With the start of the college basketball season just days away, we asked five of our writers to fill out their own preseason Pac-12 basketball ballots and project how they believe the conference will play out. The results are below and maybe, they’re just a bit surprising to some folks out there.
1. Arizona State Sun Devils | 57 Points - 2 First Place Votes
Bobby Hurley finally has the team he’s been waiting for in Tempe. The fact that point guard Remy Martin, the potential Pac-12 Player of the Year, came back to mesh with Alonzo Verge and a loaded freshmen class of Josh Christopher and Marcus Bagley gives the Sun Devils so much in the tank to work with. Portland State addition Holland Woods might put this team over the edge.
2. UCLA Bruins | 55 Points - 2 First Place Votes
UCLA won the NBA Draft process when star Chris Smith chose to return to Westwood, leaving the Bruins roster in a place that seems possible to return to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. Kentucky transfer Johnny Juzang has Jalen Hill, Jaime Jaquez Jr., Cody Riley and Tyger Campbell on his side to spur the continuous rebuild under Mick Cronin. UCLA is officially back. Pac-12 take notice.
3. Oregon Ducks | 53 Points - 1 First Place Vote
Dana Altman has solidified the Ducks spot atop the Pac-12 in recent seasons, yet staying there will require some serious development this winter. Oregon lost veteran guard Payton Pritchard to graduation, meaning Chris Duarte and Will Richardson are now the go-to options. If the Ducks get waivers for transfers LJ Figueroa (St. John’s) and Aaron Estrada (St. Peter’s), they can be elite.
4. Arizona Wildcats | 42 Points
If Sean Miller can enact the brutality of this complete roster flip-over, three key transfers in Georgetown’s James Akinjo, Nevada’s Jordan Brown and Seattle’s Terrell Brown Jr. will need to step up massively. The Wildcats add a lot of foreign-born players, which can be a double-edged sword in the weird world of college basketball. Arizona is likeable, but very unproven at this point.
5. Stanford Cardinal | 40 Points
The Cardinal will be unique customers, with so much of what they do being hinged on how well five-star recruit Ziaire Williams blends in with a veteran group. The loss of guard Tyrell Terry to the NBA Draft leaves big man Oscar da Silva to anchor a squad that still has Spencer Jones, Daejon Davis, Bryce Wills and Jaiden Delaire in tow. Don’t sleep on the Cardinal’s potential going forward.
6. USC Trojans | 34 Points
USC’s hopes bank firmly on five-star center Evan Mobley, who already is being pegged as one of the top one-and-dones in college basketball, on a roster that will feature very little familiarity from 2019-2020. The Trojans lose their top five scorers from a year ago, but welcome a fleet of transfers to build around the combo of forward Isaiah Mobley and guard Ethan Anderson.
7. Colorado Buffaloes | 33 Points
Along with Arizona State’s Remy Martin, Colorado could have one of the front-runners for the league’s Player of the Year in McKinley Wright IV. Big man Evan Battey and Tulsa transfer Jeriah Horne are formidable front-court pieces, who will allow talents like D’Shawn Schwartz and Wright to operate more regularly on the perimeter. A top-heavy roster might allow for some growth.
8. Utah Utes | 25 Points
The Utes are always a sound model of consistency and they’ll need their steady ways to come through. Forward Timmy Allen won’t have his running mate in Both Gach, who left for greener pastures at Minnesota, but he will still have streaky shooter Rylan Jones and excitable talent Alfonso Plummer by his side. The Utes can make things interesting, if they find capable depth.
9. Washington Huskies | 21 Points
Nobody had a stranger 2019-2020 than Mike Hopkins, as arguably his most talented team in Washington limped to a dead-last finish in Pac-12 play. Wing Naz Carter and guard Quade Green anchor a roster that might somehow feel healthier sans Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels. The Huskies needed a breath of fresh air and they’ll get that when the ball is tipped this week.
10. California Golden Bears | 13 Points
Returning guard Matt Bradley is primed for an all-conference type of season, especially with the help around him expected to be somewhat similar. The transfers of Makale Foreman (Stony Brook) and Ryan Betley (Pennsylvania) might be the Golden Bears’ best compliments, as Mark Fox’s second year will be another fight out of the conference’s cellar. Can California get it going?
11. Oregon State Beavers | 11 Points
The Beavers need to replace their frontcourt duo of Tres Tinkle and Kylor Kelley and Wayne Tinkle relied heavily upon the transfer market to do just that. Oregon State will throw Warith Alatishe (Nicholls State) and a trio of junior college talents into the mix to aid returners Ethan Thompson, Zach Reichle and Alfred Hollins. It will be an uphill fight for the Beavers in a cloudy Pac-12.
12. Washington State Cougars | 6 Points
Kyle Smith’s group clawed to a 16-16 mark in his first season in Pullman, but repeating that mark will mean that a bevy of new faces have to take on bigger roles. The duo of Macedonian forward Andrej Jakimovski and California’s Carlos Rosario could turn out to be one of the league’s more underrated freshman pairings. Returning guard Isaac Bonton will need all the help he can get.