Pac-12 Basketball Preview and Predictions

Last season a record seven Pac-12 teams made the NCAA Tournament. The list was highlighted by the Oregon Ducks earning a No. 1 seed for the first-time in school history. With a new season about to begin, expectations are high for Pac-12 teams looking to make a deep run. Here is a quick glance of Pac-12 teams and predictions.

Oregon Ducks

Dana Altman has quietly built up Oregon’s basketball program into contenders since his hiring in 2010. Last season, Oregon captured the Pac-12 title outright in the regular season and the Pac-12 tournament. A magical run came to halt, however, in the Elite 8 against Oklahoma. Now entering his seventh year as head coach, expectations for Altman and the Ducks are a Final Four appearance.

The Ducks have the makings for not only a Final Four appearance but a possible chance at a championship. With four starters returning, the question will be if the Ducks can block out the expectations and let their play on the court do the talking. Among the returners, Tyler Dorsey is the player to keep an eye on. As a freshman, last season, Dorsey averaged 13.4 points per game. He must be productive early as preseason All-American Dillon Brooks will miss time recovering from a foot injury.

Oklahoma Sooners guard Buddy Hield (24) moves in to score a basket against Oregon Ducks during the second half of the West regional final of the NCAA Tournament at Honda Center. (Photo Credit: Richard Mackson- USA TODAY Sports)

Oregon was voted to finish first in the conference by the media and are ranked No. 5 in the preseason. With the depth on the Ducks this season, not living up to the hype will be their downfall should an early exit happen in the NCAA Tournament. Look for Oregon to accomplish only what the “Tall Firs” did in 1938, win a championship.

Oregon State Beavers

Unlike the high expectations facing Oregon this season, Wayne Tinkle will quietly continue to build Oregon State up for another winning season. Gary Payton II may be gone, but Tres Tinkle, Stephen Thompson Jr., and Drew Eubanks look to make big contributions this season. Tinkle will look to increase his offensive production after averaging 13 points per game.

Regardless of expectations, the Beavers have a strong support base in fans coming to watch athletic events at Oregon State. Gill Coliseum is a tough venue when filled – especially the Civil War Game where the Beavers knocked off the Ducks last season. Another winning season is in store for the Beavers but a trip to the NIT Tournament appears likely.

Arizona Wildcats

For the first time in four years, the media did not pick the Wildcats to win the Pac-12. Despite the polls, head coach Sean Miller will have his team ready to challenge Oregon for the top spot when conference play starts. However, questions surround sophomore star guard Allonzo Trier with eligibility. His absence could impact in the Wildcats returning to the top.

No matter what happens with Trier, expect Arizona to battle with Oregon for Pac-12 supremacy. Expect the Wildcats and the Ducks to play in the Pac-12 Tournament Championship game. Arizona will be back in the NCAA Tournament but will have a short run with a Sweet-16 exit.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Tra Holder averaged about 14 per game last season and will be carrying the load again offensively this season. Picked to finish eleventh in the conference, that appears likely for the Sun Devils again after finishing at the bottom of the conference last season. The Sun Devils will show more bite against conference opponents this season. However, games will be out of reach during the second-half of games.

Stanford Cardinal

First-year head coach Jerod Haase hopes to bring an unselfish offense and aggressive defense for the Cardinal. Haase also hopes to revitalize the sixth man and fill Maples Pavilion at Stanford where attendance has dropped over the years.

Stanford returns all members from last season except leading scorer Rosco Allen who decided to turn pro. The problem for Stanford will be transitioning into the new system of Haase which is bound to have growing pains from the start. Reid Travis and Robert Cartwright will be important players to watch under Haase’s first year. With injuries keeping the two from missing a significant amount of time last season, their health will be critical if the Cardinal want success this season.

Transition into Haase’s system will prevent the Cardinal from contending in the conference this season. Despite low attendance, Maples Pavilion is a tough venue regardless where Stanford stands in the conference. A signature win over a ranked conference opponent is all Haase can hope for with Stanford.

California Golden Bears

Past seasons have seen Cal on the cusp of breaking through to emerge on top of the conference. Cuonzo Martin is entering his third season as head coach and is poised to challenge Oregon and Arizona again. Cal is certainly a team not to underestimate pulling upsets against Oregon and Arizona last season.

Picked to finish fourth by the media, the Bears possess the talent to exceed expectations. Sophomore preseason All-American Ivan Rabb headlines the roster who averaged 12.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Senior Jabari Bird in another player to watch who averaged 10 points per game last season.

Expectations are for Cal to contend in the Pac-12 this season. Resume wins against Oregon and Arizona will likely happen again for Cal to make the tournament. While the Bears may not win the conference during the season, chances are Cal could be in the Pac-12 Championship game in the tournament. Another trip to the NCAA Tournament is in store.

UCLA Bruins

A storied program, UCLA looks to regain elite status after a fall from grace last season. With a promising freshman class coming in, the Bruins hope to compete in the conference after a 15-17 season resulted in a tenth-place finish in the conference. Lonzo Ball heads the freshman class looking to make an impact offensively.

Although excitement is growing with UCLA’s freshmen, senior Isaac Hamilton will be important for the Bruins to make noise in the conference. Last season, Hamilton averaged about 17 points per game. Despite the hype, UCLA will still trail behind Oregon and Arizona. The NCAA Tournament is possible but the Bruins will be on the outside.

USC Trojans

Head coach Andy Enfield’s decision to rebuild the program produced USC’s first tournament appearance since 2011. Even with a roster trending young this season, the Trojans look to remain competitive in the conference. Jordan McLaughlin returns where the junior averaged about 13 points per game. USC will feature four freshmen and Enfield hopes all four will make an immediate impact.

The Trojans were a top 20 scoring team last season averaging 80.5 per game. With a young roster featuring only one scholarship senior, the offense could be a concern as Enfield’s style depends on high scoring for success. However, signs point to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances for USC.

Washington Huskies

Despite an 18-14 record last season, a 9-9 conference record only gave Washington an invite to the NIT Tournament. Head coach Lorenzo Romar may be feeling the pressure early if the Huskies falter come conference play.

Washington boasts a young squad with only one senior on the roster. Junior Malik Dime averaged about six rebounds per game. With a young team, the defense may be important should the Huskies want to stay competitive.

Last season, the Huskies did not face the Ducks during conference play. This season, the Ducks travel to Seattle in what will certainly be a hostile environment with a potential upset in the making. Expect Washington to be a dark horse in the conference and be one of the bubble teams accepted to the NCAA Tournament.

Washington State Cougars 

Unfortunately for Ernie Kent, entering his third season as the Cougars head coach, expectations are not high. Picked to finish last in the conference, Kent will hope his team can compete against all conference opponents.

Among the four seniors on the roster, Josh Hawkinson must factor into every game as he led the team in points and rebounds per game. Hawkinson can produce offensively but senior Ike Iroegbu needs to have offensive consistency.

With four seniors on the team, leadership should not be an issue. However, coach Kent’s time may be up in Pullman if the Cougars are unable to compete in the conference.

Colorado Buffaloes

Despite being picked to finish fifth by the media, four tournament appearances in the last five seasons have expectations high. Coach Tad Boyle hopes leadership can be found on a talented team poised to remain contenders in the conference. Boulder is a tough place for visiting teams with plenty of upsets resulting since Colorado joined the conference.

Boyle may have put together his most talented team in his seventh season as head coach but he hopes to have consistency every game. Five players are returning from last season with Pac-12 Most Improved player George King leading the offense.

Colorado has the best odds of scoring upsets against Oregon and Arizona barring the two stay in the rankings. However, the Buffaloes saw six second-half leads slip away last season which has Boyle concerned about consistency entering the season. Another NCAA Tournament appearance is in store for Colorado but could be short lived again if holding leads remain an issue.

Utah Utes

One of the seven teams to make the tournament last season, fortunes may not be fruitful this season for Larry Krystkowiak’s side. Picked to finish eighth, Utah only returns two starters from the team last season. Senior Lorenzo Bonam and junior Kyle Kuzma must carry the load for the Utes to have success this season.

Despite low expectations, Utah is not a team to take lightly both home and away. The Utes are capable of pulling off upsets should a team not come to play. However, an upset may be the only highlight this season as Utah will miss out on the NCAA Tournament.

Predictions

With the talent and growing expectations from each season the Oregon Ducks are the team to beat in the Pac-12. Arizona will challenge but Oregon will come out on top. When the Pac-12 Tournament comes around, Cal is most likely to surprise everyone and matchup against Oregon in the championship game. Oregon, however, will run away with the game late to claim back-to-back conference championships.

Six Pac-12 teams will make the NCAA Tournament with Oregon getting a No. 1 seed in the west region. The Ducks will make the Final Four and be in the championship game.

The Pac-12 is on the rise with the influx of talent streaming through each team. All Pac-12 teams have potential to challenge the top programs in other conferences. Another exciting season of Pac-12 Basketball is about to get underway with a few teams looking to capture the ultimate prize.

Leave a Reply