PAC-12 Conference Preview

The Pac-12 is coming off a rough 2018-19 season as the league only sent three teams to the NCAA Tournament with one of those being Oregon who had to go because they won the league tournament. The league lost by far the most buy games of any of the six major conferences and legitimately had the potential to only send one team to the NCAA Tournament late in the season. The good news though is that the league will be a lot better than it was last year as most of the teams within the league have gotten a lot better, In my preseason Bracketology, there will be five teams in my projected field of 68 and while that is not a lot compared to other conferences, this is a major improvement from how the league performed last season. With an absolutely awful performance by the PAC-12 last season, it is crucial that the league takes a big step forward this year. 

1.Oregon Ducks

Oregon comes into this season off a Sweet 16 appearance thanks to a late-season surge that saw them win the league tournament while they marched to the Sweet 16. While the team will lose a few really good players, Dana Altman did really good by adding some late transfers to help this program continue to be near the top of the league standings. Payton Pritchard will continue to be one of the best players in the league, his ability to both pass and score the ball will make him such a valuable piece for this team. Former New Mexico sharpshooter Anthony Mathis will pair with Will Richardson and Chris Durate to help Pritchard at the guard spot. The Ducks will be loaded in the frontcourt with former UNLV forward Shakur Juiston who will mix with Francis Okoro, and freshmen CJ Walker, Chandler Lawson, and when eligible N’Faly Dante. 

Final Analysis: Oregon has been as good as any Pac-12 team over the past few years and that should continue this season. The Ducks will have a really good point guard in Payton Pritchard with a lot of really good pieces surrounding him. While I think Oregon could struggle early on trying to fit in some of their pieces together, they are the most talented team in the league which should play out and result in a Pac-12 regular-season title and another second weekend run in the big dance. 

Projected Rotation:

PG: Payton Pritchard Senior 6’2”

SG: Anthony Mathis Senior 6’3”

SF: Will Richardson Sophomore 6’5”

PF: CJ Walker Freshman 6’8”

C: Francis Okoro Sophomore 6’9”

Key Reserves: Shakur Juiston, Chandler Lawson, Chris Durate, N’Faly Dante

2.Arizona Wildcats

The 2018-19 season was rough for Arizona as they missed the NCAA Tournament amidst the fog of the FBI Investigation, fortunately, they were able to keep Sean Miller and are now amongst the teams with a legitimate chance to win the PAC-12. The team adds Five-Star point guard Nico Mannion, who will look to take over as the team’s point guard, Mannion will put up numbers as both a passer and a scorer. The Wildcats will look for fellow Five-Star guard, Josh Green will play as a scorer first, he’s a long and athletic wing that has drawn Nick Johnson comparisons. Guards Dylan Smith and Max Hazzard will look to provide some experienced help for this young backcourt. Chase Jeter, Ira Lee and Stone Gettings are solid pieces inside but aren’t really game-changers. Zeke Nnaji is a freshman that should get minutes a freshman and looks to be the big man of the future. 

Final Analysis: The backcourt duo of Nico Mannion and Josh Green will look to be really good from the jump which will allow Arizona to be one of the top teams in the league. Assuming those two are good as freshmen and everyone else can fit into their roles, this Arizona team can win the PAC-12 and if things break right, maybe Sean Miller can finally get to that elusive Final Four. 

Projected Rotation:

PG: Nico Mannion Freshman 6’3”

SG: Max Hazzard Senior 6’0”
SF: Josh Green Freshman 6’6”
PF: Stone Gettings Senior 6’8”
C: Chase Jeter Senior 6’10”
Key Reserves: Dylan Smith, Ira Less, Zeke Nnaji, Devonaire Doutrive

3.Washington Huskies

Last year a veteran-led team brought Washington to a PAC-12 and helped them win a game in the NCAA Tournament. With a lot of players graduating, the Huskies towards recruiting to help keep this team near the top of the PAC-12. Washington will be relying heavily upon the frontcourt duo of Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels to be outstanding from the jump. Stewart is a more physical big inside while McDaniels is a more athletic guard-like big for this team. Quade Green will run the point for this team when he gets eligible second semester. Early on Elijah Hardy and freshman RaeQuan Battle will hope to keep this team afloat at the guard spot, both are solid options for this team. This team has a really good collection of wings led by Jamal Bey and Nahziah Carter who will provide some help playing as lengthy forwards that could potentially knock down shots and stretch the floor. Hameir Wright, Sam Timmons, and Bryan Penn-Johnson are decent bigs that can provide some help inside but probably would be utilized better elsewhere for this season alone. 

Final Analysis: This Washington team is absolutely loaded inside with not only McDaniels and Stewart but a really good bunch of reserves. The problem will be whether or not they can get enough help at the guard spot, especially early. They will need some good guard production from players like Battle or Hardy otherwise this team could find themselves in NCAA Tournament jeopardy. 

Projected Rotation:

PG: Quade Green Junior 6’0”

SG: RaeQuan Battle Freshman 6’4”
SF: Nahziah Carter Junior 6’6”
PF: Isaiah Stewart Freshman 6’9”
C: Jaden McDaniels Freshman 6’9”
Key Reserves: Hameir Wright, Jamal Bey, Elijah Hardy, Sam Timmons, Bryan Penn-Johnson

4.Colorado Buffaloes

Colorado comes into this season with high expectations as they will return most of their roster from last year’s team that made the NIT. McKinley Wright IV is the main headliner for this team due to his ability to set up the team on the offensive side of the ball, while being a good scorer. Tyler Bey is a really good player as he’s an excellent interior scorer and rebounder that should be an All-league player this season. Colorado has a good combination of forwards next to Bey with D’Shawn Schwartz, Lucas Siewert, and Evan Battey who will help this team with some production and on the defensive end. Shane Gatling and Daylen Kountz will look to provide help to Wright at the guard spot for this Colorado team. 

Final Analysis: Colorado will have a really good dynamic duo in McKinley Wright IV and Tyler Bey that should allow this team to be one of the better teams in the PAC-12. I’m not quite sold on the Top-25 hype surrounding the program due to my thinking that the program doesn’t get the necessary improvements needed as a whole to be in the Top-25 but this team should be heading back to the NCAA Tournament. 

Projected Rotation:

PG: McKinley Wright IV Junior 6’0”

SG: Shane Gatling Senior 6’2”
SF: D’Shawn Schwartz Junior 6’7”
PF: Tyler Bey Junior 6’7”
C: Lucas Siewert Senior 6’10”
Key Reserves: Evan Battey, Daylen Kountz, Dallas Walton 

5.Arizona State Sun Devils

Arizona State has now gone to back to back NCAA Tournaments which is something no other team in the PAC-12 can say. The Bobby Hurley era has been pretty good so far and while they haven’t made it out of the first round to this point things are definitely looking up for this Sun Devils program. Point guard Remy Martin will look to continue to be a great team leader as he is a really good passer and a decent scorer. Rob Edwards should provide some scoring at the other guard spot for this team. This team has two solid returning options at the forward spot in Kamani Lawrence and Romello White who should start. JUCO transfer Khalid Thomas and sophomore forward Taeshon Cherry look to compete for that last starting spot, both players have some upside, although most fans should take a wait and see approach with them. Jaelen House and Alonzo Verge Jr. will be competing for reserve minutes at the guard spot, while Jalen Graham provides some bench help down-low. 

Final Analysis: For Arizona State to get back to the NCAA Tournament, Remy Martin needs to continue to show the form he had late last year. In addition to that, an improvement from Taeshon Cherry and Rob Edwards will be needed on the offensive end. If they get those two things to happen, this team should be able to pick up the necessary wins needed to make the NCAA Tournament for a third straight season. 

Projected Rotation:

PG: Remy Martin Junior 6’0”

SG: Rob Edwards Senior 6’4”
SF: Kimani Lawrence Junior 6’7”
PF: Khalid Thomas Junior 6’9”
C: Romello White Junior 6’9”
Key Reserves: Taeshon Cherry, Jaelen House, Jalen Graham, Alonzo Verge Jr. 

6.USC Trojans

Andy Enfield is back for another season after failing to live up to preseason expectations once again and once again he will have some talented pieces that on paper should lead this team to the NCAA Tournament. The big recruit is Five-Star forward Isaiah Mobley who is a long and athletic forward that can play with guard-like skills. Nick Rakocevic is a really good interior post-presence and rebounder that will continue to make an impact on this team. Freshman Oneyeka Okongwu will look to start as at a forwards spot forming a formidable frontcourt, while Max Agbonkpolo will help this team inside as well. Guards Jonah Matthews and Elijah Weaver will make up an average backcourt, although look for Ethan Anderson and Charles O’Bannon to help out at the guard spot as well.  

Final Analysis: The talent of this USC team will allow this team to have a chance to compete near the top of the league standings. The two things that are a cause of concern for this team is a little too forward-dependant and also that this team is coached by Andy Enfield who has consistently underachieved. Maybe they can get those frontcourt questions answered and the team can get to the NCAA Tournament but they could also flame out and be a mediocre to below average PAC-12 team. 

Projected Rotation:

PG: Jonah Matthews Senior 6’3”

SG: Elijah Weaver Sophomore 6’5”
SF: Oneyeka Okongwu Freshman 6’8”
PF: Isaiah Mobley Freshman 6’9”
C: Nick Rakocevic Senior 6’11”
Key Reserves: Charles O’Bannon Jr, Ethan Anderson, Daniel Utomi, Max Agbonkpolo

7.Oregon State Beavers

Oregon State comes into this year looking halfway decent as they return three really good players headlined by potential conference Player of the year Tres Tinkle. Tinkle looks to continue to be an outstanding scorer playing as a do it all forward that can make shots from anywhere on the court while being a good passer and an elite-level rebounder. Junior Ethan Thompson will look to continue to be a solid ball-handler and secondary scorer for this team. Big man Kylor Kelley is a decent rim-running and rebounding big man that will do the majority of his damage on the defensive end where he will be one of the top defenders in the sport. Alfred Hollins and Zach Reichle will probably fill out the starting five playing more as defending and offensive pieces. Jarod Lucas and Gianni Hunt hope to help out Antoine Vernon as potential guards playing off the bench while Roman Silva should play a role as a reserve big man.

Final Analysis: Oregon State has been a very mediocre PAC-12 team in the past and that should continue to be the case for the Beavers. Tres Tinkle and Ethan Thompson will continue to be really good players offensively, while Kylor Kelley will be a really good defensive player. I don’t think this team should be expecting an NCAA Tournament birth but they will be at least competitive within the league and they could maybe sneak into the NIT. 

Projected Rotation:

PG: Ethan Thompson Junior 6’5”

SG: Zach Reichle Junior 6’5”
SF: Alfred Hollins Junior 6’6”
PF: Tres Tinkle Senior 6’8”
C: Kylor Kelley Senior 7’0”
Key Reserves: Antoine Vernon, Jarod Lucas, Roman Silva, Gianni Hunt

8.UCLA Bruins

By far the weirdest hiring of the offseason came when UCLA missed out on a few candidates and wound up hiring former Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin who will look to come in and turn this program around. Cronin is a tough-minded, defense-first coach which doesn’t exactly match the prototypical run and gun style of play that UCLA fans are known to enjoy. The team will look for redshirt freshman guard Tyger Campbell and redshirt freshman forward Shareef O’Neal to step and play big minutes for the program, neither was able to play last year due to differing injuries but are expected to start this season. Prince Ali will look to provide some scoring at the guard spot playing alongside Jules Bernard and David Singleton. Forwards Chris Smith, Jalen Hill, and Cody Riley will look to provide some scoring on the inside, Smith was the best of the three last year but don’t rule out a potential breakout year from Hill or Riley. 

Final Analysis: This UCLA program has a decent amount of talented pieces coming back while they have a pretty good coach in Mick Cronin that demands the best out of his players. I’m not entirely sure this hire will work as his style doesn’t match the fans’ demand from a basketball style. With that being said, there could be a world where the Bruins are able to finish higher than expected in the league standings and maybe if things break right you could see UCLA in the NCAA Tournament this year. 

Projected Rotation:

PG: Tyger Campbell Freshman 6’0”

SG: Prince Ali Senior 6’4”
SF: Jules Bernard Sophomore 6’6”
PF: Shareef O’Neal Freshman 6’9”
C: Chris Smith Junior 6’9”
Key Reserves: David Singleton, Jalen Hill, Cody Riley, Jaime Jaquez

9.Utah Utes

The Utah Utes are coming off a surprising third-place finish in the PAC-12 last season which was nice, however, the team will have to replace a lot of pieces headlined by Sedrick Barefield. The team will return sophomore wing Timmy Allen who will hope to take a major freshman to sophomore jump to become a major scorer for this team. Freshman Rylan Jones is someone that I expect to make an impact from the jump, he’s a good scorer and passer that will get an opportunity to play big minutes. Sophomores Both Gach and Riley Batten are sophomore forwards that should step into bigger roles this season, while JUCO transfer will look to start at a guard spot. Forwards Mikael Janthunen and Matthew Van Komen, as well as guard Jaxon Brenchley are freshmen that should play a role for this team but will probably start the season on the bench.  

Final Analysis: This Utah team will be rebuilding this season as they are going to really have to rely on a lot of freshmen and sophomores to play big minutes. I think this team will struggle, especially early on in the season as the team kind of tries to figure out everyone’s roles. I do think this team should eventually look decent late in the season and if they can keep everyone for one or two more years this group of players will get to an NCAA Tournament. 

Projected Rotation:

PG: Rylan Jones Freshman 6’1”

SG: Alfonso Plummer Junior 6’1”
SF: Timmy Allen Sophomore 6’6”
PF: Both Gach Sophomore 6’7”
C: Riley Batten Sophomore 6’9”
Key Reserves: Mikael Janthunen, Matthew Van Komen, Jaxon Brenchley

10.Stanford Cardinal

The firing of Johnny Dawkins was looked at as fine as he really didn’t do a whole lot in his time at Stanford but thus far the Jerod Haase era has been a major disappointment as he has yet to have any good teams and that doesn’t look like it will change this year. The team will return junior point guard Daejon Davis who is a solid scorer but makes his impact being a really good passing guard. Junior big man Oscar Da Silva is a good low-post scorer and rebounder that will be a force on the interior. Freshman guard Tyrell Terry is someone that should be a really good guard as he’s very skilled and has a high basketball-IQ which will help this team. Bryce Wills and Jaiden Delaire will look to fill out the starting five for this team, neither player will necessarily stand out but they at least will be decent. Freshman Spencer Jones is a wing that will look to get some playing time in year one for Stanford while the trio of Kodye Pugh, Isaac White, and Lukas Kisunas look to provide some help off the bench. 

Final Analysis: This Stanford team has the talent on paper to be a middle of the pack PAC-12 team as they have a really good backcourt with Daejon Davis and Tyrell Terry that should be really solid this year for the Cardinal, while Oscar Da Silva is really good inside. The main concern I have is with Jerod Haase who has been extremely underwhelming to this point while at Stanford. Maybe this is the year Haase can finally put things together and get this team to live up to the expectations that this team should have based on the talent, however, I will have to see it to believe it. 

Projected Rotation:

PG: Deajon Davis Junior 6’3”

SG: Tyrell Terry Freshman 6’1”
SF: Bryce Wills Sophomore 6’6”
PF: Jaiden Delaire Sophomore 6’9”
C: Oscar Da Silva Junior 6’9”
Key Reserves: Kodye Pugh, Isaac White, Lukas Kisunas, Spencer Jones

11.Washington State Huskies 

The Ernie Kent era ran its course and now it is time to see what former San Francisco coach Kyle Smith can do, Smith helped San Francisco get in tournament contention late into last year and is hoping to do that within the near future at Washington State. The one good starting piece for Smith will be sophomore CJ Elleby who was really good as a freshman last season and should become the leading scorer for this program as a sophomore. Washington State will turn to grad transfers to help as both forward Deion James and guard Jaylen Shead will look to become starters at the PAC-12 level. Jervae Robinson, Jeff Pollard, and Marvin Cannon are players that played big minutes for the Cougars last season and should continue to do so this season. Aljaz Kunc, Daron Henson, and Isaac Bonton should also play a role on this team. 

Final Analysis: This Washington State program will be heading in the right direction sooner rather than later, Kyle Smith should be able to bring in some more talented players in the near future to help this team win. With that being said, this year will be rough and they will probably remain near the bottom of the PAC-12 standings. 

Projected Rotation:

PG: Jaylen Shead Senior 6’1”

SG: Jervae Robinson Senior 6’2”
SF: Marvin Cannon Junior 6’5”
PF: CJ Elleby Sophomore 6’6”
C: Deion James Senior 6’8”
Key Reserves: Jeff Pollard, Aljaz Kunc, Isaac Bonton, Daron Henson,

12.California Golden Bears

We have reached the end of the line when it comes to previewing teams with my conference previews and so it is only fitting that we go out with a bang which is why the California Golden Bears are the perfect last team to preview for this season. Cal is coming off an absolutely horrible last season where they went 8-23 on the season and 3-15 in league play but fortunately, they were able to get rid of Wyking Jones and hire I guess a halfway decent coach in Mark Fox. Paris Austin is the team’s leading returning scorer, he’s a solid passing guard that can score as well. Sophomore Matt Bradley is a decent player that can make threes and will probably be asked to lead the team in scoring. Kareem South is a grad transfer from Texas A&M CC. that should contribute as a scorer. Freshmen Joel Brown and DJ Thorpe could both wind up being starters for this team as both have some upside going forward. Juhwan Harris-Dyson and Andre Kelley will play a role for this team, both are decent playmakers for this team that should get minutes for this team. 

Final Analysis: This lineup is not terrible maybe for a Mountain West team but in a PAC-12 that is actually not bad this year, this is the team that is heavy favorites to finish last in the league. Maybe, Bradley, Austin or Kareem can be a really good scorer that can carry this team to a major uptick in wins but there is a very likely chance that the team finishes with a very similar record as it had last year. 

Projected Rotation:

PG: Paris Austin Senior 6’0”

SG: Joel Brown Freshman 6’2”
SF: Kareem South Senior 6’2”
PF: Matt Bradley Sophomore 6’4”
C: Andre Kelley Sophomore 6’8”
Key Reserves: Jahwan Harris-Dyson, DJ Thorpe, Kuany Kuany, Grant Anticevich

Tiering of Teams

Tier 1: Oregon and Arizona

Tier 2: Washington, Colorado and Arizona State

Tier 3: USC, UCLA, Oregon State

Tier 4: Utah, Stanford, Washington State, and California

PAC-12 Awards

PAC-12 Player of the year: Payton Pritchard

PAC-12 Freshman of the year: Nico Mannion

PAC-12 Newcomer of the year: Anthony Mathis

PAC-12 6th Man of the year: Shakur Juiston

PAC-12 Breakout Player of the year: Taeshon Cherry

All-PAC-12 teams

1st Team All-PAC-12

Payton Pritchard

Remy Martin

Nico Mannion

Tres Tinkle

Isaiah Stewart

2nd Team All-PAC-12

McKinley Wright IV

Tyler Bey

Josh Green

Isaiah Mobley

Jaden McDaniels

3rd Team All-PAC-12

Daejon Davis

Prince Ali

CJ Elleby

CJ Walker

Nick Rakocevic

1st Team All-Freshman 

Nico Mannion

Josh Green

Isaiah Mobley

Isaiah Stewart

Jaden McDaniels

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