These rankings are based on a combination of the returners and newcomers power rankings that came out each of the last 2 weeks. The point totals listed here are the sum of the totals in each of those two although I got to choose how to break ties.
12. Washington State Cougars- 17 Points
PG: Ahmed Ali- Jr (JUCO), Jervae Robinson- Jr (JUCO)
SG: Viont’e Daniels- Sr (9 ppg, 45.5% 3pt), K.J Langston- Sr (0.4 ppg)
SF: Carter Skaggs- Jr (8.2 ppg, 40.4% 3pt), C.J Elleby- Fr (3 star)
PF: Robert Franks- Jr (17.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Isaiah Wade- Jr (JUCO)
C: Jeff Pollard- Jr (3.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg), Arinze Chidom- So (3.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg)
Yikes. Transfers absolutely decimated the Cougars as they lost both their starting point guard in Malachi Flynn as well as their backup point guard in Milan Acquaah. They’ll be replaced by JUCO transfers but it’s likely there isn’t a player with at least 4 assists per game on the roster. The sharpshooting trio of Daniels, Skaggs, and Franks (all shot better than 40% from deep last year) will keep the Cougars in a lot of games if they can keep up those kind of percentages. But without a true threat to drive and create shots for others there’s a good chance that a lot more of those looks are contested this season.
This will be an undersized WSU team without a proven big so it’s unlikely that the Cougars are going to be able to do much scoring or rebounding on the interior. The gameplan will continue to be chuck it from the outside and hope that’s good enough to outscore the opponent. It’ll work occasionally but it’s hard to see any scenario in which this team wins more than 4 Pac-12 games and that might be generous.
11. California Golden Bears- 34 Points
PG: Paris Austin- So (Boise St. transfer), Deschon Winston- So (1.6 ppg)
SG: Darius McNeill- So (11.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg), Juhwan Harris-Dyson- So (6.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
SF: Matt Bradley- Fr (4 star), Jacobi Gordon- Fr (3 star)
PF: Justice Sueing- So (13.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Grant Anticevich- So (1.5 ppg, 1.6 rpg)
C: Connor Vanover- Fr (3 star), Matz Stockman- Sr (Minnesota transfer)
Last season the Bears started a pair of centers together in Marcus Lee and Kingsley Okoroh. Both those players are gone and Cal was terrible last year so it might be good that it’s time for a change. Justice Sueing is the star of this team already as a sophomore and given the height limitations on Cal’s roster it might be best for them to play him as a small ball 4. Only two players are taller than 6’8 and both of them are newcomers who don’t appear ready to be average players from day one.
Cal’s other biggest problem from last year was the lack of a true point guard although that has likely been fixed. Paris Austin will come in as a transfer and immediately become the veteran leader of this team. He’ll have plenty of wing options to dish the ball to. Darius McNeill is a good shooter and more suited as a SG than playing at the point where he was forced to go last year. The incoming SF duo of Matt Bradley and Jacobi Gordon should both make an early impact. This team is still incredibly young and is at least one if not two years away from finishing in the upper half of the conference.
10. Oregon State Beavers- 39 Points
PG: Ethan Thompson- So (9.9 ppg, 3.5 apg), Antoine Vernon- Fr (2 star)
SG: Stephen Thompson- Sr (15.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg), Zack Reichle- So (1.7 ppg, 1.3 rpg)
SF: Alfred Hollins- So (5.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg), Tanner Sanders- Jr
PF: Tres Tinkle- Jr (17.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg), Warren Washington- Fr (3 star)
C: Gligorie Rakovic- Sr (2.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg), Jack Wilson- Fr (3 star)
The problem for the Beavers continues to be their depth. The “Big 3” of the Thompson brothers plus Tres Tinkle is as good a trio as exists in the conference. But there’s not really anything else of substance here. Drew Eubanks leaving early killed OSU’s (probably unrealistic) hopes of competing for a conference title this season. Now the Beavers are in their last year with Stephen Thompson and Wayne Tinkle hasn’t shown the ability to bring in high level talent that isn’t the child of someone on the coaching staff. Oregon State’s best strategy will again be to leverage the high end talent and play those three heavy minutes with a mix of zone to ensure they’re fresh enough on offense to outscore people.
9. Utah Utes- 40 Points
PG: Sedrick Barefield- Sr (12.0 ppg, 2.5 apg), Vante Hendrix- Fr (3 star)
SG: Charles Jones- So (JUCO), Parker Van Dyke- Sr (4.0 ppg)
SF: Timmy Allen- Fr (4 star), Both Gach- Fr (4 star)
PF: Donnie Tillman- So (7.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg), Lahat Thioune- Fr (3 star)
C: Jayce Johnson- Jr (5.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Novak Topalovic- Sr (Idaho St. transfer)
Every year the talent suggests Utah should finish in the bottom half of the conference and every year they don’t. It turns out that Larry Krystkowiak is a really good coach. Justin Bibbins may have been a grad transfer but he’s going to be incredibly difficult to replace. Sedrick Barefield is a decent passer but he’s more of a combo guard. Incoming JUCO player Charles Jones Jr. was the JC player of the year but is a scorer. Vante Hendrix and Parker Van Dyke are both solid players but both are shooting guards. It’s going to be pass by committee for the Utes.
Utah’s strength is usually down low but it should be on the perimeter this year. On top of the wings mentioned above, Timmy Allen and Both Gach are a pair of 4 star small forwards and one of them will likely start. Donnie Tillman can play either the 3 or the 4 but really developed into a stud as the year went on. It wouldn’t shock me if he’s their best player by year’s end. Jayce Johnson was highly touted coming out of high school but now will have to prove he can play in larger stretches. Topalovic put up solid numbers at Idaho State. This is a roster with 8 new guys so Larry will have his work cut out for him getting back to the postseason.
8. Colorado Buffaloes- 51 Points
PG: McKinley Wright IV- So (14.2 ppg, 5.5 apg), Lazar Nikolic- So (2.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
SG: Namon Wright- Sr (9.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg), Deleon Brown- So (5 ppg, 1.2 rpg)
SF: Tyler Bey- So (6.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg), Daylen Kountz- Fr (3 star)
PF: Lucas Siewert- Jr (6.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg), Evan Battey- Fr (3 star)
C: Dallas Walton- So (5.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg), Jakub Bombek- Fr (3 star)
This is a very nice foundation for the Buffs but likely is missing the elite talent necessary to get much higher than the middle of the conference. McKinley Wright IV was a revelation last season as a 3-star true freshman and seems close to a shoe in for 1st team all-conference now that this is his team. I think Tyler Bey is going to be special as well and should average double figures this season. Lucas Siewert shot nearly 45% from deep at 6’10 and his floor spacing will help to unlock a very solid offense.
My problem with this Colorado roster is the youth. Namon Wright is the only senior on this team and my guess is that almost 2⁄3 of the minutes will go to underclassman. This team is going to be very good the following two years when all of their guys are juniors and seniors but it feels like the Buffs are one year away to me.
7. Arizona Wildcats- 55 Points
PG: Brandon Williams- Fr (4 star), Justin Coleman- Sr (Samford transfer)
SG: Dylan Smith- Sr (4.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg), Devonaire Doutrive- Fr (3 star)
SF: Brandon Randolph- So (3.7 ppg, 0.8 rpg), Emmanuel Akot- So (1.8 ppg, 1.1 rpg)
PF: Ryan Luther- Sr (Pittsburgh transfer), Ira Lee- So (2.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
C: Chase Jeter- Jr (Duke transfer)
When’s the last time you saw Arizona in the bottom half of a Pac-12 basketball power ranking? It’s hard to say it isn’t deserved at this point. No team in the conference has as wide of a range of outcomes as the Wildcats. I could see them finishing anywhere from 2nd to 9th. No player on this roster averaged 5 or more points playing in the Pac-12 last year. That usually is a bad sign. At the same time, two players averaged double digit points at other schools last year and an additional 6 players were top-100 recruits at some point. It’s anyone’s guess whether some of the lackluster play by the talented freshmen last year was because they were the 4th or 5th option when on the court or because they actually weren’t as good as advertised.
I’m most intrigued to see how Sean Miller changes his philosophy now that he’s freed from playing the twin towers. It seems like Arizona has played a pair of 7-footers together for the last milennia but now they have exactly 0 players over 6’10 on the roster and only three over 6’7. The Wildcats have a slew of guys in the 6’6 range so it’s possible that they improve by having better spacing even if there are some serious downgrades in overall talent.
6. Stanford Cardinal- 62 Points
PG: Daejon Davis- So (10.7 ppg, 4.8 apg), Isaac White- So (5.5 ppg, 1.2 rpg)
SG: Cormac Ryan- Fr (4 star), Marcus Sheffield- Jr (6.7 ppg, 1.5 rpg)
SF: Kezie Okpala- So (10 ppg, 3.7 rpg), Bryce Wills- Fr (4 star)
PF: Oscar Da Silva- So (6.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg), Kodye Pugh- So (1.1 ppg, 0.5 rpg)
C: Josh Sharma- Sr (3.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg), Trevor Stanback- Jr (0.9 ppg, 0.8 rpg)
Stanford lost its hopes of a conference title with the transfer of Reid Travis. But this is still a very competitive, if young, roster. I’m expecting 4 underclassmen to start for the Cardinal so it wouldn’t shock me if they get off to a bit of a slow start again before rounding back into form. The freshman trio of Daejon Davis, Kezie Okpala, and Oscar Da Silva all showed they have game and will improve across the board with larger roles and a full year under their belts. Josh Sharma put up really good per minute numbers coming off the bench behind Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey who have both moved on.
Cormac Ryan seems the most likely of the newcomers to start but there’s a chance that all of the freshmen crack the rotation at some point. This is still a very long team and this projected starting lineup would be 6’4, 6’5, 6’8, 6’9, 7’0. A lot of teams are going to have trouble scoring and rebounding against that kind of length. The question is whether Stanford is going to have the depth to keep that monster lineup out there as much as they would like.
5. UCLA Bruins- 69 Points
PG: Jaylen Hands- So (9.9 ppg, 2.6 apg), Tyger Campbell- Fr (4 star)
SG: Prince Ali- Jr (9.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg), David Singleton- Fr (4 star)
SF: Kris Wilkes- So (13.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg), Jules Bernard- Fr (4 star)
PF: Shareef O’Neal- Fr (4 star), Kenny Nwuba- Fr (3 star)
C: Moses Brown- Fr (5 star), Alex Olesinski- Jr (4.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg)
The day before the draft withdrawal deadline the buzz was that both Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands would be bolting for the NBA. That decision would have crippled this year’s Bruin team and made them a worse version of Kentucky; entirely dependent on freshmen. This will still be an incredibly young team but UCLA will at least have some sophomores and juniors to rely upon (there are no seniors on the roster).
Despite the obvious talent, I have some concerns with this roster. I’m not 100% convinced that Jaylen Hands is ready to be the full-time point guard so there’s a chance this team is the opposite of the Lonzo Ball squad from 2 years ago and the ball sticks. The freshman front line of O’Neal and Brown will be physically imposing but there’s not a ton of depth down low. I don’t know how foul prone those two will be as bigs but if the answer is very then that’s an area of weakness. There’s the aforementioned youth of this roster. And finally, there’s the fact that I still don’t think Steve Alford is a good coach although that didn’t play into the points system. UCLA is probably 2nd in the conference in terms of NBA talent on the roster but I could easily see a season slightly better than last year where they end up as a 9 seed in the NCAA tournament and don’t make the sweet 16.
4. Arizona State Sun Devils- 72 Points
PG: Remy Martin- So (9.6 ppg, 2.6 apg), Elias Valtonen- Fr (4 star)
SG: Rob Edwards- Jr (Cleveland St. transfer), Mickey Mitchell- Jr (5.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
SF: Luguentz Dort- Fr (4 star), Kimani Lawrence- So (3.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg)
PF: Taeshon Cherry- Fr (4 star), Zylan Cheatham- Jr (San Diego St. transfer)
C: Romello White- So (10.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg), De’Quon Lake- Jr (7.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
If you decide to peak ahead you’ll notice that I ended up with the top-4 teams separated by a single point in my derived ranking system. There’s a pretty slim margin between all of them so if you want to quibble with the order, I won’t mind. Like UCLA, this is a young and talented team but a pair of transfer additions give the Sun Devils a little more veteran experience. Remy Martin will be a capable starting point guard who I really likebut beyond that there are a glut of shooting guards and one of them will have to show the ability to pass when Martin is on the bench. With 7 players between 6’4 and 6’8, Arizona State will be able to mix and match with most opponents and play a variety of styles.
Arizona State fans are very excited about the addition of Cleveland State transfer Rob Edwards who averaged 16+ points per game before transferring in. However, he also averaged more than 3 turnovers per game and had middling shooting percentages playing for a terrible low major. I’m not convinced he’ll be as much of a positive factor as some think. The talented freshman duo of Dort and Cherry will likely both start and have a shot at being one and done type of talents. And the center duo of White and Lake will ensure that ASU has at least one physically imposing rim protector at all times. I really like this team but think it’s just a notch below the next three.
3. USC Trojans- 73 Points
PG: Elijah Weaver- Fr (4 star), Derryck Thornton- Sr (3.8 ppg, 1.2 apg)
SG: Kevin Porter- Fr (5 star), Jonah Mathews- Sr (9.3 ppg, 42.3% 3pt)
SF: Shaqquan Aaron- Sr (4.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg), Jordan Usher- So (4.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg)
PF: Bennie Boatwright- Sr (13.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg), J’Raan Brooks- Fr (4 star)
C: Nick Rakocevic- So (8.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Victor Uyaelunmo- So (1.4 ppg, 0.9 rpg)
What’s the good of creating a points system for me to hide behind with my rankings if there’s a 3-way tie for 1st place? I think looking objectively that #1 is pretty clear cut but there’s a serious argument for spots 2 through 5. USC probably has the best depth 1-12 in the conference. However, there are some potential trap doors they could step through. Bennie Boatwright may be 6’10 but he’s a wing in play style. That means USC has only two players taller than 6’8 to truly battle down low and one of them is entirely unproven. Nick Rakocevic was great as an unheralded freshman and the Trojans will need him to be so again.
No one returning on this roster had an assist percentage greater than 15% and the Trojans picked up a pair of combo guards but still have no true point on the roster. It’s a problem for many Pac-12 squads and could lead to a stagnant offense at times despite the talent. And the talent is real. There are only two players on the roster who weren’t a consensus 4 or 5-star player and one of them in Rakocevic was one of the better big men in the conference last year. If everyone stays healthy and plays up to their potential coming out of high school then USC has the (Trojan) horses to win the conference.
2. Washington Huskies- 73 Points
PG: David Crisp- Sr (11.6 ppg, 3.1 apg), Elijah Hardy- Fr (3 star)
SG: Jaylen Nowell- So (16 ppg, 4 rpg), Dominic Green- Sr (5.4 ppg, 43.2% 3pt)
SF: Matisse Thybulle- Sr (11.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg), Nahziah Carter- So (5.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg)
PF: Noah Dickerson- Sr (15.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg), Hameir Wright- So (2.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
C: Sam Timmins- Jr (4.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg), Bryan Penn-Johnson- Fr (3 star)
I considered putting USC ahead of Washington but ultimately continuity won out with this loaded roster. The Huskies projected starting 5 has a combined 332 starts under their belt and they’ve all started more than 30 games together as a unit. There are concerns that the rest of the conference will “solve” Washington’s zone in year two but there’s also something to be said for having a team that’s had more than a full year to learn it. The Huskies are relying upon their “Big 3” of Nowell, Thybulle, and Dickerson. It’s easy to imagine any of them making 1st team all-conference at the end of the season and hard to see Thybulle not finishing as a repeat winner for Defensive Player of the Year.
The hope for an NCAA berth lies upon improvements at the PG and C spots. David Crisp struggled mightily at times last year but if he can get his 3pt% closer to the 36.7% he shot playing off ball as a sophomore than the 28.7% he shot last year then it will swing multiple games. And should that fail the Huskies now have a legitimate backup option in freshman Elijah Hardy. He’s likely already the best passer on the team and could help spark the 2nd unit. Meanwhile, Sam Timmins has at times shown huge improvements but shrunk back during conference play. He’ll be pushed this year by the freshman duo of Bryan Penn-Johnson and Nate Roberts who each appear to be a better fit for the zone with their elite length. It wouldn’t shock me to see Timmins start for continuity’s sake but average less minutes than the freshmen combined.
And all of that is without mentioning the trio of Dominic Green, Nahziah Carter, and Hameir Wright who all had their moments last season. Green’s elite shooting was desperately needed and he can really stretch the floor to give Dickerson more space down low. Carter is an athletic marvel and ended the year hitting 40% from deep after his performance against Saint Mary’s in the Huskies’ finale. It’s going to be really hard to keep him off the floor if he’s improved. And Hameir Wright is still incredibly raw on defense but with a full year in the zone should be a defensive monster with his length. Oh yeah, and I haven’t even mentioned UW’s highest rated recruit, SF Jamal Bey. Like I said, loaded.
1. Oregon Ducks- 73 Points
PG: Payton Pritchard- Jr (14.5 ppg, 4.8 apg), Victor Bailey- So (6.7 ppg, 1.7 rpg)
SG: Ehab Amin- Sr (Texas A&M CC transfer), Will Richardson- Fr (4 star)
SF: Louis King- Fr (5 star), Abu Kigab- So (1.6 ppg, 1.1 rpg)
PF: Kenny Wooten- So (6.4 ppg, 2.6 bpg), Paul White- Jr (9.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg)
C: Bol Bol- Fr (5 star), Miles Norris- Fr (4 star)
The Huskies may have insane depth but there’s no question that Oregon has more premier talent. Payton Pritchard should be the best point guard in the conference this year with only Colorado’s McKinley Wright IV as likely competition. Kenny Wooten was already the best shot blocker in the conference last year and now Oregon adds in 7’2 5-star prospect Bol Bol to guarantee they’ll have at least one elite rim protector on the court at all times. Louis King will start at small forward as yet another 5-star recruit to join a pair of capable 4-stars Will Richardson and Miles Norris. Then Oregon got a late addition from Ehab Amin who two years ago finished 2nd in the country in steals while scoring 16+ points per game albeit for Texas A&M Corpus Christi. There’s an argument to be made that the starter at every position might be a top-3 player at that position in the conference.
And all of that before acknowledging that Dana Altman is one of the better in-game coaches in the conference. Oregon also got top-50 2019 big man prospect Isaac Okoro to reclassify to 2018 on Sunday and add to their front line depth. It seems like most early ranking systems have the Ducks between 15 and 25 in the nation but they definitely have top-10 upside.
Overall, the Pac-12 should be improved this year although there still might not be more than one team that finishes better than a 6-seed in the NCAA tournament. I could see up to 5 teams challenging for an NCAA berth with another 3 hoping for an NIT spot. That would hopefully be a reverse of last year when there were 3 in the tourney and 5 in the NIT. Now we just have to wait about 3.5 months to start finding out.
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