The Making the Madness conference previews wrap up with the PAC 12, which is not the best conference but can give plenty of entertainment. While the league has plenty of questions going forward but for now they have UCLA and USC, as well as other elite basketball programs like Arizona and Oregon, who should also be good. The question comes down to whether or not this league gets a few other teams into the NCAA Tournament. Without further ado, let’s dive into the final conference preview of the season with the PAC 12.
Mick Cronin’s Bruins come into this season as the favorite to win the PAC 12, largely due to the combination of talent and experience that they have. The player to watch will be Jaime Jaquez, who is one of the best do-it-all players because he can be an elite scorer, is unselfish, and keeps the ball moving, while being a high-level wing defender. Tyger Campbell will bring leadership at the point, his combination of passing, on-ball defense, and an improved offensive game makes him one of the elite point guards in the sport. Add in a high-level freshman in Amari Bailey, who is an elite athlete that can score with ease, while projecting as a one-and-done and the Bruins have three elite players.
The Bruins will almost certainly look for Jaylen Clark to be an elite glue guy, because of his ability to guard up and down the lineup and make key hustle plays. Adem Bona rounds out the starting lineup being an athletic rim-running center that has incredible defensive upside while flashing offensive potential. David Singleton will provide experience and the ability to be a three-point specialist off the bench. Kenneth Nwuba will provide legitimate rim protection off the bench, which could be key. Dylan Andrews will is projected as the point guard of the future but this year will probably just have a reserve role where he hopes to learn from Tyger Campbell.
This UCLA team has all the makings of the PAC 12 favorite. This team has two proven stars on a Final Four team in Jaquez and Campbell, who make all the right plays. They have an elite freshmen class with Amari Bailey and Adem Bona while having some key role players. I’d fall short of calling them one of the top title favorites, but this UCLA team will play well together, defend tough and likely roll through the PAC 12 and if the ball bounces right, maybe Mick Cronin cuts down the nets in Houston.
PG: Tyger Campbell
SG: Amari Bailey
SF: Jamie Jaquez
PF: Jaylen Clark
C: Adem Bona
Bench: David Singleton, Kenneth Nwuba, Dylan Andrews
No team overachieved preseason expectations last year quite like Arizona, who won the PAC 12 and received a one-seed. That said, Tommy Lloyd does lose quite a bit from last year’s team, making repeating that much tougher. Azuolas Tubelis will be the featured piece for this year’s team, his size and crafty ability to score around the basket makes him one of the premier players in the sport and one of the PAC 12 Player of the year favorites. Kerr Kriisa will run the point and while he can shoot Arizona out of games, he has unlimited confidence and is still a positive piece because he’s a good passer. Courtney Ramey comes into Arizona looking to boost Arizona’s perimeter defense, while he hopes to get a little more run offensively than he got at Texas.
Rounding out the starting lineup, Pelle Larsson provides the team with a reliable shooter and someone who can play on and off the ball. Oumar Ballo will be a good interior scorer, rebounder and provide rim protection while finally getting a starting spot. Freshman guard Kylan Boswell reclassified to join Arizona, his competitiveness and scoring ability will make him a key piece for Arizona. Cedric Henderson Jr will provide some size and the ability to knock down shots on the perimeter. Dylan Anderson will provide rim protection and upside as a freshman center off the bench. Adama Bal will also look for more minutes as a sophomore wing that has shown an ability to shoot.
This Arizona team made its name being both an elite defensive team and one capable of scoring 100 on opponents on any occasion. That offensive upside seems to be limited but this is still a team capable of winning the PAC 12 and making a deep Tournament run. This team has a great group of guards that can all be playmakers and defend. Azuolas Tubelis should finally step into the role of being an All-American level player, while they have legitimate rim protection with Ballo. Tommy Lloyd’s teams will play fast, be elite offensively and have tough defenders, which makes them one of the league favorites.
PG: Kerr Kriisa
SG: Courtney Ramey
SF: Pelle Larsson
PF: Azuolas Tubelis
C: Oumar Ballo
Bench: Kylan Boswell, Cedric Henderson Jr, Dylan Anderson, Adama Bal
Coming into this season, USC has once again heavily into recruiting to build their roster, as Andy Enfield hopes to keep USC in the NCAA Tournament. That said, experience wins and the Trojans still have enough of it. Boogie Ellis will run the point, being a guard that is a pure scorer, that can be unselfish but looks to score. Drew Peterson will be a great piece, as he’s one of the better scorers in the league, a good passer, and is the team’s best shooter. Reese Dixon-Waters will hope to add to that backcourt as a breakout threat, as he’s shown flashes as a scorer and now steps into a starting role.
The Trojans went heavy in recruiting to fill some holes, most notably by adding Vince Iwuchukwu, who while isn’t the most skilled big, makes up for it with unlimited energy, although there is a question as to whether he will be medically cleared. Kijani Wright will pair next to him being a traditional 4 that has offensive skill but is known more for his rebounding and athleticism. Tre White rounds out the elite prospects, being maybe the best scorer of the three, although he fits in more as a sixth-man this season. Kobe Johnson will come off the bench and hope to be helpful on the wing. Joshua Morgan will be a good backup to Iwuchukwu because of his size and rebounding ability. Also, look for Oziyah Sellers to get minutes as a freshman guard.
This USC team has a clear mixture of talent and experience that I think many teams would love to have. Boogie Ellis and Drew Peterson both being reliable scorers for the Trojans is big because USC should be able to reel off wins having two of the elite guards. Add that likely development throughout the season from the freshmen and this team will likely be peaking at Tournament time, which means both a PAC 12 title and a deep NCAA Tournament run are both within their grasp.
PG: Boogie Ellis
SG: Reese Dixon-Waters
SF: Drew Peterson
PF: Kijani Wright
C: Vince Iwuchukwu
Bench: Tre White, Kobe Johnson, Joshua Morgn, Oziyah Sellers
Last season was a rather disappointing one for Oregon, as they went from preseason Top 25 to not even coming close to makings the Tournament but Oregon hopes that changes with a good collection of incoming players. Will Richardson will be the player to watch once again, Richardson is a long point guard that is a good passer and shooter, which makes him one of the premier guards out west. Quincy Guerrier returns as a good combo forward that can knock down shots and be a good wing defender, which is key. The most notable newcomer is Kel’el Ware, who is a five-star freshman that has jump out of the gym athleticism, making him a likely good shot-blocker, rebounder, and defender.
The Ducks went into the transfer portal to round out their starting lineup, Jermaine Couisard will provide the team with a good scorer, defender, and secondary creator, which will be key. Keeshawn Barthelemy will provide the team with another good shooter, who hopes to improve efficiency playing in an off-ball role. While Ware will be the center to watch, N’Faly Dante will provide the team with a good rim presence and experience off the bench and could play next to him as well. Nathan Bittle will look to try to crack the center rotation but seems most likely to be boxed out of minutes. Rivaldo Soares will be a decent guard that can bring depth, while they hope Tyrone Williams can be an impact piece as a JUCO transfer.
This Oregon team struggled a year ago with chemistry and consistency and that’s why they fizzled out. The highs were there as they swept the LA schools on the road but the lows were just that. They hope the chemistry improves, Richardson is a good point guard, while Barthelemy and Couisnard are good pieces. They also have a good modern-day front line with Guerrier and Ware. The talent and roster construction is there for this team to be in the Top 25 and contend for a league title, I just am buying them more as a bubble team than that of a league title contender.
PG: Will Richardson
SG: Jermaine Couisnard
SF: Keeshawn Barthelemy
PF: Quincy Guerrier
C: Kel’el Ware
Bench: N’Faly Dante, Tyrone Williams, Rivaldo Sorares, Nathan Bittle
5.Arizona State Sun Devils
Arizona State has had a couple of rough seasons in recent years, as they have dealt with injuries but with a hopefully healthy roster, they can improve as a team. This will be a make-or-break season for Bobby Hurley and Arizona State. Marcus Bagley hopes to be healthy and living up to his early pro potential, Bagley has played just 15 games in his career but has the ability to be an elite three-and-D type of forward. DJ Horne established himself as the go-to option for Arizona State and will look to return being a good shooter and offensive playmaker. Add in Frankie Collins, who while he didn’t start, showed himself to be an effective lead guard for Michigan and the backcourt is set.
Desmond Cambridge Jr will be the starter at the 3, as he’s a bigger guard that lights it up from outside and is a good defender. His brother Devan Cambridge should play a bench role, as can provide size and defense for this Sun Devils team. Following Desmond Cambridge Jr from Nevada, Warren Washington will start at the 5 and he will provide the team with a real paint presence, as well as a reliable interior scorer. Alonzo Gaffney will play a role up front as an athletic forward that can switch and knock down shots from the perimeter. Also, look for freshman Austin Nunez to get some run as a backup guard that can be a good passer and scorer.
Bobby Hurley realized this was a make-or-break type of year and went out to properly make the roster better. They have needed returning scoring from DJ Horne and Marcus Bagley, but adding reliable scorers like Desmond Cambridge and Warren Washington will help add needed production. Frankie Collins was one of the more underrated transfers as he was a guard really coming on late last year. While there is a proper amount of depth for this team. It’s hard to know exactly what the results of this season will be for Arizona State but don’t be surprised if this team gets off to a 2018/ 2019 type start en route to an NCAA Tournament appearance.
PG: Frankie Collins
SG: DJ Horne
SF: Desmond Cambridge Jr
PF: Marcus Bagley
C: Warren Washington
Bench: Devan Cambridge, Austin Nunez, Alonzo Gaffney
Coming into this season, Stanford has NCAA Tournament-level talent but the question is whether Jerrod Haase can achieve that success or whether they will disappoint once again. The big returning piece is Harrison Ingram, who has NBA-level upside, he’s a good scorer that can space the floor while being a skilled player as a forward. Spencer Jones will provide a reliable scorer that can space the floor and score inside, which is key. The Cardinal then went to the portal to add NCAA Tournament experience with Michael Jones, who is a reliable shooter and can play on the wing, making this one of the more talented wing groups in the sport.
The Cardinal certainly has talent on the wing, but as with any team, guards and bigs are a major key. Michael O’Connell will bring a steadying hand to the point guard spot but is more of a non-factor as a scorer. James Keefe is a solid big man that will be good as a rebounder and can score inside. Maxime Raynaud will hope to push for center minutes as a longer, more skilled big man. Brandon Angel will act as a sixth man, as he’s the perfect come-off-the-bench-and-get-hot type of player. Freshmen Jaylen Thompson and Ryan Agarwal both should be productive pieces on the wing.
In terms of roster construction, Stanford has all you could want to be an NCAA Tournament team. They have great wing play with Harrison Ingram, as well as Spencer Jones and Michael Jones. Sure they’re not dynamic at the point and center spots but that’s good enough to win plenty of games. The question comes down to whether this team can maintain the consistency needed throughout the season to be in the NCAA Tournament and that’s where having a coach known for falling short time after time in Jerrod Haase becomes an anchor to the NCAA Tournament aspirations.
PG: Michael O’Connell
SG; Michael Jones
SF: Spencer Jones
PF: Harrison Ingram
C: James Keefe
Bench: Brandon Angel, Maxime Raynaud, Jaylen Thompson, Ryan Agarwal
7.Washington State Cougars
Last season was a year of great improvement for Washington State, but now Kyle Smith hopes to build off that with a replenished roster. Justin Powell comes in to help improve the backcourt, Powell is a good shooter and playmaker who should do well being the focal point at the guard spot. The Cougars hope for major improvement from Mouhamed Gueye, who is a long, athletic, modern-day big man that can space the floor while being a good defender and scorer, although he showed more potential than production. TJ Bamba looks to step up as a scorer as well, he’s a good shooter but needs to work on efficiency.
The Cougars turn towards development as a way to fill the rest of their starting five. DJ Rodman has had breakthrough games in the past but needs to be a consistent threat to score and be able to space the floor. Andrej Jakimovski is a good three-point shooter but needs to provide offense elsewhere and be more impactful defensively. Dishon Jackson should provide interior scoring and a paint presence but it is unknown when he’ll take the court. Andre Diongue will hope to also help the front line as a lengthy 7’0 center. Also, look for Jabe Mullins to provide some perimeter scoring as a transfer from St. Mary’s.
This Washington State team seems to be a lower-ceiling, higher-floor type of team. We know Kyle Smith is going to get the best of this roster and win games on the margins, which is something most of the teams in the PAC 12 can’t say. The question is whether the roster is good enough. Justin Powell should flourish as the go-to option similar to his freshman year at Auburn. Expect Gueye to be a legitimately great big in year two in the program, while there’s enough wing talent to be interesting. I’m not saying this team has enough talent to make the NCAA Tournament but they’re a safe bet to finish middle of the pack in the PAC 12.
PG: Justin Powell
SG: Andrej Jakimovski
SF: TJ Bamba
PF: DJ Rodman
C: Mouhamed Gueye
Bench: Dishon Jackson, Jabe Mullins, Dylan Darling, Adrame Diongue
Coming into each season Tad Boyle’s team always seems to be one of the more reliable teams to finish with an over .500 record and that should once again be the case this year. The Buffaloes lose Jabari Walker and Evan Battey up front, but Tristan da Silva is poised for a breakout season, as he’s a lengthy combo forward that is able to score inside and also from the perimeter. KJ Simpson looks poised to take a step forward into being the reliable point guard for Colorado, he’s a good passer, who should excel in a full starting role. Nique Clifford will also look to be a solid option offensively, as he can knock down shots from the perimeter at a reliable rate.
The Buffaloes went to the Ivy League to help fill the rest of their roster, Ethan Wright was a reliable three-point threat at Princeton and should bring stability at the guard spot. Yale transfer Jalen Gabbidon will also look to provide some experience for this roster as a wing. Lawson Lovering will be the anchor inside, his size and physicality will make the Buffaloes’ defense tough to go against. Julian Hammond III looks to fill in as a guard that can score and provide point guard depth. Look for redshirt freshman Quincy Allen to also bolster the front court after sitting out a season ago.
There’s not a ton to be excited about as a Colorado fan for this year, yet consistency remains key and that is exactly what Tad Boyle brings. This team feels like one that is about a year away from competing for the NCAA Tournament but that just means that the important part will be developing their roster throughout the season. KJ Simpson and Tristan da Silva will need to be good, as they take on leading roles, while they’ll need development from Clifford, Lovering, Hammond, and Allen. Colorado as a program seems like it goes through cycles, two years of developing their young guys and two years of competing near the top of the PAC 12. This seems to be year 2 of developing their younger guys.
PG: KJ Simpson
SG: Ethan Wright
SF: Nique Clifford
PF: Tristan da Silva
C: Lawson Lovering
Bench: Julian Hammond III, Jalen Gabbidon, Quincy Allen, Joe Huriburt
This is a make-or-break season for Washington and Mike Hopkins, a good season could remove him from the hot seat for now, while a bad year will spell the end of an era. Hopkins reigned that in by adding plenty of players from the portal and building a roster that is in a full win-now mode. Keion Brooks is the headliner, while he was never a shooter at Kentucky, he was a valuable role player that provided a reliable option at the four spot. Noah Williams transfers across the state, where he looks to step in and provide immediate scoring and playmaking for the Huskies. Franck Kepnang comes over from Oregon hoping to carve out a role as a big bruising center for the Huskies.
The Huskies will bring back Jamal Bey, a known three-point shooter, who hopes to improve as an overall scorer for this roster. PJ Fuller will provide the team with another three-point threat and someone that can move the ball around. Cole Bajema can provide the team with a reliable three-point threat and a good wing defender in a bench role. Freshman Koren Jackson hopes to play a big role as a freshman, he acts as the only true point guard on the roster, so getting him minutes will be key early on. Jackson Grant and Langston Wilson will provide the team with additional depth up front.
This Washington team has talent going into this season, Noah Williams and Keion Brooks make up two of the better roster pickups of the offseason. Jamal Bay and PJ Fuller are good returners, while Franck Kepnang provides the team with an athletic center. Hopkins is on the hot seat for a reason and that has been struggling with clearly superior talented teams despite having a talented roster, which is of grave concern this year. The team has what it needs to be good defensively, having lengthy wing defenders for days to be key in that 2-3 zone, they have offensive talent. It is of concern that their only point guard is a freshman but the upside is there for this team to make the NCAA Tournament, but this team is much more likely to finish outside the Top 10 of the PAC 12 standings than achieve that.
PG: Noah Williams
SG: Jamal Bay
SF: PJ Fuller
PF: Keion Brooks
C: Franck Kepnang
Bench: Koren Jackson, Cole Bajema, Jackson Grant, Langston Wilson
Year one of the Craig Smith era didn’t go quite as planned, as the team finished second from the bottom and never even threatened Tournament play. This year the roster hopes to improve with much of the roster staying intact. Brenden Carlson will be the anchor down low, his size helps give him an advantage inside matchup-wise, while he’s a good rebounder and paint presence. Marco Anthony acts as the do-it-all type of player, the wing is a good defender, passer and is a capable scorer. Rollie Worster will run the show at the point, being a good passer and capable scorer.
Mike Saunders will provide the team with another point guard, he’s a good scorer and defender who should fit into the rotation. The Utes will look for Gabe Madsen to take a step forward, he was a good shooter a year ago but will need to take a step forward offensively. Lazar Stefonovic will be a wing that can knock down shots but needs to improve efficiency-wise. Ben Carlson will hope to get minutes at Utah, his size will be important. Gavin Baxter could be a good center as a defender and rim protector but he will need to get healthy first. Jaxon Brenchley will hope to play a role as a backup guard.
This Utah team has the capabilities to play well as a team, they have good passers, good defenders and are well coached, that alone should keep them from bottoming out. The problem is that this will probably struggle offensively. Sure Brenden Carlson is a good interior scorer but the rest of the roster is filled with inefficient shooters. Until that is changed, which won’t be this year, all that defense and good team basketball will all be in order to finish near the bottom of the league standings.
PG: Rollie Worster
SG: Mike Saunders
SF: Gabe Madsen
PF: Marco Anthony
C: Brenden Carlson
Bench: Lazar Stefonovic, Jaxon Brenchley, Ben Carlson, Gavin Baxter
11.California Golden Bears
Here we go again, California is near the bottom of the PAC 12 standings because the program doesn’t seem to care about winning. Mark Fox is the coach and while he’s had occasional success, this program will continue to be at the bottom of the league. The hype of the season comes with adding former five-star guard Devin Askew, who hopes to show his recruiting pedigree as a good passer and scorer in his first year of getting consistent minutes. Joel Brown will co-run the point, he’s a good passer and defender, who will look to take a step forward offensively,
The Bears have quite a bit of question marks elsewhere on the roster, Jalen Celestine will be a good veteran wing but he’s expected to miss much of the season. DeJuan Clayton could be a good piece as a guard. Lars Theimann is a long center that does have some potential. The Bears also hope for development from wings Obinna Anyanwu, Jarred Hyder, and Monty Bowser. ND Okafor is a big forward that has a high upside for the Bears going forward.
This Cal team has some decent enough upside with Devin Askew coming in, plus a group of upcoming players that should improve with another year in the program. It won’t be enough to sniff any Tournament play or avoid a bottom-half finish in the PAC 12 but maybe they can sneak 6-7 league wins in and if all else fails, just know this team won’t finish last in the conference.
PG: Joel Brown
SG: Devin Askew
SF: DeJuan Clayton
PF: Jalen Celestine
C: Lars Theimann
Bench: Obinna Anyanwu, Jarred Hyder, ND Okafor, Monty Bowser
12.Oregon State Beavers
From three wins in a single NCAA Tournament to three wins total, Oregon State has seen incredible highs and an amazing low in the past two seasons, but now they hope for just a year of halfway-decent basketball. The optimism for an improvement isn’t there, Christian Wright looks to be the star, that said he averaged 5 points a game at Georgia. Dexter Akano and Glenn Taylor Jr couldn’t even start a year ago but now look poised to start this season. Chol Marial could be interesting but we’ll see if he’s even healthy. Oregon State’s best move is probably just to play their freshman class of Jordan Pope, Tyler Bilodeau, Jayden Stevens, and Nick Krass for as many minutes as possible.
It’s hard to win three games and come back the following year even worse but Wayne Tinkle seems up for the task. They do play an easier non-conference schedule than a year ago so maybe they squeak in four wins somehow, that said, this team was unequivocally atrocious a year ago and somehow might be worse this year. Not only is this the worst Power-6 team but they might be one of the worst teams just in general.
PG: Christian Wright
SG: Dexter Akano
SF: Glenn Taylor Jr
PF: Tyler Bilodeau
C: Chol Marial
Bench: Jordan Pope, Jayden Stevens, Nick Krass
Player of the year: Jaime Jaquez, UCLA
Freshman of the year: Kel’el Ware, Oregon
Newcomer of the year: Courtney Ramey, Arizona
Defensive Player of the year: Oumar Ballo, Arizona
Most Improved Player: KJ Simpson, Colorado
First-Team All-PAC 12: