The Pac-12 had a really bad last year, but the good news is that this conference should be much much better this season. The overall depth of the conference should be much improved.
Oregon was beat up all last year but when it came time to put it all together they did and overachieved considering the amount of injuries they were dealt. The good news is despite losing some key players they return a good amount of talent and they’re all healthy now.
The Ducks welcome back guards Anthony Mathis, Payton Pritchard both whom average over double digits in points last year plus they bring back forward Shakur Juiston. Mix that in with head coach Dana Altman’s incredible pull of landing the top Juco player in the country in Chris Duarte and the Ducks should be a tough team to beat in 2019-20.
94.1 percent. That’s the number to pay attention to here. That’s the amount of minutes coming back to the Buffs in 2019-20 which is top 8 in the entire country. It’s not only that but it’s who they are bringing back like perhaps the best player in all the Pac-12 in guard McKinley Wright and forward Tyler Bey.
The entire starting 5 is back from a season ago which means the Buffs are a real threat to grab a Pac-12 championship. Tad Boyle is doing an amazing job in Boulder and if they can get things together perhaps this could be the best Colorado team in recent memory.
The Huskies sure lost a lot from a season ago in losing Jaylen Nowell, Matisse Thybulle, & Noah Dickerson but the Huskies have reloaded quite well. Washington might just be starting three freshman on the starting five this year but they are some big time recruits. Two five star recruits in Jaden McDaniels and Isaiah Stewart should have a huge impact immediately.
Plus they add in Kentucky transfer in guard Quade Green. The other two penciled in starting five is the lone veteran forward Nahziah Carter and freshman guard RaeQuan Battle. It’ll be interesting seeing how fast this team can gel and perhaps grow up.
Somehow someway Sean Miller is still coaching at Arizona. I would argue that I think they could of done better. Miller is a good coach but he’s been a huge dud when it comes to the NCAA Tournament but I guess he’ll get another shot again this year. Arizona lost a ton but Miller has landed yet another big recruiting class so they can’t possibly be that bad. The Wildcats return C Chase Jeter from a season ago. Jeter the former Duke transfer averaged double digits points per game for the Cats last year.
Other than that this team is going to be led by freshman and transfers like UC Irvine grad transfer Max Hazzard who you may remember from the NCAA Tournament. It’s looking like Arizona is going to start three freshman this year and all three are super talented. Leading the way out of the freshman class is 5 star recruit Nico Mannion. The cats took a bit of a hit when guard Brandon Williams was announced out for the season a few weeks back. This team is super talented but is kind of thrown together so it’ll be interesting to see what they can achieve.
5. Arizona State
It’s a bit of a rebuild in Tempe, but don’t underestimate Bobby Hurley. This team has the talent to make a run. They just lack some experience.
Gone is Luguentz Dort, De’Quan Lake, & Zylan Cheatham. However, the good news is that veteran guards Remy Martin and Rob Edwards are back for another year. It’s always great to have solid guard play.
Forwards Kimani Lawrence, Romello White & Taeshon Cherry all got solid minutes last year and should be the starters heading into the 2019-20 season. The talent level has dropped a little bit, but the starting five has played together … just not in the starting five form.
6. Oregon State
I think I’m more optimistic about Oregon State this year than most publications. I like what the Beavers are bringing back and think they really could surprise even my ranking. First of all they return forward Tres Tinkle who averaged about 21 points per game a season ago.
Alongside Tinkle is stud guard Ethan Thompson who averaged 13 points per game and 5 boards per game. The entire projected starting 5 is all upper class men and that’s always a good thing. On the bench they do have a lot of youth and they also welcome in big man BYU transfer Payton Dastrup who could be a nice bench option for the Beavers. All together this team is a veteran team with its best two pieces returning so watch out Pac-12 this is not the Oregon State of the past.
Steve Alford is gone and it was about time. I have never been a big fan of Alford coached teams and despite the disaster that was the UCLA hiring process for their next coach. I think the Bruins could of gotten a blessing in disguise when they landed what seemed like their 10th wish in head coach Mick Cronin coming over from Cincinnati.
Sure, UCLA losses some key pieces from last years team but last years team was a soft one and this one I can guarantee won’t be soft. Guard Prince Ali is probably their best returning player and he’ll join forwards Chris Smith & Cody Riley as their top returning players from a season ago. Newcomer Shareef O’Neal son of Shaquille will be one to watch. I’m eager to see how fast Cronin builds up the toughness of this team.
The Trojans didn’t just lose Kevin Porter they lost several key players but they do welcome back two double digit scorers from a season ago in forward Nick Rakocevic and guard Jonah Mathews mix those guys in with big time freshman recruits in Onyeka Okongwu and Isiah Mobley and perhaps you have a starting five that can do some damage in the PAC-12. Andy Enfield is a solid coach but this team is really inexperienced though so I expect them to struggle early on.
The Cardinals program hasn’t been the same in some time and well it’s not looking like it will be back to the glory days this year either. Stanford does return a couple nice pieces that could keep them in the Pac-12 middle of the pac with the return of guard Daejon Davis and forward Oscar Da Silva but they are going to need some help which i have my doubts about. Incoming freshman guard Tyrell Terry could really provide the spark the Cardinals need but they sure have their work cut out for them.
The Utes lost a ton from a season ago and when you analyze the Utah roster it has to be one of the least experienced in the country. That won’t stop head coach and former Milwaukee Bucks forward Larry Krystkowiak from coaching the Utes up. Utah didn’t have much talent last year but they overachieved and they do that almost every year. Forward Timmy Allen is easily the best player on the Utes and he’ll need some help from Both Gosh and Riley Battin the only other veterans on this roster despite them being sophomores.
11. Washington State
Consider me one of the ones sold on the Wazzu coaching hire of Kyle Smith coming over from San Francisco. I thought Smith did a fantastic job with San Francisco and I think with some time perhaps he can work some magic with the Cougars. The Cougs might even be able to overachieve this year with the return of forward CJ Elleby and the addition of Deion James coming over from Colorado State. It’ll be interesting to see what Smith can do in year one in Pullman.
The Golden Bears were awful last year but they did seem to get better as the season progressed so that could be a good sign. They also should be starting three guys who averaged over double digits a season ago. Led by star guard Paris Austin. Another key contributor could be the addition of Texas A&M C.C. transfer Kareem South. With Austin, South and guard Matt Bradley the Bears might be able to really put some points on the board. The defensive side of the ball will be the real question mark?