Five PAC-12 Breakout Candidates
The Pac-12 has been a conference that has had its struggles in past years but with this year that may change. The league doesn’t have a team that stands out as a definite title contender but the league has nine teams that could reasonably have NCAA Tournament chances going into this season. With what should be a loaded league, there are multiple players that have a chance to make a big impact for their teams going into next season.
Chris Duarte – Oregon
With Payton Pritchard graduating, the Oregon Ducks lose an All-Time great player and a consensus First-Team All-American. That will be tough to replace but one of the candidates to do so is former JUCO standout, in guard Chris Duarte. Duarte is a 6’6” athletic combo guard that has ball-handling capabilities but is a better 2-Guard. Duarte was someone who somewhat struggled to find his role early on but he certainly came into his own in Conference play, as he averaged 13.4 points per game in league play. With Pritchard gone, he will be asked to play a much bigger role offensively and he is more than capable of becoming the go-to guy for the Ducks.
Ethan Anderson – USC
USC should have one of the most entertaining frontcourts in the country next season as they have both Evan and Isaiah Mobley but one of the keys for the Trojans will have to be the development of Ethan Anderson. As a freshman, Anderson averaged 5.5 points and 4.5 assists per game while being a steadying force at the point. While Anderson was good a year ago, the Trojans will need him to become more of a scorer in order to succeed. I think he can be close to a 10 point and 5 assist type player, that can both set up teammates to score and be a true-scorer himself.
Hameir Wright – Washington
Washington struggled mightily in the PAC-12 last season and a large reason for that was backcourt play. With Jaden McDaniels and Isaiah Stewart in the frontcourt, the team was set upfront but with both heading to the NBA the Huskies will need to get some production from other pieces, one of those is Hameir Wright. Wright is a natural four who can play both inside and out, he averaged 5.6 points per game a year ago. He should be able to increase his production this year while leading Washington to a better finish in the PAC-12.
Rylan Jones – Utah
Utah should be much improved this season and one of the keys for that will look to be Rylan Jones. Jones averaged 9.6 points and 4.4 assists per game as a freshman. Jones was really good in non-conference play but he somewhat took a step back in league play. This year Jones will look to take a step forward being a secondary scorer and a primary playmaker for the Utes. He should average around 12 points and 5 assists per game this year while helping the Utes contend for an NCAA Tournament bid.
Taeshon Cherry – Arizona State
After being one of the top teams in the PAC-12 over the past three years, Arizona State is in a position to win the PAC-12 title this year. This is mainly because they have a really good group of guards led by Remy Martin (assuming he comes back), Josh Christopher, and Alonzo Verge. While the guards are major factors for their success, Arizona State needs frontcourt help. Taeshon Cherry is a player that should play some 4 and 5 for the Sun Devils this year, he has been rather inefficient shooting thus far but his ability to score and rebound will be key. For Arizona State to sustain their highest level of success, his ability to step in and help in the frontcourt could be what allows Arizona State to be a PAC-12 Championship contender.