montgomery stepped down at the end of last season, many people were wondering where this program would go. Well, they went out and got a great coach coming off of a deep NCAA Tournament run with Tennessee in Cuonzo Martin. This team isn’t that bad either. With big man David Kravish down low, capable of doing a lot of good things this is a team that Kravish will have lead. He won’t be doing it by himself though. Jabari Bird and Tyrone Wallace can really shoot the outside shot. For this team to succeed, they will have to be consistent in making the shot from beyond the arc. The Cal Bears can have a successful year because of how good of a coach Cuonzo Martin is. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to play in the Pac 12. I think there will be an adjustment period and that is why the Bears slot in at 7th.
- Arizona State (78): After losing Jahii Carson to the NBA, one of the best PGs in the country, the Sun Devils will have to find someone to lead this team like he did a season ago. It wasn’t just Carson. Arizona State loses 64% of their scoring from last season and they will have to find some scorers to make that up. Shaq McKissic is one player that came on last year and proved that he could score last year and he will have to do a lot more of that if Herb Sendek’s Sun Devils want to stay competitive. This team is not capable of an NCAA run, but maybe the NIT is more realistic.
- Oregon (31): The Ducks come into this season riding high (literally) after season. They made a good run in the Tournament but now find themselves in some hot water. Dana Altman’s Ducks lost 5 key players to graduation. In addition to that, Damyean Dotson, Dominic Artis, and Brandon Austin were dismissed for their involvement in a rape investigation. Dotson, Artis, and Austin would have all started for this Ducks team. Then, two young players Ben Carter and AJ Lapray transferred followed by one of their best recruits, JaQuan Lyle, unable to enroll. To top off all of that, Elgin Cook and Jalil Abdul-Bassit were cited for shoplifting. In all, they have lost 10 players from last year and Cook and Abdul-Bassit are unsure of what their status will be. After all of that, it will be interesting to see what this team is capable of doing. One player from last year that is capable of a lot is Joseph Young. He was one of the best players for the Ducks last year and this year he’ll have to carry this somewhat depleted team. I think it is safe to say the Ducks will have to try to make the most out of what they got and they will definitely be in a rebuilding stage this season.
- USC (168): After a disappointing debut season for Andy Enfield in Los Angeles, he will be looking to turn it around. Losing to Portland St. in the season opener probably wasn’t the way he wanted it to start.
- Oregon State (214): After the Craig Robinson era ended, the Beavers hired coach Wayne Tinkle from Montana. He wasn’t left with much and will have to implement his system.
- Washington State (187): New coach Ernie Kent will have some recruiting and major coaching to do down on the Palouse. Kent is a good coach capable of some good things, but Cougs fans will have to be patient.
Player of the Year: Chasson Randle, Stanford
Freshman of the Year: Stanley Johnson, Arizona
Coach of the Year: Larry Krystkowiak, Utah
ISH’s All Pac 12 team:
- G: Chasson Randle, Stanford
- G: Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington
- G: Delon Wright, Utah
- F: Josh Scott, Colorado
- F: Kaleb Tarczewski, Arizona
Seattle sports fan and MLB writer for International Sports Hub