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Connor's NCAA Hoops Preview: The Pac-12

EDIT: This will be my final post on BTD for the foreseeable future, as I will now be co-managing the Pac-12 microsite at Rush the Court. I'm going to miss everyone here, but especially fanoverboard :) Now, on to the preview!

Here is the final part to my weekend college basketball preview, in which I will predict the conference standings, break down each team, predict the all-conference teams, and go over the must-see games. Enjoy!

Predicted Standings

1. California
2. Arizona
3. Washington
5. Oregon
6. Oregon State
7. Stanford
8. Colorado
9. Washington State
10. USC
11. Arizona State
12. Utah

Team Breakdowns

1. California
: The Golden Bears will be an interesting team to watch this year as they boast one of the best starting five's in the nation, yet their bench is a relative unknown. Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp should be able to lead this team on talent alone to the sweet sixteen, but I don't see the Bears advancing past there.

2. Arizona: If freshman Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson live up to expectations, the Wildcats can go ten or elven deep without worry. This kind of depth will be unrivaled in the Pac-12 this season and will allow them to compete with California for the conference crown.

3. Washington: The Huskies success in 2011-2012 will depend on guards Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten Jr. If they perform at the top of their potential and get some help down low from 7-footer Aziz N'Diaye down low, the Huskies could make some noise come March.

4. UCLA: The Bruins' season will come down to the play of their backcourt and how much they create and score. Senior Lazeric Jones will be expected to lead the team and be the primary ball-handler, but if he can improve on his 9.1 PPG mark from last season, it will take the pressure off some of the more inexperienced shooting guards. The post will be held down by junior Reeves Nelson and sophomore Joshua Smith.

5. Oregon: I hate it, but I really like Oregon's chances to have a great year. In my mind, they are a sure-lock for the NIT and maybe even the NCAA's if they pull a couple of big upsets along the way. Freshman shooting-guard Jabrai Brown, who spurned Connecticut to come out to Eugene, should take control of the Oregon offense from day one and give a new dynamic to the team that they haven't seen since Tajuan Porter's playing days.

6. Oregon State: The theme for the 2011-2012 Beavers is raw talent. The Beavers are full of it, in both the back and front courts, and if everything comes together at the right time this team can be very good. Junior guard Jared Cunningham is the only sure-fire guy on the roster, but if Roberto Nelson, Ahmad Starks, and Devon Collier all build on the good games they had at the end of last season, the Beavers are a good bet to make the NIT.

More previewing after the break

7. Stanford: Next year will be Stanford's time to compete for a conference championship, but this year it looks as if they will be stuck in the bottom half of the Pac-12. The main reason for this is the loss of do-everything guard Jeremy Green, who averaged 16.7 PPG last season. Stanford does return four starters, but only Josh Owens is a major threat to opposing defenses.

8. Colorado: No doubt this will be a rebuilding year for the Buffaloes after the losses of Alec Burks, Cory Higgins, Levi Knutson, and Marcus Relphorde, who all averaged in double-digits last year, but they still return starters Nate Tomlinson and Austin Dufault, who I think will lead CU from their expected double-digit finish in the Pac to a more respectable eighth.

9. Washington State: This Cougar team is super-young after losing DeAngelo Casto and Klay Thompson, but Marcus Capers, Reggie Moore, and Abe Lodwick should get the team to some sort of postseason tournament.

10. USC: This is a talented Trojan team, but the truth is, they are talented almost every year and continue to disappoint. I'm not falling for it this year.

11. Arizona State: The Sun Devils will be better (But not THAT much better) if Jahii Carson is able to play, but right now that doesn't seem to be the case. Junior guard Trent Lockett will be looked at to lead the team, but the offensively-challenged post players will prevent the Devils from a single-digit finish in the Pac-12.

12. Utah: The truth is, Utah does not have very good players, it's as simple as that. The troops will be coming, if not next year then in a couple, but right now the Utes are going to struggle mightily.

First Team All-Conference

G - Jared Cunningham, Oregon State
G - Abdul Gaddy, Washington
C - Harper Kamp, California
F - Allen Crabbe, California
F - Trent Lockett, Arizona State

Second Team All-Conference

G - Jorge Gutierrez, California
G - Kyle Fogg, Arizona
C - Joshua Smith, UCLA
F - Reeves Nelson, UCLA
F - E.J. Singler, Oregon

Games to Watch

  • Arizona State @ Grand Canyon (Exhibition), Nov. 5: Just because it will be interesting to see a Pac-12 team play on the road for an exhibiton game. But who knows, maybe they will pull a football-Beavers and lose to a lower division team.
  • Oregon @ Vanderbilt, Nov. 11: The Ducks will proabably get killed in this one, but it should be a fun game for the official opening night.
  • Arizona vs St. John's, Nov. 17: An early-season battle between a pair of talented teams trying to find themselves, yes please.
  • Oregon State vs Texas, Nov. 19: A win here would prove that the Beavers are ready for the big-time.
  • San Diego State @ Arizona, Nov. 23: We get to see just how far the Aztecs will drop in this "rebuilding" year when they face a good team in a hostile enviornment.
  • Oregon @ BYU, Dec. 3: BYU will be good, but not great this season, and this will be a fun one to watch between two teams trying to find an identity.
  • Texas @ UCLA, Dec. 3: This games is a total toss-up, but it should be a grat one to watch.
  • California @ San Diego State, Dec. 4: This is a huge test for the 11th ranked Golden Bears. If they pass it in the raucous Viejas Arena, you know they are going to be good.
  • Arizona @ Florida, Dec. 7: This is right when college hoops start to get good. The football regular-season is over, the weather is cold, and there are Top 25 matchups everywhere.
  • Arizona vs Gonzaga, Dec. 17: Hopes are high in Spokane for Mark Few's Bulldogs, and this will be a huge test for them before WCC play begins.
  • Butler @ Stanford, Dec. 22: The Bulldogs are good, but you know that Stanford has had this game circled since the summer.
  • California @ UNLV, Dec. 23: A pre-Christmas treat for college basketball fans. Once again, a huge test for the Bears in a hostile Mountain West gym (If you can call the 18,775 seat Thomas & Mack Center a gym).
  • California @ Washington, Jan. 19: Not many teams go into Bank of America Arena and escape with a win. California has the talent to do so.
  • Washington @ Arizona, Jan. 28: Could very well be a preview of the Pac-12 championship game in March.
  • Arizona @ California, Feb. 2: Or this one could be as well.