1. Arizona: Outside of Kentucky, Arizona might have the most talented roster in the country. The Wildcats lost Pac-12 Player of the Year Nick Johnson and the fourth overall pick Aaron Gordon, but remain the favorites to win the conference title. Arizona returns the consistent T.J. McConnell at point guard and athletic 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski at center. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was spotty as a freshman, but is an athletic wing that will become a major threat on both ends of the floor. Brandon Ashley looked like a potential first round pick before he was sidelined with a foot injury and will look to return to his previous form. More starpower may come in freshman Stanley Johnson, a four-time state champion from Mater Dei High School. Johnson was rated as the top prospect from California as he blends a mix of power and skill. Gabe York and Elliott Pitts will add shooting off the bench while freshmen Craig Victor, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, and 7’0 Serbian Dusan Ristic should contribute in smaller roles. Look for the Wildcats to earn another No. 1 seed and make a deep postseason run.
2. Utah: Delon Wright was an all-around star last season and will be vital for Utah once again. The former JUCO product averaged 15.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game last season while shooting 56.1% from the field. He’ll team with Brandon Taylor and Jordan Loveridge, another pair of returners who averaged over 10 points per game last season. There’s inexperience at power forward, but plenty of ability in Brekkott Chapman and Kyle Kuzma. The pair of freshmen were rated as four-star prospects and will play crucial roles in the rotation. Dallin Bachynski is a solid 7-foot center that’s expected to start while Jeremy Olson will add depth up front. There’s enough experience and depth for Utah to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009, but can the Utes live up to the preseason hype?
3. Colorado: Losing Spencer Dinwiddie to an ACL injury was a tough blow for the Buffs, but they did prove capable of winning without their star. With Dinwiddie off to the NBA, Colorado returns nearly every other player from the rotation and looks like a potential Top 25 team. Askia Booker has started every game over the last two seasons and is a proven option in the backcourt. Xavier Talton and Jaron Hopkins will battle for the starting point guard spot. Xavier Johnson is a tough wing that averaged 12.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game while Tre’Shaun Fletcher adds depth off the bench. Sophomore Wesley Gordon is expected to have a more consistent season offensively while junior Josh Scott is a proven interior presence. Scott averaged 14.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game last season and should be one of the top returners in the conference. Freshman Tory Miller could also add depth inside. With a deep and talented squad, look for Colorado to return to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive season.
4. Stanford: Although the Cardinal lost NBA draftees Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell, they return three quality starters in Anthony Brown, Stefan Nastic, and Chasson Randle. Brown and Randle averaged 12.3 and 18.8 points per game respectively and will make for a skilled and experienced backcourt. There have also been good reports about freshman point guard Robert Cartwright. Nastic averaged 11.7 points on 14-of-18 shooting during the NCAA Tournament and will look to carry the momentum into this season. Rosco Allen played just one game last year due to a stress fracture in his foot but should be a solid glue guy on the starting lineup. Reid Travis, a McDonald’s All-American, rounds out the starting unit as a tough rebounder at power forward. With a nice mix of experience and a deep rotation, Johnny Dawkins could lead Stanford to another tournament run.
5. UCLA: The Bruins lost three first round picks along with the Wear twins, but bring in a new crop of talent that should keep them in the upper half of the conference. Kevon Looney and Isaac Hamilton are former McDonald’s All-Americans that should become instant starters. Looney is a lengthy and versatile forward while Hamilton is a scoring guard. Bryce Alford will assume the point guard responsibilities while Norman Powell provides experience and athleticism on the wing. Powell averaged 11.4 points per game last year and started in all 37 contests. Tony Parker will add size inside and rebounding down low while 7-foot freshman Thomas Welsh is another McDonald’s All-American. UCLA lost plenty of key players, but has enough to build around to remain relevant in the Pac-12.
6. Cal: Cuonzo Martin takes over the head coaching role after Mike Montgomery retired and the newcomer has some pieces to work with. Jabari Bird is a former McDonald’s All-American that could have a breakout season ahead on the wing. Fellow sophomore Jordan Mathews had a solid freshman campaign and will be another scoring option. David Kravish averaged 11.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game inside last season and will provide most of the interior scoring. Tyrone Wallace is a well-rounded point guard that should lead the offense. With enough ability to fight for an NCAA bid, it will be interesting to see how Martin starts his Pac-12 coaching career.
7. Washington: Sophomore point guard Nigel Williams-Goss will be the centerpiece of this year’s squad. He averaged 13.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game last season and will need to continue his development. Andrew Andrews is the only other returner that averaged double-figures in the scoring department and will be a crucial piece next to Williams-Goss. JUCO transfer Quevyn Winters will add some shooting in the backcourt while Mike Anderson could join the starting lineup. Up front, Shawn Kemp Jr. and Jernard Jarreau are expected to play vital roles. Kemp Jr. has had some consistency issues but could put it all together as a senior. Jarreau is back from a knee injury that forced him to miss almost all of last season. Fresno State transfer Robert Upshaw is also a big bodied, 6-foot-11 center that has loads of upside. Head coach Lorenzo Romar hopes to lead the Huskies to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011.
8. Oregon: The Ducks lost a total of 10 scholarship players from last year and two high school signees were not admitted, but there’s still enough talent for Oregon to compete in the Pac-12. Joseph Young is a quality combo guard that can score at a high level. Elgin Cook provides energy and athleticism up front. JUCO transfers Dwayne Benjamin and Michael Chandler are expected to boost the frontcourt. Freshmen Ahmaad Rorie and Dillon Brooks were late additions to the 2014 recruiting class, but will see plenty of minutes this season. Rorie will need to play effective minutes at the point while Brooks, originally a 2015 prospect, could start on the wing. The lack of depth could become an issue, but Oregon may also have enough pieces to build around Young’s scoring.
9. Arizona State: Last year’s top three scorers are gone and a mix of freshmen and JUCO transfers will play big roles. Freshman Tra Holder will likely start at point guard alongside JUCO addition Roosevelt Scott. The frontcourt has some depth but not a lot of size. Shaquielle McKissic averaged 9.0 points per game last year and will be a threat on the defensive end as well. JUCO big man Willie Atwood is a highly touted transfer while Jonathan Gilling is expected to add some scoring. Forward Savon Goodman, a JUCO transfer and former UNLV product, is expected to make an impact, but isn’t eligible until December. Look for some pressure defense to compensate for the lack of size.
10. USC: The Trojans added some talent for this year’s roster, but head coach Andy Enfield may be a year or two away from competing in the Pac-12. Freshman Jordan McLaughlin is a four-star point guard expected to lead the fast-paced attack. Transfers Katin Reinhardt, a shooting guard, and Darion Clark, a power forward, sat out last season and should be ready to contribute. Returners Julian Jacobs and Nikola Jovanovic played well in smaller roles as freshmen, but will look to emerge this year.
11. Washington State: DaVonté Lacy averaged 19.4 points per game last season and will need to continue to score at a high level. Que Johnson should add another scoring option on the wing. Sophomore Ike Iroegbu is an athletic point guard that should improve as a starter. Ernie Kent also signed three freshman point guards to compete for back-up minutes. Dexter Kernich-Drew is a stretch-four while Richard “Junior” Longrus, Jordan Railey, and Josh Hawkinson will provide size inside.
12. Oregon State: New head coach Wayne Tinkle inherits a depleted roster that lost its top five leading scorers from last season. Langston Morris-Walker will have a big scoring role while Malcolm Duvivier will need to emerge as a threat at the point guard position. JUCO addition Gary Payton II should make a contribution but the Beavers may lack the talent to win a conference game.
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