Pac-12 Basketball Season Preview

Story posted October 30, 2018 in Sports, CommRadio by Matthew White

The Pac-12 conference is looking for its men's basketball teams to perform much better this season after going winless in the NCAA Tournament last year.  Arizona had aspirations to win the national championship but was upset by Buffalo in the first round. 

UCLA and Arizona State both earned at-large bids opening the tournament as No.11 seeds in the First Four.  Additionally, USC did not receive a bid despite finishing second in the conference standings last year and having high preseason aspirations.  However, there are several quality recruits entering the Pac-12 this year, which will give several teams a shot at winning the conference championship.

The Oregon Ducks are the favorite to win the conference with two five-star recruits and three four-star recruits entering the program.  The team only lost two players and head coach Dana Altman will have one of his most talented squads while he’s been in charge of Oregon. 

Freshman Bol Bol and Louis King will give the team lots of length and versatility. The Ducks will likely struggle early due to the roster being very young, but Oregon should be strong nearing tournament time.

UCLA and Washington will also be competitive this year with a chance to earn bids in the NCAA Tournament. UCLA’s top recruits, Shareef O’Neal and Tyger Campbell, are both out for the season with injuries. Despite the early season injuries and losing Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh to the draft, this team will still be good with Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands leading the way.

On the other hand, Washington’s new coach Mike Hopkins has brought in three four-star recruits to add to a team that lost only one player.  The Huskies should make the tournament this year as they have already adapted to the 2-3 zone that Hopkins brought over from Syracuse. 

Other Pac-12 teams that could make the tournament include USC, Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah. 

USC will be a little inexperienced after losing Chimezie Metu to the draft, but the Trojans bring in three four-star recruits. Bennie Boatwright’s health is a question mark and the Trojans will need to depend on lots of players to make bigger contributions last year in order to succeed.

Additionally, Colorado will be a strong candidate for making the tournament this year as leading scorer, McKinley Wright returns. The Buffalos lost most of its frontcourt, but their strong guard play should put themselves in consideration for the tournament. 

Arizona had a shaky offseason after losing most of its team to the draft and the questions circulating head coach Sean Miller about having ties with Adidas to give recruits deals in order for them to attend the university. Despite those rumors, the Wildcats bring in two four-star freshmen and two transfer players from Duke and Pittsburgh. 

The roster lacks five-star players but still includes highly recruited players that lack egos. Therefore, the Wildcats will have an opportunity to win the conference and make the tournament as usual. 

Arizona State also had a solid year after making the tournament in Bobby Hurley’s third season as the head coach.  The Sun Devils lost its three leading scorers, but they bring in solid freshmen and transfers to replace its frontcourt loses. 

Utah’s stock is falling despite being the NIT runner-up last year due to the team losing four of its starters.  However, head coach Larry Krystkowiak always gets the most out of its players, which will put the Utes in tournament consideration. 

The four teams that will likely continue to struggle this year are Stanford, Oregon State, Washington State and California. 

Stanford lost its best player in Reid Travis, as he opted to head to Kentucky as a graduate transfer. However, the Cardinal bring in lots of recruits to make them a deep squad.

Oregon State should also continue to rise from last season led by Tres Tinkle and the Thompson brothers.  Washington State and Cal cannot get much worse from last season, but the lack of talent will continue to haunt them. 

Overall, Oregon should dominate the Pac-12 and have a chance for a top seed in the tournament. The rest of the conference will remain competitive with multiple teams having a shot to earn a bid for March Madness. Non-conference play is going to be vital for the conference of champions to improve their reputation. 

 

Matthew White is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism with a double minor in Spanish and business.  To contact him, email mmw42@psu.edu.