It’s July which means it’s too early to really start thinking about the 2018-19 college basketball season. But we’re going to do it anyways because what else is there to do? Here’s a quick refresher on the state of Pac-12 basketball for those of you who checked out as soon as Villanova finished demolishing Michigan in the NCAA title game. This week I’ll rank the teams on the basis of their returning talent and then next week rank on the basis of their incoming talent. I used some psuedo-science to come up with a point system to try to provide a little bit of organization to the rankings.
Just a clarification that I’m not including players who sat out last year due to transfer rules or who redshirted as returners even though they technically were on scholarship. I’m only counting players who got on the court last year. We’ll start at the bottom.
12. Utah Utes- 6 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 41.3%, Points- 36.83%, Assists- 30.64%, Rebounds- 40.73%
Key Returners: SG Sedrick Barefield (12 points, 2.5 assists, 2.2 rebounds), SF Donnie Tillman (7.8 points, 0.6 assists, 4.8 rebounds)
Key Losses: PG Justin Bibbins (grad), PF David Colette (grad), C Tyler Rawson (grad)
Utah is only 11th in terms of percentage of returning minutes but I’m less high on the actual talent itself which gets them here. Utah will have to replace their four leaders in offensive rating from last season and so someone will have to take a step up in terms of efficiency. Sedrick Barefield has enough experience to become the veteran leader and go to scorer. And Donnie Tillman showed a lot of promise as a true freshman. But guys like Parker Van Dyke and Jayce Johnson have been merely fine in supporting roles to this point in their career. I wouldn’t bet on any Utah returner making 1st or 2nd team all-conference although Barefield likely has the best shot because he may average 16+ points per game since someone on this team will have to shoot.
11. California Golden Bears- 10 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 56.71%, Points- 54.29%, Assists- 59.42%, Rebounds- 51%, Blocks- 21.4%
Key Returners: SF Justice Sueing (13.8 points, 1.4 assists, 5.4 rebounds), PG Darius McNeill (11.3 points, 2.2 assists, 2.9 rebounds), SF Juhwan Harris-Dyson (6.2 points, 1.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds)
Key Losses: PF Marcus Lee (grad), C Kingsley Okoroh (grad), PG Don Coleman (transfer)
The Bears were a train wreck this past season and are hoping they can improve despite clearly losing a lot of talent on the inside. There were only really 2 bigs on Cal’s roster last year and they lost both of them in Lee and Okoroh. Cal also lost their leading scorer (per game) in Don Coleman although that almost certainly will be addition by subtraction given his inefficient shooting percentages.
The hope for Cal will start with Justice Sueing who is a future all-conference talent but might have to wait a year or two before actually making the list. He’s the complete package and is a plus at every tool except maybe passing. McNeill nominally played point guard some last year but he was mostly a catch and shoot guy who will need to expand his game. Harris-Dyson is a 6’5 guard who can’t shoot at all. That’s a tough sell unless you’re exceptional at every other aspect of the game and he’ll need to prove he’s a rotation player on a good team.
Cal had to hit the reset button before last year so the hope is that the returning youth will be able to coalesce at some point. They also return another 4 scholarship guys although none of them scored more than 2 points per game. There are stats for the taking so we’ll see if anybody is ready to step up.
10. Arizona Wildcats- 12 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 23.55%, Points- 15.54%, Assists- 22.22%, Rebounds- 16.56%
Key Returners: SG Dylan Smith (4.3 points, 1 assists, 1.6 rebounds), PF Brandon Randolph (3.7 points, 0.8 assists, 0.8 rebounds), SF Emmanuel Akot (1.8 points, 0.8 assists, 1.1 rebounds)
Key Losses: C DeAndre Ayton (early NBA), C Dusan Ristic (grad), SF Rawle Alkins (early NBA), SG Allonzo Trier (early NBA), PG Parker Jackson-Cartwright (grad)
It’s not often that a team loses their entire starting 5. It’s pretty much impossible to be as good as you were the year before when that happens unless you’re bringing in a top-2 recruiting class and Arizona isn’t doing that this year.
From a production standpoint the Wildcats absolutely deserve to be ranked last. But at the same time there are a lot of guys coming back who were highly ranked coming out of high school and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them break out this year with additional opportunity. Dylan Smith has to cut down on the turnovers but played pretty well as a transfer from UNC Asheville and is the only returner who played more than a third of the minutes last year. Everyone but DeAndre Ayton returns from Arizona’s vaunted 2017 5-man recruiting class and all were top-100 players. I don’t know who it’s going to be but at least one of the quartet of Randolph, Akot, Ira Lee, and Alex Barcello will become an all-conference type performer without Ayton and Trier taking up almost half the shots. And if they don’t then Arizona isn’t going to the NCAA tournament.
9. Washington State Cougars- 13 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 53.9%, Points- 56.78%, Assists- 36.22%, Rebounds- 52.81%
Key Returners: SF Robert Franks (17.4 points, 1.9 assists, 6.6 rebounds), SF Viont’e Daniels (9 points, 2 assists, 2.3 rebounds), SG Carter Skaggs (8.3 points, 0.6 assists, 2.6 rebounds)
Key Losses: PG Malachi Flynn (transfer), C Drick Bernstine (grad), PG Milan Acquaah (transfer)
It was initially reported that Robert Franks was declaring for the NBA Draft and hiring an agent and if that were the case the Cougars would’ve clinched last place on this list when combined with the transfers of Flynn and Acquaah. Franks is the token Wazzu player who puts up great stats but can’t win games on his own. Expect him to average 20+ this year and make 1st team all-conference.
Other than Franks there’s basically nothing left except spot up shooters. Daniels shot 45% from deep last year and Skaggs shot 40%. The trio will continue to rain three-pointers but with the loss of the only two true point guards on the roster they may struggle to find looks that are quite as open as they were last year. The 6’9 pair of Jeff Pollard and Arinze Chidom are nominally big men but neither have gotten major minutes before and are unproven.
8. Arizona State Sun Devils- 25 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 48.67%, Points- 42.31%, Assists- 37.34%, Rebounds- 68.06%
Key Returners: PG Remy Martin (9.6 points, 2.9 assists, 3 rebounds), C Romello White (10.5 points, 0.4 assists, 7.1 rebounds), SF Mickey Mitchell (5.8 points, 1.6 assists, 5.2 rebounds)
Key Losses: PG Tra Holder (grad), PG Shannon Evans II (grad), SG Kodi Justice (grad)
The 2017-18 Sun Devils were completely built around a pair of high usage guards in Tra Holder and Shannon Evans II but now both of them are gone. You can see in the disparity of returning assists versus rebounds that all of ASU’s lost production comes from the guard spots rather than from the bigs. The cupboard isn’t completely bare though.
Remy Martin looks like a future star and has a chance to win DPOY in the conference after Matisse Thybulle graduates. Bigs Romello White and DeQuon Lake both shot better than 65% from the floor but those were almost exclusively on dunks that were created by Holder and Evans. It remains to be seen if they can score as effectively without the trio of 37%+ floor spacers from 3; two of whom were also penetrating/creating senior guards. Mickey Mitchell became eligible part way through the year as a transfer from Ohio State and is a solid piece who was a highly touted recruit but has suffered through injuries. They also have rising sophomore PF Kimani Lawrence who was highly rated coming out of high school but was the third big on a team that only played one at a time and so didn’t play much. With both Lake and White returning that might not change unless ASU plays more 2 big lineups.
7. Oregon Ducks- 25 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 49.49%, Points- 48.24%, Assists- 48.92%, 44.29% Rebounds
Key Returners: PG Payton Pritchard (14.5 points, 4.8 assists, 3.8 rebounds), C Kenny Wooten (6.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.6 blocks), PF Paul White (9.4 points, 1.6 assists, 3.5 rebounds)
Key Losses: SF Troy Brown (early NBA), SF Mikyle McIntosh (grad), SG Elijah Brown (grad)
The Ducks lose 3 of their top 4 players in terms of minutes but they return numbers 1, 5, 6, and 7. All 3 of the departed were one hit wonders as either grad transfers or one and dones so given the lack of an NCAA berth last year I don’t think Oregon fans are too sad to see them go. Still, Oregon has a strong core of returners.
Pritchard is a great bet for a 1st team all-Pac-12 spot and he’ll have the ball in his hands most of the time for what should be a very good team. Kenny Wooten is one of the best shot blockers the conference has ever seen and he’ll be able to continue protecting the rim. Paul White came in as a transfer from Georgetown and had a very efficient seasons as a forward who could score down low as well as knock down 3-pointers. SG Victor Bailey was fine as a freshman and helps add depth while fellow freshman wing Abu Kigab never saw rotation minutes. Those are the only 5 returners for Oregon after all their fringe players transferred out to make room for their exceptional recruiting class.
6. UCLA Bruins- 29 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 52.4%, Points- 49.92%, Assists- 43.93%, Rebounds- 48.13%
Key Returners: SF Kris Wilkes (13.2 points, 1.7 assists, 4.7 rebounds), PG Jaylen Hands (9.7 points, 2.6 assists, 3.9 rebounds), SG Prince Ali (8.6 points, 1.3 assists, 3 rebounds)
Key Losses: PG Aaron Holiday (early NBA), C Thomas Welsh (grad NBA), C Gyorgy Goloman (grad)
There were rumors that both Hands and Wilkes would declare for the NBA draft in which case the Bruins would have plummeted to the bottom on this list. Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh were the focal point of last year’s UCLA team and their loss will definitely be felt. Holiday in particular led the team in points, assists, and steals so a new primary ball handler will be needed.
It should surprise no one if Wilkes becomes 1st team all-conference this year with his immense talent and balanced skill set. Hands is more of a combo guard than a true point but will be called on to improve his ball handling this year. Prince Ali is another guard that provides solid depth on the wing but could lose ground to talented incoming freshmen. PF Alex Olesinski has a similar skill set to Thomas Welsh and should be able to step into that role fairly seamlessly. Lingering over all of this though is the question of whether Steve Alford can coach a team to meet let alone exceed their base talent level.
5. Stanford Cardinal- 33 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 51.57%, Points- 42.64%, Assists- 60.55%, Rebounds- 43.8%
Key Returners: PG Daejon Davis (10.7 points, 4.9 assists, 4.4 rebounds), PF Kezie Okpala (10 points, 1.8 assists, 3.7 rebounds), PF Oscar Da Silva (6.2 points, 1.1 assists, 4.7 rebounds)
Key Losses: PF Reid Travis (transfer), C Michael Humphrey (grad), SG Dorian Pickens (grad)
There’s a good chance that if everyone made the decision that people expected of them this offseason that Stanford would be 2nd. Unfortunately for them, Reid Travis decided to transfer to Kentucky and just like that the Cardinal lost their star player. When combined with a pair of graduating starters it makes a major dent in the rotation. However, there’s still plenty here to allow Stanford to challenge an NCAA berth.
Washington fans will cringe to see Daejon Davis fill every part of the box score and this team becomes his with Reid’s departure. Kezie Okpala and Oscar Da Silva also broke out as freshmen and that trio will play a major role in the power structure of the conference if they choose to stick around for a while. Backup center Josh Sharma will become the primary rim protector after putting up a block percentage that was 4th in the conference in limited minutes a year ago.
4. Oregon State Beavers- 36 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 68.48%, Points- 72.68%, Assists- 77.89%, Rebounds- 64.53%
Key Returners: PF Tres Tinkle (17.6 points, 3.7 assists, 7.2 rebounds), SG Stephen Thompson Jr. (15.8 points, 3.3 assists, 3.1 rebounds), PG Ethan Thompson (9.9 points, 3.5 assists, 4.1 rebounds)
Key Losses: PF Drew Eubanks (early NBA), PG Jaquori McLaughlin (transfer), SF Seth Berger (grad)
I included McLaughlin on the key losses but he transferred very early into last year and so the team has already had to deal with his departure. The loss of Eubanks really hurt as he was a difference maker down low and had almost half of the Oregon State blocked shots. It was doubly painful for the OSU faithful because he left early for the NBA only to not get drafted.
With Reid Travis’s transfer I think Tres Tinkle should be the favorite (among returners) for Pac-12 player of the year. He could realistically average 20, 8, and 5 in his senior season playing for his dad. Both Thompson brothers (also playing for their dad) will be major contributors to make for one of the better trios in the conference. Gligorije Rakocevic (Big G) should be able to take on some of the heavy lifting filling in for Eubanks but otherwise the only other returning rotation pieces in Alfred Hollins and Zach Reichle haven’t shown a lot. The Beavers struggled with depth last season and despite losing only one major contributor the odds are that they’ll struggle in that department once more.
3. Colorado Buffaloes- 43 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 73.99%, Points- 70.05%, Assists- 79.46%, Rebounds- 70.18%
Key Returners: PG McKinley Wright IV (14.2 points, 5.5 assists, 4.7 rebounds), SF Namon Wright (9.7 points, 1.1 assists, 3.5 rebounds), PF Tyler Bey (6.1 points, 0.5 assists, 5.1 rebounds)
Key Losses: PF George King (grad NBA), SG Dominique Collier (grad)
George King was the heart and soul of last year’s Colorado team and losing him is a major blow. Dominique Collier was a solid 4-year wing player for the Buffs. But those are the only two rotation players that Colorado is losing which should allow them to grow from what was mostly a rebuilding year last season.
McKinley Wright IV was a revelation as a 3-star true freshman PG and has a good shot of leading the conference in assists this season. Namon Wright (no relation) is close to an average offensive player so it wouldn’t be a shock to see some of his shots given out to other players this year. Otherwise, the Buffs are loaded down low and on the wing with a slew of good pieces in Tyler Bey, Dallas Walton, D’Shawn Schwartz, and Lucas Siewert. If you were only ranking on the basis of the top-3 guys returning then Colorado would definitely be in the bottom half of the list. But they’ve got 7 guys coming back who I think can at least be average rotation pieces and that kind of depth sets a good foundation for 2018-19.
2. USC Trojans- 49 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 52.97%, Points- 49.25%, Assists- 33.4%, Rebounds- 56.8%
Key Returners: PF Bennie Boatwright (13.6 points, 2 assists, 6.4 rebounds), SG Jonah Matthews (9.3 points, 0.9 assists, 2.6 rebounds), PF Nick Rakocevic (8.1 points, 0.5 assists, 6.2 rebounds)
Key Losses: PG Jordan McLaughlin, SG Elijah Stewart, C Chimezie Metu
The Trojans only lost three rotation players but they were as good a trio as any team in the conference had on their roster. McLaughlin is borderline irreplaceable as he wracked up nearly half of USC’s assists last year and it’s unclear who will take his place as the primary ball handler. Metu had 41% of their total blocks and Stewart was a jack of all trades player who could do a little bit of everything.
Boatwright is the returning star as he has tantalizing talent but missed 10+ games due to injury each of the last two seasons and so must show he can stay healthy. Mathews shot better than 42% from deep last season and will be able to help stretch the floor. Rakocevic is a great low post scorer and one of the best offensive rebounders in the country. There’s still a lot of other returning talent but outside of those 3 it’s mostly unproven. PG Derryck Thornton and SF Shaqquan Aaron are a pair of former 5-star ACC recruits who disappointed at previous stops. And Jordan Usher, Charles O’Bannon, and Victor Uyaelunmo all are 6’6+ and were highly touted coming out of high school. I expect someone will emerge from those last 5 names to be great but I’m not sure who it will be. Despite the loss of their big-3 the Trojans still bring back 8 players and all of them have potential.
1. Washington Huskies- 58 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 95.26%, Points- 95.86%, Assists- 96.48%, Rebounds- 95.8%
Key Returners: PF Noah Dickerson (15.5 points, 0.9 assists, 8.4 rebounds), SG Jaylen Nowell (16 points, 2.7 assists, 4 rebounds), SF Matisse Thybulle (11.2 points, 2.6 assists, 2.9 rebounds)
Key Losses: None
I went through this same process last year so be quiet those of you accusing me of only doing this list so I could put Washington at number one. But there isn’t even the slightest argument about this one. Washington lost 3 players who saw double digit minutes in at least one game but none of them averaged even 5 minutes per game. The Huskies essentially return all 8 players from their rotation at the end of the year. And they’re pretty good players too.
Matisse Thybulle is the reigning defensive player of the year in the conference and led the league in steals. Noah Dickerson was 1st team all-conference a season ago averaging close to a double double. Jaylen Nowell is one of just 4 players in the last decade to not leave and be a 1st round pick after taking 28%+ of his team’s shots with a 49%+ eFG% as a true freshman on a 20+ win team in a power conference. Dominic Green shot 43% from deep at 6’6. Nahziah Carter is one of the best dunkers the conference has seen in a long time and finished the year shooting better than 40% from 3-point range albeit in a small sample size. Hameir Wright had an extremely high block percentage and has monstrous defensive upside. Sam Timmins was one of the better rebounders in the conference on a rate basis and shot nearly 60% from the field. And David Crisp...is great in the locker room.
If you held a 3v3 tournament among the returning players in the conference, UW would be able to form two different squads who would seriously compete. Of course that’s not how any of this works. Every team gets to add in new players (including UW) and so the Huskies will have plenty of competition near the top of the conference. Next week we’ll go over those newcomers and then put out a new set of rankings that will give us a well rounded idea of who the favorites should be in the Pac-12 next season.
You can follow me @UWDP_maxvroom for all your Husky MBB News and Notes