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Pac 12 Basketball Preview - Part 1

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The regular season is next week! UWDP takes a look at the Pac 12 with team previews.

Utah's Jakob Poeltl
Utah's Jakob Poeltl
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

With the regular season set to begin next Friday, UW Dawg Pound previews the Pac 12.  Despite severe losses, Arizona is slated as the media’s choice to with a very competitive conference this year.  Here’s our first part of the preview:

Arizona State

The biggest addition to the Sun Devils is head coach Bobby Hurley.  The former Duke guard comes to Tempe from Buffalo where he took the Bulls (23-10) to the NCAA tournament last year.  The previous year, his team went 19-10.

Hurley replaces long-time former coach Herb Sendek after he was unable to get the Sun Devils into the tournament last season and just two appearances during his nine years at the helm.

Hurley has three incoming junior college transfers joining a team that went 9-9 in the Pac 12 and 18-16 overall last season.  The Sun Devils lost Seattle native Shaquielle McKissic to graduation but return the next two top scorers - Savon Goodman and Gerry Blakes.

Picked to be 8th by Pac 12 media, a lot of fans should be willing to live with the mediocrity as Hurley brings instant credibility (two NCAA championships with Duke as a player as well as a stint in the NBA) and interest to the program.  You might recall Hurley spent a lot of time in the CBS studio doing halftime analysis after Buffalo was out of the tournament.  This high visibility should attract national recruits to his program.  He also retained assistant coach Stan Johnson from Herb Sendek’s staff to help him out with recruiting on the west coast.

Hurley brings an uptempo style of play that should excite the fans and attract players wanting to play up and down the court.

Arizona

Picked to win the Pac 12 by the media, the Wildcats have high lofty expectations despite losing its 4 top contributors from the 2014-2015 squad.  Coming off a 16-2 Pac 12 conference record and 34-4 overall, the Wildcats lose Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brandon Ashley and T.J. McConnell.  Another big blow occurred last month as touted redshirt freshman Ray Smith will miss the entire season with a right knee injury.

As Coach Lorenzo Romar attempts to mesh his young players, so will Miller.

Yet, even with all of the losses, it still should be affixed atop the Pac 12 this year.  Returning are Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Kaleb Tarczewski and Gabe York to provide veteran leadership while Seattle’s Allonzo Trier should provide an instant spark as an incoming freshman.

Trier’s story is very interesting and if you have time, check out this NY Times article from March 2009 by Michael Sokolove on his hoop dreams as just a sixth grader.  Trier attended Findlay Prep in Nevada before committing to Arizona.

In addition to Trier, Boston College transfer Ryan Anderson, USF transfer Mark Tollefsen, Justin Simon and Chance Comanche join the team.

Sean Miller was just one game away from the Final Four before Wisconsin tripped them up.  Can they make another deep run in the tournament?

Colorado

The Buffaloes were 7-11 in the Pac 12 and 16-18 overall yet still played in the CBI.  The Buffaloes lost to Seattle U in the second round of the tournament.  Last year’s leading scorer Askia Booker graduated and the Buffaloes will need to rely on senior forward Josh Scott for leadership and scoring.

Colorado may be the only team in the NCAA with 2 Xaviers.  Xavier Johnson and Talton are both seniors for the Buffaloes.  There is also Tacoma product Tre’Shaun Fletcher.

The Buffaloes will have newcomers Thomas Akyazili from Belgium and JC transfer Kenan Guzonjic to the roster this season.

The media picked Colorado 7th in its  poll.  This is probably where they will end up as the team lost its best player but brings back most of its core players from last year.

Utah

The only player in the Pac 12 to make the 2015-2016 NCAA Preseason College Basketball All-America Team was the Utes sophomore forward/center Jakob Poeltl.  The 7-footer averaged 9 points and almost 7 boards per game as a freshman.  Based on his placement on the All-American list, you could look for him to make the next step especially with the loss of Delon Wright.  Larry Krystkowiak’s team is 13-5 in the Pac 12 (with one of those losses coming to UW) and 26-9 overall last year.

Poeltl is being heralded as one of the best centers in the country.  Aside from Poeltl, the Utes will rely on Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor.  There is also JUCO transfer Lorenzo Bonam that should help with scoring.

In his fourth year with the program, Krystkowiak has seen steady improvement culminating with last year’s second  place in the conference and a Sweet 16 appearance, the first in 10 years.

Utah is picked third by the Pac 12 media and drew seven first place votes.  Look for the Utes to make it back to the tournament improve on last year’s breakout campaign..

USC

The Trojans can only improve from a horrendous season which saw them go 3-15 in the Pac 12 and 12-20 overall.  "Dunk City West" is still a work in progress for Andy Enfield who is 23-41 overall heading into year three.  But, with most of the key parts to the team are back, it will be a matter of stepping up their game.

Just like most programs with a change of leadership, Enfield is beginning to bring in his own recruits.  Notably, Louisville transfer and former Rainier Beach high school standout Shaqquand Aaron will join the team next year.  This season forwards Chimezie Metu (6-11) and Bennie Boatwright (6-10) join the team that returns Nikola Jovanovic (6-11) and Katin Reinhardt (6-6) as their top returning scorers.  The Trojans are a big team that boass an average height of 6’7, which ties for the tallest in the Pac 12 along  with Oregon State.  Look for the Trojans to use their size this season in pounding the boards and a lot of inside scoring.

Not a lot is expected out of the Trojans as they are projected 10th by the media in the Pac 12.

UCLA

A surprise NCAA tournament invitee last year, Steve Alford’s team seeks to make it back to March Madness without any controversy.  Regardless, the Bruins (11-7, Pac 12; 22-14 overall) were one of the more unlikely Sweet 16 teams last season.

UCLA loses Norman Powell and Kevon Looney but that just means more time for the likes of Tony Parker and Isaac Hamilton.  Parker will be the inside presence for the Bruins while guards Hamilton and Bryce Alford will be key.

Jrue and Justin’s younger brother, Aaron Holiday will be one of the new Bruins to the team this year.  Holiday along with Prince Ali were two highly prized recruits that chose to play in Westwood.  They should help with the guard play.

While many criticized UCLA’s inclusion in the tourney last March, they made it to the second weekend.  While he is a polarizing figure, Alford did a great job in working with a team in transition.

UCLA is picked 5th in the Pac 12 by the media.  They did receive one first place vote.