Pac-12 Basketball Preview: Part II

College Basketball is about to go full force with the Pac-12 slated for another entertaining season. Part one took a glimpse of the Bay Area, Oregon, and Washington schools. Here is the second half taking a look at UCLA, USC, Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, and Colorado.

UCLA Bruins (31-5, 15-3)

Lonzo Ball may be off with the Los Angeles Lakers, but the Ball Family will reside at UCLA for at least one more year. LiAngelo enters his freshmen year with the Bruins with the hopes of following his brother to the NBA after one season. His status though is up in the air after three UCLA players were arrested in China for shoplifting.

Coach Steve Alford is replacing the Bruins’ top four scorers – three of the players being freshmen who opted for the NBA Draft. All eyes may center around Ball but perhaps should take notice in freshman Jaylen Hands. He could likely have a more significant impact offensively as the replacement to Lonzo Ball.

Aaron Holiday finished fifth with amongst scoring (12.3ppg) as the junior looks to step up this season as the primary weapon. With an influx of new talent coming to UCLA, Coach Alford will hope his players can mesh quickly.

USC Trojans (26-10, 10-8)

A dark cloud hovers over the start of college basketball as four assistant coaches were charged in a bribery scheme by a grand jury. Among the four was USC assistant, Tony Bland.

As for the basketball team, the Trojans could find themselves on top of the Pac-12. USC has their team intact from last season and looks to be the early favorites. The Trojans are led by junior Chimezie Metu who finished second on the team in scoring (14.8ppg) and in rebounding (7.8rpg).

Bennie Boatwright is back for his junior season after leading the Trojans in scoring (15.1ppg). He should get plenty of offensive support as freshman Charles O’Bannon Jr. can shoot the ball. The incoming freshman is USC’s first McDonald’s All-American since 2008.

On defense, Derryck Thornton will make his debut for the Trojans after transferring from Duke last season. His presence should help out three-time captain Jordan McLaughlin.

Arizona Wildcats (32-5, 16-2)

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Like USC, the bribery scandal also hit Arizona with assistant Emanuel Richardson. He has been dismissed from the team.

After a close loss in the Sweet 16 to Xavier last season, Arizona is primed to make a run at the Final Four. The Wildcats are expected to compete with the Trojans as the roster is stacked with talent.

Allonzo Trier and Rawle Akins return after nearly leaving for the NBA Draft. Trier led the Wildcats last season in scoring (17.2ppg) while Akins finished third. Senior, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, will provide a veteran leadership throughout the campaign.

Arizona will feature a significant presence in freshman Deandre Ayton at 7-1 who can score while grabbing rebounds. Coach Sean Miller has once again brought another strong recruiting class as Arizona has been the standard of success in the Pac-12 since the days of Coach Lute Olson.

Expect the February 10 matchup between Arizona and USC to determine the winner of the Pac-12 regular season possibly.

Arizona State Sun Devils (15-18, 7-11)

Tra Holder returns as the Sun Devils’ leading scorer after finishing second on the team last season (16.2ppg). Shannon Evans also returns and will look to provide secondary scoring for Holder.

The outlook does not appear bright again this season for Arizona State compared to in-state rival Arizona. Holder does have potential in the NBA as he almost helped to upset Oregon on the road last season in a 71-70 loss.

Arizona State does have a potential star in freshman Remy Martin, but the team is not expected to make much noise in the Pac-12.

Utah Utes (20-12, 11-7)

After joining the Pac-12 and struggling to gain footing, Utah is starting to trend upward. Utah has been a tough place for visiting teams as the Utes nearly knocked off the Bruins and the Ducks at home last season. Had the Utes been able to beat both sides, a berth in the NCAA Tournament would have happened.

The Utes lost two of their three top scorers in Kyle Kuzma and Lorenzo Bonam. David Collette returns where he finished last season second on the team in scoring (13.6ppg) and in rebounding (5.1rpg). Justin Bibbins, a transfer from Long Beach State, will assist in the scoring department but could struggle on defense due to his size.

Utah missed out on the NCAA Tournament and did not want the same fate to happen this season. The Utes will undoubtedly look to add big wins to their resume come selection time.

Colorado Buffaloes (19-15, 8-10)

Coach Tad Boyle perhaps assembled a Colorado team worthy of competing in the Pac-12 last season with the depth on the roster. The Buffaloes did manage to upset Oregon at home last season, but their chances faded early. Seven-straight losses to begin Pac-12 play proved costly.

Now, a rebuild begins for Coach Boyle as expectations are not high for a young Buffaloes team. George King is the top scoring returner for the team finishing third (11.1ppg) and led in rebounds (6.8rpg). Deleon Brown will hope to step up this season.

Defense will be an issue with a young Colorado team as Coach Boyle builds for the future. Colorado may not boast quality players, but like Utah, the home court can be hostile for visitors.

Pac-12 Prediction

The USC-Arizona contest will ultimately decide the winner of the Pac-12 regular season title with the Wildcats coming out on top.

Arizona may be the class of the Pac-12 this season, but the conference could be a free-for-all. Teams such as Stanford, Utah, and Oregon State have returners with experience to pose a threat. The Pac-12 Tournament could be up for grabs for an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

USC, UCLA, and Arizona will make the NCAA Tournament.

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