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Your comprehensive 2022-2023 Pac-12 basketball preview

The Conference of Champions looks to return to glory.

With the basketball season now upon us — the first games tip off at 9 a.m. PT today, and the Washington State women will play their first game at noon, while the men tip off at 4:30 p.m. — it is important to take stock of the Pac-12 as a whole. The conference took a major step backward last season; after the league’s tremendous showing in the 2021 NCAA tournament, it produced only three tournament teams in 2022, and, overall, just seemed incredibly middling.

However, the Pac-12 is in for a major rebound this year, with improved top-end talent and some more depth to make a push for more berths in March. This year, the Pac could produce up to five tournament teams if everything clicks, and they should return to their spot as one of the most interesting conferences in the country.

Here’s how the conference stacks up, with our predicted order of finish. Projected tournament teams are noted with an asterisk.*

Jump to:

  1. Oregon
  2. UCLA
  3. Arizona
  4. Stanford
  5. WSU
  6. USC
  7. Colorado
  8. ASU
  9. Utah
  10. Washington
  11. California
  12. OSU

1) Oregon Ducks*

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Conference Tournament-Oregon State at Oregon Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Some are going to view this as a controversial ranking, but I have major confidence in Dana Altman and the squad he has assembled. This team should be elite on defense with its size and athleticism — the Ducks have some elite guard defenders along with excellent bigs to protect the rim. This also is a team with a lot of depth, meaning they could handle some injuries to starters if they need to.

Offensively, Oregon has a lot of paths to success. If Will Richardson gets back on the development track he seemed to be on after his junior year, then he could be an engine for an elite offense. However, even if Richardson continues his struggles, this team has a lot of other interesting scoring options who could step up and play big roles.

This team’s upside is high. They might lack the true superstar for them to make a championship run, but their elite defense and versatile offense is good enough that they could make some noise come March. They feel like one of the safest bets in the conference to me because they have so many paths to being good, even if they don’t have the highest tournament upside in the conference.

Returners

G- Will Richardson

Richardson disappointed a bit last season on a subpar roster, but he is still an above average starting guard who could run this offense at a high-level.

W- Quincy Guerrier

The Syracuse transfer struggled with efficiency at times last season, but he is still a big body on the wing who defends and rebounds well with some upside to score on and off the ball.

W- Rivaldo Soares

The former JUCO wing played limited minutes last season for the Ducks, but he brings solid athleticism and defense for a depth wing.

W- Ethan Butler

Didn’t play at all last season, but the older sophomore wing has room to develop with his athleticism and defensive aptitude.

F- N’Faly Dante

Dante is an uber-efficient post-scorer and rebounder who managed to stay healthy most of last season. Could be in for a monster year on both ends.

F- Nate Bittle

Bittle battled injuries last season and played limited minutes as a result, but he is a skilled big with solid movement skills, touch, and a jumper that could make him a valuable bench piece.

F- Lok Wur

Wur hasn’t played much throughout his career, but he is a good depth big with solid athleticism and defensive instincts.

Transfers

G- Keeshawn Barthelemy

Barthelemy is a major transfer pickup for the Ducks as an efficient point guard who is an elite point of attack defender with the ability to set-up others. He could start or be the 6th man.

G- Brennan Rigsby

Rigsby is a transfer from Northwest Florida State, a JUCO powerhouse, and he is an interesting athlete with upside as a shooter to boot.

W- Jermaine Couisnard

Couisnard is a bucket-getter to the nth degree. He has struggled with efficiency, but he has excellent touch, and playing within a better ecosystem will do wonders. He could start or be the 6th man for this squad.

W- Tyrone Williams

Tyrone Williams is another JUCO transfer, with some powerful athletic ability and a palpable passion for the game.

Freshman

F- Kel’el Ware

Ware is a future top 10 pick in all likelihood, and his skillset at 7-feet is rare. The Bol Bol comparisons will come early, but his game is even more functional than Bol’s was.

Projected Starters

G- Will Richardson

G- Keeshawn Barthelemy

W- Quincy Guerrier

F- Kel’el Ware

F- N’Faly Dante

Key Reserves

G- Brennan Rigsby

W- Jermaine Cousinard

W- Rivaldo Soares

F- Nate Bittle


2) UCLA Bruins*

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-North Carolina vs UCLA Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Bruins return superstar Jaime Jaquez Jr. and top guard Tyger Campbell, but Mick Cronin is going to face an uphill battle with the losses of Johnny Juzang and Jules Bernard, as well as both of his rotation bigs. Cronin is a notoriously inflexible coach with a lack of trust in younger players, so losing rotation pieces without clear replacements could hurt the Bruins more than it would other teams. Cronin will have his mettle tested in a way it hasn’t much been since he began coaching UCLA four years ago. Replacing isolation scorers in an iso heavy offense is hard, and he also needs to find bigs he trusts to run the defense.

However, even with the big losses and my lack of belief in Cronin as a coach, it is hard to deny the star power here. The Bruins arguably have the two best players in the conference as well as another returner who is set for a star breakout. They also bring in an interesting freshman class with upside if Cronin is willing to play them. This is a team that could find themselves competing for a national title if everything works out, but they could also bomb hard if the injury bug hits wrong or the rotations never get fleshed out properly. This is a team with questionable depth and a head coach that has never had to deal with a situation like this, but the talent is still undeniable and the upside is true contention.

Returners

G- Tyger Campbell

Campbell is the best guard in the conference and one of the best guards in the whole country, with elite touch and pick-and-roll creation. He is in for a big senior year.

G- David Singleton

Singleton is the most trusted and proven bench player on this team, with a good jumper and a nice floater game.

G- Will McClendon

Redshirted last year due to an injury, but he might step up into a backup PG role this year with his pick-and-roll playmaking.

W- Jaylen Clark

Clark had an impressive sophomore season mostly coming off the bench, but he is set to take a step-up into the starting lineup. He brings defensive aptitude and solid driving upside.

F- Jaime Jaquez Jr

A true college superstar and maybe the best player in the conference, Jaquez should take another step forward as a scorer and playmaker.

F- Mac Etienne

Took an injury redshirt last season but was once a highly touted big-man recruit. Solid mobility and motor, but questions as to readiness on defense.

F- Kenneth Nwuba

Has been efficient in limited minutes, but is mostly a depth big who could step up if injuries hit the big-man rotation.

Transfers

N/A

Freshman

G- Dylan Andrews

Four-star recruit with a true point guard’s game, plays with great pace and can make a difference with or without the ball.

G- Amari Bailey

A five-star recruit and top prospect in the country will be expected to play early minutes. Cronin has had trouble trusting freshman before and Bailey has missed time with injury. Still, he is a smooth scorer and athlete with upside to play well early.

W- Abramo Canka

Canka is an athletic forward from Italy who has some skill as a handler but he will likely take time to develop, especially with Cronin’s short leash on freshman.

F- Adem Bona

Bona is a powerful athlete and rim-runner who will likely start for the Bruins this year. He is a bit raw on both ends, but the upside is there for him to be great.

Projected Starters

G- Tyger Campbell

G- Amari Bailey

W- Jaylen Clark

F- Jaime Jaquez Jr

F- Adem Bona

Key Reserves

G- David Singleton

F- Kenneth Nwuba

F- Mac Etienne


3) Arizona Wildcats*

NCAA Basketball: PAC-12 Conference Championship Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Wildcats lost the best offensive and defensive player in the conference over the offseason, but they still return two starters and a 6th man from the impressive 2021-22 team — and they have a lot of depth to boot. Much like Cronin, Tommy Lloyd will have to truly prove himself this season, as losing Christian Koloko will take away the primary defensive engine and losing Bennedict Mathurin could make their spacing issues more salient. Lloyd’s recruiting remains elite, but it is still to be seen if the rest follows.

This team, perhaps, has higher upside than the Ducks because it is full of potentially elite shot-makers who could take over games in the tournament. There is less certainty with Arizona than Oregon, though, as the Wildcats don’t have the defensive rim protection or on-ball hounds of the Ducks. The upside could be elite, though without Mathurin and Dalen Terry to make them an elite transition team that could be in question.

Lloyd will need to make this team just as potent in the half-court as they were in the full-court last season. There is potential here, and players like Kerr Kriisa and Pelle Larsson could go on shot-making runs that put teams in the dust, but if they are cold and this team can’t get out on the break, there could be some rough offensive nights. There is upside for this team, but there are also major questions.

Returners

G- Kerr Kriisa

Kriisa is one of the best players in the conference and one of the better point guards in the country. He has some head scratching moments, but the creativity as a playmaker and scorer is virtually unmatched in the Pac.

W- Pelle Larsson

Larsson was Mathurin’s backup last season, and now he looks to be his successor. He is an elite shooter and shot-maker with a good handle and touch.

W- Adama-Alpha Bal

Bal played limited minutes as a freshman but the lanky, 6’6 wing from France can shoot, defend, and attack off the catch. He could potentially start for the Wildcats this year.

F- Azuolas Tubelis

Tubelis is an excellent forward who runs the floor hard and gets on the class. His most important skill for the Wildcats this season is his passing, as the Wildcats are likely going to be forced to play more in the half-court.

F- Oumar Ballo

Ballo has big shoes to fill with the departure of Koloko, but his post scoring and athleticism gives him the upside to fill that role.

F- Tautvilas Tubelis

Azuolas’ little brother has played almost no minutes in his Arizona career thus far.

Transfers

G- Courtney Ramey

The grad transfer from Texas is likely competing with Bal for the final starting spot and he offers a real scoring punch, whether he starts or comes off the bench.

W- Cedric Henderson Jr

A transfer from Campbell, Henderson Jr is an excellent athlete at the wing who can hit shots and play defense at a high-level.

Freshman

G- Kylan Boswell

The AZ Compass Prep guard is a big body who can hit shots from deep and make plays for others. He could see the floor in limited minutes as a freshman.

W- Filip Borovicanin

An interesting long-term prospect, Borovicanin is 6’9 with a solid jumper, some passing chops, and handle upside.

F- Henri Veesaar

The top freshman in this class, Veesaar has some elite movement skills for a big and he shows signs of a jumper and a solid handle. He could be an elite handoff big with versatility and upside.

F- Dylan Anderson

Anderson is 6’11 with a classic big-man game, but some upside to do more. Will take some time, but could develop into a nice piece down the line.

Projected Starters

G- Kerr Kriisa

W- Pelle Larsson

W- Adama-Alpha Bal

F- Azuolas Tubelis

F- Oumar Ballo

Key Reserves

G- Courtney Ramey

W- Cedric Henderson Jr

F- Henri Veesaar


4) Stanford Cardinal*

NCAA Basketball: PAC-12 Conference Tournament - Stanford vs Arizona Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinal are set to be the most polarizing team in the conference this year, and it all centers around head coach Jerod Haase. Haase runs a complex, decision-making intensive scheme, and he has not necessarily had the talent to make that work in the past. He has underperformed some years, but this feels like the year a major breakout could happen. This roster is stacked with elite decision-makers, size, and shooting in a way that no other Cardinal team has been under Haase. This might be an unpopular ranking, but I buy Stanford this year.

This is definitely a two-way team if everything clicks. They are huge, deploying three 6’7 starters and having three different bigs who could each bring something important to the table defensively. They also have a ton of optionality and depth, with multiple ball-handlers, multiple elite shooters, and lineup versatility to play jumbo or to play small. Those options, combined with the depth and experience, give Stanford real upside to even win the conference if everything clicks. There are downsides here, and maybe my belief in Haase is ill-placed, but this is a talented team and they could even outperform this ranking.

Returners

G- Michael O’Connell

Entering his junior season, O’Connell is a classic setup point guard. He plays excellent defense, runs the offense, and gets teammates to their spot. Hopefully the shooting improves.

G- Isa Silva

Silva came on strong towards the end of his freshman season with his elite handle and ability to get to the rim, could be in for a major boost in minutes.

W- Harrison Ingram

Ingram was the freshman of the year last season and he tested the NBA draft waters before returning home. He is in for a monster season running the offense for the Cardinal.

W- Spencer Jones

Jones is a true sniper and versatile defender who demands attention from the defense at all times. Could have a huge senior year playing off of Ingram.

W- Brandon Angel

Angel has slowly taken on a bigger role throughout his Stanford career and now he is set to replace Jaden DeLaire in the starting lineup. He brings excellent defense, solid shooting, and opportunistic playmaking to the floor.

W- Jarvis Moss

Moss didn’t play much as a freshman, but he brings solid size, athleticism, and shooting to the wing spot.

F- Max Murrell

Murrell is one of three bigs who could find his way into the starting lineup depending on how things shake out. He could potentially shoot and be a high-level shot-blocker.

F- James Keefe

Keefe is the most experienced big on the roster and he brings a steady presence with his touch and decision-making in the post and the pick-and-roll.

F- Maxime Raynaud

Played limited minutes as a freshman but is potentially the highest upside big of the group due to his potentially elite shooting and shot-blocking mix.

Transfers

W- Michael Jones

The first transfer to join Stanford in a long time brings an elite shooting presence to the wing position.

Freshman

W- Jaylen Thompson

Another fascinating wing recruit to have joined the Cardinal in recent years. He is a great jump shooter with some pull-up and shot-creation equity.

W- Ryan Argarwal

Another smooth shooting wing some solid athleticism to drive; should be a good long-term piece for this team.

Projected Starters

G- Michael O’Connell

W- Harrison Ingram

W- Spencer Jones

W- Brandon Angel

F- James Keefe

Key Reserves

G- Isa Silva

W- Mike Jones

W- Jaylen Thompson

F- Max Murrell

F- Maxime Raynaud


5) Washington State Cougars*

NCAA Basketball: Oregon State at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Cougs have been on a steady upward ascent under Kyle Smith, and this is their best team in over a decade. Last season, they made a solid NIT run and built a talented defensive squad, but some losses in the offseason have led to questions. The conference taking a step up around them is also a worry going forward, but it is hard to deny the talent that Smith has brought in, and he is one of the best coaches in the conference to boot.

This team should be one of the best defenses in the conference, with Mouhamed Gueye protecting the rim and being versatile enough to switch, too. There is also a lot of size and shooting here to give space for Gueye. The big question is who creates the advantages and runs the offense. There are plenty of good passers, but there is not a true point guard that has been proven at this level — and that is a major worry moving forward.

Returners

G- Myles Rice

Rice was set to compete to start at the point guard spot, but a cancer diagnosis will keep him sidelined. Consider donating to help cover his bills if you can.

W- TJ Bamba

Bamba took a major step forward last season and he is set to do it again entering his junior year.

W- Andrej Jakimovski

Jakimovski is set to take a step into the starting lineup and he brings an elite jumper. Elite rebounding, and major upside as a passer.

W- DJ Rodman

The eldest member of this WSU squad, Rodman brings intensity as a defender and rebounder, but he will need to shoot better than he did last season to keep getting major minutes.

W- Carlos Rosario

Rosario has played limited minutes and redshirted last season due to injury, but he was a touted high school recruit with length at the wing and some ball skills.

F- Mouhamed Gueye

One of the best freshman in the conference last season, Gueye returns after testing the draft and the portal. He brings athleticism to the 5-spot as well as some upside as a scorer.

F- Dishon Jackson

Another promising top returner who will be sidelined for the Cougs due to health concerns.

Transfers

W- Justin Powell

Powell is an elite shooter at 6’6 with some ball-handling and passing chops. He was a star early in his freshman season at Auburn, but struggled a bit after transferring to Tennessee. Should be in for a star usage rate at WSU.

W- Jabe Mullins

Played limited minutes at St. Mary’s but was a former top-150 recruit who can shoot at a high level and brings some solid feel to the wing spot.

Freshmen

G- Dylan Darling

Not the most highly touted recruit, but Darling’s senior season will go down in Washington basketball history as one of the best ever, and the staff has raved about his readiness.

G- Kymany Houinsou

Houinsou was a late addition to the roster, but he looked like a star for the French U18 FIBA team, and he brings some good athleticism, size, and defense to the guard spot.

F- Adrame Diongue

One of the best recruits in WSU history, Diongue comes from AZ Compass Prep and he brings elite defensive upsde and passing chops to the big spot.

F- Mael Hamon-Crespin

Hamon-Crespin is another French prospect and he is a skilled big-man with touch, a legitimate jumper, and some passing chops.

Projected Starters

W- Justin Powell

W- Jabe Mullins

W- TJ Bamba

W- Andrej Jakimovski

F- Mouhamed Gueye

Key Reserves

G- Dylan Darling

G- Kymany Houinsou

W- DJ Rodman

F- Adrame Diongue


6) USC Trojans

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round-Miami vs Southern California Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Trojans remain a talented team, but not having a Mobley brother or Onyeka Okongwu in the middle might hurt them more than we expect. This is a team with some talent on the wing and a solid guard, but some major questions down-low, which is where Enfield likes to build his success from. This team will have the shooting questions it often has and some playmaking deficiencies, but without the post-scorers in the middle to make it all work. The defense should still be solid, and Boogie Ellis and Drew Peterson make for an elite duo, but the downside is notable here.

Enfield is another Pac-12 coach with some major inconsistencies in his track record and adjusting to a roster like this has me worried about how things might go. He tends to play with a very cramped floor, trusting his bigs to make interior passes or take on the major defensive load, but there is not an obvious set of players to step up and do that this year. There is still a lot of talent here, with some interesting returners and a great freshman class, but this team seems poised to take a step back from where they were.

Returners

G- Boogie Ellis

Ellis is one of the preeminent pull-up shot-makers in the conference (as we found out last year) and he will take another step-up in role and usage this season.

G- Malik Thomas

He played limited minutes as a freshman, but he is a big-bodied guard with a solid jumper and athleticism.

W- Drew Peterson

One of the top returners in the conference, Peterson has an excellent handle for a 6’9 forward, a solid jumper, and some dirty back to the basket moves.

W- Reese Dixon-Waters

Dixon-Waters is set to step into the starting lineup this year after slowly gaining Enfield’s trust during his sophomore season. He is a good defender with a solid spot-up jumper.

W- Kobe Johnson

Johnson is a 6’5 wing with athleticism and some upside as a playmaker, but was limited as freshman last year and the jumper is a bit of a concern.

F- Joshua Morgan

Morgan will likely be asked to step into the starting lineup after backing up the Mobleys and Chevez Goodwin.

F- Harrison Hornery

Played limited minutes as a freshman but could potentially start if Enfield wants to go with two bigs. He has a solid skillset for his size.

Transfers

N/A

Freshman

W- Tre White

White is a smooth wing scorer and athlete who plays hard on defense. He is one of the most underrated freshmen in the country and he could hear his name called on draft night.

W- Oziyah Sellers

Sellers is an underrated recruit at the wing who brings some major upside as a shooter and wing scorer.

F- Vince Iwuchukwu

Iwuchukwu was set to fill the big-man role left by Isaiah Mobley, but he sadly suffered some health issues that will keep him out indefinitely.

F- Kijani Wright

Wright is a solid big-man prospect who will likely be asked to play an important role as a freshman. He is a big body with solid touch in the post and the bounce to finish above the rim.

Projected Starters

G- Boogie Ellis

W- Reese Dixon-Waters

W- Tre White

W- Drew Peterson

F- Joshua Morgan

Key Reserves

W- Kobe Johnson

F- Kijani Wright

F- Harrison Hornery


7) Colorado Buffaloes

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Tad Boyle is entering his 13th season as head coach for the Buffaloes, and he has managed to be consistently above-average — but rarely exceptional. Colorado is a tough job, and Boyle is solid at getting consistent talent that can compete and win in this conference. His last big run was in the 2020-21 season, where he had a talented, veteran roster led by a strong lead-guard with a lot of length on the wing. This season, he has an impressive lead guard and some length, but this team is young and they lost many of their top players from last season.

Colorado definitely has a theory on both ends. They are long on defense and they could play a lot of different schemes when guarding the pick-and-roll. Offensively, they are going to miss Jabari Walker and Evan Battey a lot — they were not able to replace those players with similar playmakers in the frontcourt. The Buffaloes could punch above their weight if KJ Simpson takes a star leap in his sophomore year, but overall, while I expect this year to be a promising one, they are likely a year or two away from true contention in the conference.

Returners

G- KJ Simpson

Simpson came on strong throughout his freshman year and now he is set to take the reigns as the main ball-handler on this team.

G- Julian Hammond III

Hammond III had a solid freshman year and he is an elite shooter who is set to step into the starting lineup for the Buffs.

G- Javon Ruffin

The big guard redshirted last season but he brings a solid combo of size and ball-skills off the bench for Colorado.

W- Nique Clifford

Clifford is an electric athlete on the wing who was solidly efficient as a shooter last season. He is set to take another step forward entering his junior year.

W- Luke O’Brien

O’Brien is a solid depth wing who is a solid athlete and with some solid shooting indicators. He will likely be looked at as the team’s 6th man this year.

W- Quincy Allen

Allen redshirted last season but he was a former top-150 recruit who brings elite touch from the wing spot and solid size.

F- Tristan Da Silva

Da Silva started every game for the Buffs last season and he will take a bigger step up this season with the departure of the two frontcourt stars.

F- Lawson Lovering

A former 4-star recruit, Lovering was a bit limited last year, but he has the size to be a true difference maker on both ends.

Transfers

G- Ethan Wright

Wright is transferring from Princeton and he brings an elite shooting presence with an innate sense for off-ball movement.

W- Jalen Gabbidon

Gabbidon is a former Ivy League defensive player of the year and he brings an elite defender to the wing for Colorado.

F- J’Vonne Hadley

Hadley is a thick, 6’6 forward who can get on the glass and attack off-the-dribble. He should provide meaningful depth in the frontcourt.

Freshmen

G- RJ Smith

A 3-star recruit who likely won’t see early minutes, Smith brings some long-term upside as a wing scorer.

F- Joe Hurlburt

Hurlburt is an interesting center prospect with size and a solid bag of moves as a post scorer.

Projected Starters

G- KJ Simpson

G- Julian Hammond III

W- Nique Clifford

F- Tristan Da Silva

F- Lawson Lovering

Key Reserves

G- Ethan Wright

W- Jalen Gabbidon

W- Luke O’Brien

F- J’Vonne Hadley


8) Arizona State Sun Devils

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Sun Devils are probably the hardest team in the conference to rank. They are full of legitimate talent, but the fit questions are everywhere, this team has little experience playing together, and Bobby Hurley is one of the hardest-to-peg coaches in the conference. He had three straight seasons where they were a tournament team (though only two actual appearances due to COVID). However, he far underperformed his talent level these past two seasons and he has struggled to put together coherent offenses since the Tra Holder led 2017-18 team.

This year’s team is very similar to the past couple that the Devils have put forward: Potentially elite defensive players with size, but questionable offensive talent all-around not much cohesion from last year. There is a lot of talent here, and it is talent with experience, but the questions as to what it looks like on the floor are yet to be answered. ASU could really surprise and end up top-5 in the conference if their defense is as elite as their personnel would make it seem. However, there is also downside for them to end up in the bottom tier if nothing meshes.

Returners

G- DJ Horne

Horne was the team’s leading scorer last season, and he brings elite shooting and off-the-dribble shot-making. He might move to a 6th man role this season.

G- Luther Muhammad

The former Ohio State Buckeye struggled mightily with efficiency last season but he still has a bucket-getter mentality.

W- Marcus Bagley

He has struggled with major injury issues over the last two seasons, but he could be one of the best players in the conference if healthy.

W- Jamiya Neal

He had efficiency issues as a freshman but flashed some interesting shiftiness and shot-making from the wing.

F- Enoch Boakye

Excellent size and athleticism from the big-man spot — he’ll likely start at the five and play major minutes as a rim-runner.

F- Alonzo Gaffney

A solid all-around athlete and player as a forward, Gaffney could start or come off the bench depending on how internal battles shake out.

Transfers

G- Frankie Collins

A highly touted recruit who comes to ASU from Michigan, Collins is an excellent driver and playmaker at the guard spot who will likely start at the point.

W- Desmond Cambridge Jr

Cambridge is a grad transfer from Nevada who brings bucket-getting on offense and high-level playmaking on defense.

W- Devan Cambridge

Desmond’s younger brother, Devan comes from Auburn and he brings another elite defensive and athletic presence to the wing.

F- Warren Washington

Another transfer from Nevada, Washington is a solid rim-running big with some chops to score in the post.

Freshmen

G- Austin Nunez

Nunez is a 4-star recruit who is similar to Collins in that he is an athletic driver who can get downhill and make plays from there.

F- Duke Brennan

Brennan is a 3-star recruit who brings classic grittiness to the big-man spot. He is a solid athlete who hits the glass hard and defends well in the post.

Projected Starters

G- Frankie Collins

W- Desmond Cambridge Jr

W- Marcus Bagley

F- Alonzo Gaffney

F- Enoch Boakye

Key Reserves

G- DJ Horne

W- Luther Muhammad

W- Devan Cambridge

W- Jamiya Neal

F- Warren Washington


9) Utah Utes

NCAA Basketball: Utah at Stanford Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Last year was the first of the Craig Smith era for the Utes, and it went how most first seasons tend to go. There were moments and promising signs, but the total package was a rough one that ended with Utah as the second worst record in the Pac-12. Building this team from that point will take time, but they should take a step forward this season with an improved frontcourt and some solid returning pieces.

The Utes’ offense was surprisingly solid last season and it should get even better with better health luck and some impressive offseason additions. The real flaw for Utah last season was a subpar defense. There could be some improvement there, though, if Branden Carlson takes another step as a rim-protector and stays healthier, and the bench can sustain minutes more effectively. There is a real lack of advantage creation here and questions as to how well they can defend, but they have two of the best post scorers in the conference and some fun guards to boot.

Returners

G- Rollie Worster

He followed Smith from Utah State and provides a steady hand at the point guard spot. Solid defender, sets up teammates well, and avoids turnovers.

W- Marco Anthony

Anthony is one of the most interesting players in the conference. He is only 6’4, but he is an excellent rebounder, versatile defender, and he has moments as a self-creator.

W- Lazar Stefanovic

Stefanovic had a promising, if inefficient, freshman season where he flashed some self-creation and upside as a wing playmaker.

W- Gabe Madsen

Madsen was the 6th man for the Utes last season and he brings excellent shooting at the wing.

W- Jaxon Brenchley

Brenchley is a veteran for this team but he will need to improve his shooting to carve out a bigger role.

F- Branden Carlson

Perhaps the single most underrated player in the conference, Carlson is incredibly skilled big entering his senior season.

F- Bostyn Holt

Holt dealt with injuries last season after a successful JUCO career. He provides solid depth in the frontcourt with his hustle and touch.

Transfers

G- Mike Saunders Jr

The Cincinnati transfer is an all-around guard who can pass, score, and push the pace. He should be one of the best bench guards in the conference.

F- Ben Carlson

Carlson hardly played in his two seasons at Wisconsin, but he is an excellent post scorer with the potential to hit jumpers and make some plays for others.

Freshmen

W- Wilguens Exacte Jr.

Exacte Jr. was not the most heralded recruit, but he has the makings of a real steal for Utah. He has a powerful, athletic build at 6’6 with chops as a handler and iso scorer.

W- Luka Tarlac

Tarlac is an interesting prospect, with excellent feel on defense and some intriguing moments as shooter.

F- Keba Keita

A 3-star recruit, Keita is a 6’8 center with impressive bounce as around the rim and the strength to shove people around.

Projected Starters

G- Rollie Worster

W- Marco Anthony

W- Lazar Stefanovic

F- Ben Carlson

F- Branden Carlson

Key Reserves

G- Mike Saunders Jr

W- Gabe Madsen

F- Bostyn Holt

F- Keba Keita


10) Washington Huskies

NCAA Basketball: Arizona State at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Some might view this ranking as too low, but the Huskies lack a clear direction and this feels like the team that just might implode completely. There is talent on this roster, but the fit is incredibly questionable, as is the staff. Head coach Mike Hopkins started out his tenure at UW strong, but the last three seasons have been a series of disappointments, and they were lucky to punch far enough above their statistical weight to finish 5th in the conference last season. With the departure of Terrell Brown Jr., this team loses its main engine and replacing him will be a tall task.

The famous Syracuse zone has worked for Hopkins in the past when he has had the guards to make it work. With Mattisse Thybulle and Jaylen Nowell there to wreak havoc, it looked wonderful, but it has looked much worse these past two seasons. They have the athletes and the size to make it look good once again, and that is certainly the most promising area for this team. The offense, however, could be the worst in the Pac-12. They don’t have a go-to scorer, they don’t have above-average passers, they have almost no spacing, and they don’t even have a post scorer to give them some floor on that end. They could even be one of the worst high-major offenses in the country unless someone emerges as an unexpected star.

Returners

W- PJ Fuller

A former TCU Hornfrog, Fuller is an athletic wing scorer who has struggled to find any sort of efficiency in his college career thus far.

W- Jamal Bey

Bey is a 5th year senior who has had some excellent moments as a Husky, but took a major step back in every category last season. Could be the best shooter on the team if he can recover to his old consistency.

W- Cole Bajema

A former Michigan Wolverine, Bajema is theoretically the best shooter on the team, but he has struggled to be consistent from beyond the arc.

F- Langston Wilson

Wilson is one of the most athletic leapers in the conference and he looked solid in his limited minutes last season.

F- Jackson Grant

A former top-100 recruit, Grant played sparingly as a freshman but he is a solid post-scorer who should get an increased role.

F- Samuel Ariyibi

Ariyibi played limited minutes as a freshman last season but he brings intrigue as a fluid mover at the big spot.

Transfers

W- Noah Williams

The rare Pullman to Seattle transfer, Williams was a standout as a sophomore for the Cougs, but he was a net negative as a junior with his 42.7% true shooting, Might be asked to play PG for the Huskies.

F- Keion Brooks

Coming from Big Blue Nation in Kentucky, Brooks is a long athlete at the forward spot who has struggled to make a real impact on either end in his college career, but he has upside as a post scorer and defender.

F- Franck Kepnang

Perhaps the most promising add for UW, Kepnang is an excellent athlete at 6’11 with plus defensive instincts and the strength to get some post buckets.

F- Braxton Meah

Meah is a Fresno State transfer who didn’t play much due to the presence of Orlando Robinson, but he is the classic big archetype that excels in zone defense.

Freshmen

G- Koren Johnson

Johnson is a highly touted recruit who can get buckets at a high level, and he will be in the conversation for early bench minutes.

G- Keyon Menifield

Menifield is another bucket-getting guard who has one of the nicer handles the conference has seen. He can get downhill and hit shots consistently.

W- Tyler Lindhardt

Linhardt is an effective shooter at the wing position who can also hit the glass and score some in the post.

Projected Starters

W- Noah Williams

W- PJ Fuller

W- Jamal Bey

F- Keion Brooks Jr

F- Franck Kepnang

Key Reserves

G- Keyon Menifield

W- Cole Bajema

F- Jackson Grant

F- Langston Wilson

F- Braxton Meah


11) Cal Golden Bears

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at California D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Cal has long been a struggling basketball team — their last tournament appearance was in 2016 and it’s been even longer since they were consistent contenders. In Mark Fox’s first three seasons at the reins, they have not gotten to .500 once and their highest finish in the Pac-12 was eighth. Under Fox, they struggled mightily to find an identity to build around until last year when they decided to focus up on defense and playing at a slow pace. It was hardly successful, but they did at least look improved as an overall unit.

It is expected this year’s team keeps that slow-paced, defense-first mentality, and another year with that system could help them improve overall. They return solid talent, but they will be hurt by the losses of Andre Kelly, Grant Anticevich, and Jordan Shephard. This team could push towards the top half of the conference in defense if all goes well with their solid guard defenders, athleticism on the wing, and size in the middle, but the offense seems locked into the bottom three without much upside to supersede that. The biggest issue on this team is just that they lack a go-to guy to build an offense around, and that is nearly impossible to overcome.

Returners

G- Joel Brown

Brown is a senior who started the majority of his healthy game last season and he brings a classic PG game as a passer and defender. He struggles to score, but he provides value in other ways.

G- Jarred Hyder

Hyder is a former Fresno State Bulldog who has played limited bench minutes as a Golden Bear, but he might have to step into a bigger role as a bench scorer.

W- Jalen Celestine

Celestine has struggled with consistency, but he has the upside to be one of the most interesting wings in the conference with his handle, shot-making, and passing at 6’7.

W- Kuany Kuany

Another fascinating but inconsistent wing, Kuany is expected to step into a full-time starting role as a senior with size and shooting ability.

W- Marsalis Roberson

Roberson played sparingly as a freshman but he is a fluid mover with major upside as a defender.

F- Lars Thiemann

Another upperclassmen set to step into a full-time starting role, Thiemann is a classic hustle big-man who brings size, rebounding, and solid post defense.

F- Sam Alajiki

A promising young forward, Alajiki is a powerful athlete with a high motor, but finding a more consistent thing to do is vital.

F- Monty Bowser

Bowser missed all of last season due to an ankle injury, but he brings solid athleticism to the forward spot and he could fill a role this season.

F- Obinna Anyanwu

Another undersized forward, Anyanwu played in only four games as a freshman, but he also brings a high-motor and solid two-foot athleticism to the table.

Transfers

G- Devin Askew

A former top-100 recruit, Askew has transferred twice in his college career and struggled to be efficient. He has upside as a pick-and-roll guard and Cal will likely lean on him heavily.

G- DeJuan Clayton

Clayton is a grad transfer who has struggled with injuries, but he brings another good downhill driver and playmaker to this Cal roster.

Freshmen

W- Grant Newell

Newell is an all-around wing prospect who can hit shots, play well off-ball, and finish above the rim.

F- ND Okafor

Okafor is one of the biggest recruiting wins for Cal in sometime as he had offers from Arizona, Baylor, and Creighton. He is another athletic forward, but he also has a strong frame that allows him to push opponents around in the post.

Projected Starters

G- Devin Askew

G- Joel Brown

W- Jalen Celestine

F- Kuany Kuany

F- Lars Thiemann

Key Reserves

G- DeJuan Clayton

W- Marsalis Roberson

F- Sam Alajiki

F- Obinna Anyanwu


12) Oregon State Beavers

NCAA Basketball: Oregon State at UCLA Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Beavers had a rough season last year, and while the result might be the same, this year should at least be a more hopeful one. They are replacing veterans who hated being there with youth who have upside and this team should at least be more respectable than they were last season. Wayne Tinkle has his work cut out for him to make this team watchable and the questions as to how the rotation plays out are everywhere, but he has done a solid job recruiting talent — this is a team that should at least be interesting to watch develop.

The upside for this team rests entirely on the shoulders of Glenn Taylor Jr. Taylor Jr was a solid two-way wing as a freshman, but now he will be asked to step up and be the every play star on both ends. He will likely play the point guard, or at least be the lead advantage creator, and he is also their best perimeter defender. Around him, this team is young to a fault. They have size and some solid shooting, but very little in terms of proven talent. Christian Wright was set to play a major role and potentially boost this team into a non-last place finish, but an injury will keep him sidelined indefinitely. Overall, Beavers fans are in for another long season, but at least they will be young and have some future promise.

Returners

W- Glenn Taylor Jr

Taylor Jr is an underrated player in the conference and he could potentially win Oregon State some games with his driving and playmaking.

W- Dexter Akanno

Akanno has struggled with efficiency, but he is a good athlete and defender who played some minutes at the point last season.

F- Hugues Rodrigue Andela

Andela struggled with an injury last season, but he is a solid vertical athlete with a big body who might take a step up in role this year.

F- Chol Marial

Marial was once a highly touted recruit who went to Maryland, but he has not yet played since transferring to Oregon State. If healthy, he has legit size at 7’2 with solid athleticism to defend and catch lobs.

Transfers

G- Christian Wright

Sadly, Wright is projected to miss most of the season, but he brings solid point guard play and a bucket-getting mentality to Corvallis.

W- Justin Rochelin

Rochelin redshirted at Arizona State last season, but he is a big-bodied wing with shooting touch and moments as a handler.

F- Dzmitry Ryuny

A former San Francisco Don, Ryuny is a classic stretch four with above average size at 6’9.

Freshmen

G- Jordan Pope

Pope is a classic spark plug point guard who excels at hitting tough shots and creating off the bounce. Could be in for early minutes as the only true guard on the roster.

W- Nick Krass

Krass is a 3-and-D wing prospect who excels at guarding the point of attack and has the upside to hit a high volume of movement shots from deep.

W- Jayden Stevens

A Gonzaga Prep alum, Stevens is one of my favorite freshman in the conference. He is an excellent wing defender with a high-motor, solid athleticism, and shooting upside.

F- Tyler Bilodeau

Bilodeau is a solid post-scorer with some stretchability and movement skills. He will likely take some time to provide dividends, but he has a high ceiling.

F- Michael Rataj

Hailing from Germany, Rataj is a skilled forward with some athleticism deficiencies, but he has upside to run the break and handle the ball.

F- KC Ibekwe

Joining the Beavers from Canada, Ibekwe is a powerful big with upside to be an elite post-scorer in time.

Projected Starters

W- Glenn Taylor Jr

W- Dexter Akanno

W- Nick Krass

W- Justin Rochelin

F- Rodrigue Andela

Key Reserves

G- Jordan Pope

W- Jayden Stevens

F- Tyler Bilodeau

F- Michael Rataj

F- Dzimitry Ryuny

F- Chol Marial


Awards

Player of the Year: Pelle Larsson- Arizona

Coach of the Year: Jerod Haase- Stanford

Defensive Player of the Year: Mouhamed Gueye- Washington State

Freshman of the Year: Ke’lel Ware- Oregon

Newcomer of the Year: Justin Powell- Washington State

6th Man of the Year: Isa Silva- Stanford

All-Conference First Team:

G- Tyger Campbell

G- Kerr Kriisa

W- Pelle Larsson

F- Jaime Jaquez Jr

F- Mouhamed Gueye

All-Conference Second Team:

G- Boogie Ellis

W- Harrison Ingram

W- Drew Peterson

F- Kel’el Ware

F- N’Faly Dante

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