Hello and welcome to the low point of the offseason. We’re still a month away from the start of football season but roughly halfway through the wait until college basketball starts back up again. However, we’re also past the NBA Draft and at this point most of the team rosters are settled. There will undoubtedly be a reclassification or two and another couple players that end up being ineligible for one reason or another but in general we know who will be suiting up come the fall.
That means it’s time for my summer rankings of the Pac-12 teams on the basis of Returning players, Newcomers, and then Overall team. This isn’t a purely opinion-based ranking. I gave teams points based on a combination of the number of players returning and the quality of those players relative to the rest of the league. If you bring back only the 2 best players in the conference you can still have a higher point total than someone bringing back 8 players but no one that good.
In order for a player to count as a “Returning Player” and qualify as part of this rankings set they had to play at least 40 minutes for the team last season. All players who came in below that mark will be in the “Newcomers” rankings instead along with players who redshirted last year, incoming grad transfers, and true freshmen. Well, let’s get into it.
t-11. Utah Utes- 7 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 41.8%, Points- 38.6%, Assists- 42.0%, Rebounds- 43.5%
Key Returners: SF Timmy Allen (12.2 points, 2.5 assists, 5.1 rebounds), SF Both Gach (7.7 points, 2.1 assists, 2.1 rebounds)
Key Losses: PG Sedrick Barefield (Grad), SF Donnie Tillman (Transfer), SG Parker Van Dyke (Grad)
For the second consecutive year the Utes finish last in my returner power rankings although this year they’re tied for that “honor”. Losing Sedrick Barefield, their leading scorer and assist man, will hurt but at least that was expected. Donnie Tillman should’ve been their leading returning scorer but he announced he would be taking a year off and shortly after that he would instead transfer. That means the Utes lose 4 of their top 5 minutes getters from last season and are left with a pair of sophomore small forwards as the foundation of the team. None of their returners are guards so some of the newcomers are going to have to massively step up at that spot if Utah wants to get another 1st round bye in the Pac-12 tourney.
t-11. Washington State Cougars- 7 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 53.2%, Points- 50.8%, Assists- 60.3%, Rebounds- 52.4%
Key Returners: SF C.J Elleby (14.7 points, 3 assists, 7.1 rebounds), SF Marvin Cannon (7.9 points, 0.6 assists, 3.4 rebounds), PG Ahmed Ali (7.3 points, 2.9 assists, 1.8 rebounds)
Key Losses: SF Robert Franks (Grad), SF Viont’e Daniels (Grad), SG Carter Skaggs (Transfer)
The Cougars avoided complete disaster when Ahmed Ali and Marvin Cannon announced they’d be returning to Pullman after initially entering the transfer portal. But in addition to head coach Ernie Kent the Cougars are still losing their star in Robert Franks plus 4 other players who averaged double digits minutes per game. The core of Ali and Cannon plus star sophomore C.J Elleby will give new coach Kyle Smith a solid foundation to work with this season. He’ll have his work cut out for him though with what should be one of the two least talented teams in the league by almost any metric.
10. Washington Huskies- 13 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 26.1%, Points- 19.2%, Assists- 18.1%, Rebounds- 25.6%
Key Returners: Nahziah Carter (8.1 points, 0.9 assists, 2.4 rebounds), Hameir Wright (2.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks)
Key Losses: PF Noah Dickerson (Grad), SG Jaylen Nowell (Early Entry), SF Matisse Thybulle (Grad)
The Huskies’ reign at the top of these rankings only lasts a single year. That’ll happen when you lose 5 of your top 6 scorers to graduation and the NBA draft. Washington’s success last season came because they brought back practically their entire team but they’re in almost the opposite situation this time around. No team in the conference returns a lower percentage of their minutes, points, assists, or rebounds than the Huskies.
The cupboard isn’t completely bare though which keeps them out of the bottom spot in the rankings. Naz Carter seems on the verge of breaking out on the national stage and Hameir Wright is an excellent defensive presence. Sophomore Jamal Bey started to make an impact in the last few games of the season and Sam Timmins is a former starter. But it’s clear that the Dawgs will need to rely mostly on newer players if they want to compete for another NCAA tournament berth.
9. Oregon Ducks- 21 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 36.3%, Points- 31.3%, Assists- 55.1%, 29.9% Rebounds
Key Returners: PG Payton Pritchard (14.5 points, 4.8 assists, 3.8 rebounds), SG Will Richardson (6.0 points, 2.5 assists, 2.4 rebounds), PF Francis Okoro (3.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 0.5 blocks)
Key Losses: SF Louis King (Early Entry), C Kenny Wooten (Early Entry), PF Paul White (Grad)
Oregon brings back only 3 players from last year’s team which came on late and wound up in the Sweet 16. That’s an especially brutal blow considering that only two players are gone because of graduation. Kenny Wooten and Louis King each left for the NBA Draft only to not get drafted, Bol Bol slid to the 2nd round, and Abu Kigab, Miles Norris, and Victor Bailey all decided to transfer. PG Payton Pritchard is back though for his senior year and will be among the preseason favorites for Pac-12 Player of the Year. Otherwise Will Richardson and Francis Okoro are the only other regulars returning. Both played well in supporting roles but Dana Altman is counting on them both going up a level and staying healthy all year with such an incredibly thin roster.
8. UCLA Bruins- 23 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 57.6%, Points- 47.64%, Assists- 43.64%, Rebounds- 56.51%
Key Returners: SG Prince Ali (9.6 points, 1.5 assists, 2.7 rebounds), SG Jules Bernard (7.6 points, 0.9 assists, 3.1 rebounds), PF Cody Riley (5.5 points, 0.7 assists, 4.1 rebounds)
Key Losses: SF Kris Wilkes (Early Entry), PG Jaylen Hands (Early Entry), C Moses Brown (Early Entry)
The Bruins joined Oregon as teams that had 3 different players declare early for the NBA draft only to see one of them drafted in the 2nd round and have the other two go undrafted. However, unlike Oregon that’s all that UCLA loses as they bring back their next 8 guys in terms of minutes played after losing the top 3. Prince Ali will be relied upon to play up to the level of his name after consecutive seasons of averaging 9-10 points per game. There are also a lot of young guys that were highly rated coming out of high school but haven’t had much of an opportunity to truly show their stuff. Jules Bernard, Chris Smith, Cody Riley, David Singleton, and Jalen Hill all averaged between 4-7 points last season. If 3 of them become quality full-time starters then UCLA have a good shot to return to the NCAA tournament in year one under new head coach Mick Cronin.
7. USC Trojans- 24 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 39.9%, Points- 41.7%, Assists- 34.2%, Rebounds- 41.2%
Key Returners: C Nick Rakocevic (14.7 points, 1.3 assists, 9.3 rebounds), SG Jonah Matthews (12.6 points, 2.2 assists, 2.9 rebounds), SG Elijah Weaver (5.1 points, 2.4 assists, 1.7 rebounds)
Key Losses: PF Bennie Boatwright (Grad), SF Shaqquan Aaron (Grad), PG Derryck Thornton (Transfer)
UCLA lost a few of their best players but brought back the majority of their total roster. USC is almost the reverse as they return 3 players, including 2 of their primary starters, and no one else. Bennie Boatwright was a great scorer and Kevin Porter Jr. had tantalizing talent but no one that they lost was a tremendous 2-way player and given how bad the Trojans’ chemistry was last year there is likely some addition by subtraction at play.
If you were to pick a 3x3 team out of the returners from each Pac-12 squad then the troika of Rakocevic, Matthews, and Weaver would be right up there competing for the top spot. Rakocevic should be 1st-team all-conference this season although he might not be quite good enough to be a Player of the Year candidate. Meanwhile Matthews provides senior leadership and great shooting while Weaver got more minutes as the season went along. Andy Enfield has to hope that his newcomers can fill out the back end of the roster adequately or else his seat will start to get hotter in L.A.
6. California Golden Bears- 25 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 56.8%, Points- 52.1%, Assists- 71.4%, Rebounds- 58.2%, Blocks- 21.4%
Key Returners: PG Paris Austin (11.6 points, 4.3 assists, 3.1 rebounds) , SG Matt Bradley (10.8 points, 2.0 assists, 3.6 rebounds), PF Andre Kelly (6.3 points, 0.2 assists, 3.7 rebounds)
Key Losses: SF Justice Sueing (Transfer), PG Darius McNeill (Transfer), C Connor Vanover (Transfer)
Cal is coming off of one of the worst season’s in Pac-12 history and had 3 of their 5 starters transfer out of the program. That’s not a great sign. And yet they still managed to finish 6th here because of the other 2 starters plus another 4 reserves coming back. PG Paris Austin was solid transferring in from Boise State and having a senior at the point is always a plus. Meanwhile, freshman Matt Bradley came in and was immediately one of the best shooters in the country even if he can’t play a lick of defense. I’m fairly high on Andre Kelly as an old school post player as well and sheer numbers carry the Golden Bears across the halfway mark in these rankings. Quantity beat out quality here.
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5. Oregon State Beavers- 35 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 61.3%, Points- 63.9%, Assists- 68.3%, Rebounds- 64.2%
Key Returners: PF Tres Tinkle (20.8 points, 3.8 assists, 8.1 rebounds), PG Ethan Thompson (13.7 points, 3.9 assists, 5.0 rebounds), C Kylor Kelley (7.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.4 blocks)
Key Losses: SG Stephen Thompson Jr. (Grad), Gligorije Rakocevic (Grad), SF Alfred Hollins (Grad)
It’s finally over. Our long national nightmare. Stevie Thompson Jr. has finally graduated and will never again haunt the Washington Huskies. Thank you. The Beavers also lose Big G Rakocevic and Alfred Hollins and while both have been fine in the past, I doubt they’re too broken up about either loss. The problem is that Oregon State was already one of the thinnest teams in the conference and are now losing half their team to either graduation or transfer.
Tres Tinkle is likely the frontrunner for Pac-12 Player of the Year with his absurd numbers even though he probably won’t win it barring Oregon State wildly surpassing expectations. Regardless, he’s good enough to single handedly keep the Beavers in a lot of ball games. Ethan Thompson is following a similar track to his older Husky-killing brother and has a chance to make the All Pac-12 team although 2nd team seems more likely. Finally, Kylor Kelley would’ve had a great chance to win Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in a normal season when Matisse Thybulle wasn’t up against him. He’ll be an early favorite for the award coming off a season in which he led the country in blocks despite being a pretty limited offensive player.
4. Arizona Wildcats- 36 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 48.2%, Points- 50.7%, Assists- 43.6%, Rebounds- 59.8%
Key Returners: PG Brandon Williams (11.4 points, 3.4 assists, 2.8 rebounds), C Chase Jeter (10.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 0.6 assists), SG Dylan Smith (7.2 points, 1.1 assists, 3.7 rebounds)
Key Losses: SG Brandon Randolph (Early Entry), PG Justin Coleman (Grad), PF Ryan Luther (Grad)
Normally when a team loses their leading scorer to the NBA Draft and they don’t get drafted it’s a major blow to the fan base. But it feels like Sean Miller was partially pushing Brandon Randolph out the door as his combo of super high volume and low efficiency hurt Arizona more than it helped. More impactful will be the losses of Justin Coleman and Ryan Luther to graduation who each shot better than 35% from 3-point range and helped space the floor.
The Wildcats struggled mightily a season ago but they only fully collapsed once PG Brandon Williams got hurt and was missing from the lineup. Bringing him back is huge and he’d be a 1st team all-conference candidate in my mind if they weren’t bringing in a top-ten freshman at the same position who will take away some of his numbers. Duke transfer Chase Jeter was solid to above average in his first season with Arizona and should solidify the low post. Dylan Smith can be effective if he’s just in a spot-up shooter role (he was sophomore Dominic Green-level abysmal inside the arc last year) and Ira Lee and Devonaire Doutrive return to provide some additional depth.
3. Stanford Cardinal- 40 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 55.6%, Points- 48.2%, Assists- 67.4%, Rebounds- 52.2%
Key Returners: PG Daejon Davis (11.4 points, 4.4 assists, 3.0 rebounds), PF Oscar Da Silva (9.6 points, 1.8 assists, 6.0 rebounds), SG Bryce Wills (6.0 points, 2.0 assists, 3.5 rebounds)
Key Losses: PF KZ Okpala (Early Entry), C Josh Sharma (Grad), SG Cormac Ryan (Transfer)
Stanford is probably the team who was helped the most by my pseudo-science methodology as I’d likely have them a couple spots lower just coming up with a straight rankings approach. The transfer out of Cormac Ryan was a tough blow as he wasn’t the kind of guy you would expect to move on after only a single season. The losses of KZ Okpala and Josh Sharma were expected but are still hard to deal with as Okpala shouldered a very heavy offensive burden for the Cardinal while Sharma was their primary rim protector and rebounder.
The cupboard isn’t bare though. 8 contributors are still coming back and 5 of them are 6’8 or taller so Stanford will once again have tremendous length on the defensive end. PG and former Husky commit Daejon Davis stagnated as a sophomore and will need to live up to his potential if Stanford has any hope of climbing into the upper half of the conference. Oscar Da Silva is a potential double double guy this season if he stops taking so many 3-pointers and stays near the rim and I like the potential of sophomore PF Jaden Delaire. Bryce Wills struggled with turnovers and shooting (are those 2 things important?) as a freshman but has potential.
2. Arizona State Sun Devils- 50 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 67.6%, Points- 63.3%, Assists- 59.2%, Rebounds- 58.6%
Key Returners: PG Remy Martin (12.9 points, 5.0 assists, 3.2 rebounds), C Romello White (8.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 0.7 blocks), SG Rob Edwards (11.1 points, 1.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds)
Key Losses: SG Luguentz Dort (Early Entry), PF Zylan Cheatham (Grad), PF Vitaliy Shibel (Transfer)
I was never as high on Lu Dort as some people seemed to be and it appears NBA scouts agreed as he went undrafted despite some buzz as a potential 1st round pick. But he was still a good college player and Zylan Cheatham was one of the more underrated players in the country in my opinion. Those are two significant departures for Arizona State. But they return numbers 3-10 in minutes played after those two and there are some really nice pieces in there.
I love PG Remy Martin and think he becomes one of the better point guards in the country this season. Cleveland State transfer Rob Edwards was a great spot-up shooter but doesn’t have much versatility so Martin will be relied upon as the primary ball handler from the guard spot. After that, 6 ASU returners are 6’7 or taller so this is a Sun Devil roster with a ton of size. Taeshon Cherry and Kimani Lawrence are both big 4-star wings who could start at the forward spots to give ASU a combination of length and shooting. Meanwhile, Romello White and DeQuon Lake are both above average centers who can’t play together but are each elite lob dunk finishers. After a 2nd place finish last year they shouldn’t lose much ground this season.
1. Colorado Buffaloes- 61 Points
% of Returning: Minutes- 94.4%, Points- 94.9%, Assists- 95.8%, Rebounds- 96.0%
Key Returners: PG McKinley Wright IV (13 points, 4.8 assists, 4.9 rebounds), PF Tyler Bey (13.6 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.2 blocks),
Key Losses: SF Namon Wright (Grad), SG Deleon Brown (Transfer)
Remember when the Huskies were returning their top-8 scorers last season and were the runaway winners in the rankings? Well Colorado is poised to be this year’s version of Washington. They only lose a pair of players in shooting guards Namon Wright and Deleon Brown. Wright was a major contributor as a junior but neither player appeared in a game after January last season due to injury so Colorado is essentially returning the entire team that made it to the 3rd round of the NIT.
The junior duo of McKinley Wright IV and Tyler Bey will dictate exactly how good the Buffs can be. Wright saw his numbers drop slightly in his sophomore campaign but if he has another gear and Colorado is as good as I think then he’ll be in the running for Pac-12 Player of the Year. Meanwhile Tyler Bey might be the best rebounder in the conference and is perhaps the most fun player in the conference to watch if he’s not playing against your team with his ability to finish with authority. Both were already part of the 10-person Pac-12 1st Team last season as sophomores and there’s no reason to think they won’t both be there again as juniors.
Ascending to the top of the conference will require better shooting from their role players as well though. 4 major contributors (Lucas Siewert, Shane Gatling, D’Shawn Schwartz, and Daylen Kountz) all shot between 31% and 35% from deep a season ago but if those numbers all creep up a couple percent then the Colorado offense becomes potent enough to vie for a league title.
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