Hoops Season Is Near
Let me be the first to admit that my predictions last year were completely off the charts.
Out of the twelve teams in the PAC 12, I had five going to the Big Dance (UCLA, Arizona, Washington Huskies, California, Oregon Ducks), four playing in the NIT (Stanford, USC, Arizona St and Oregon St Beavers) and three participating in the CBI (Colorado, Washington St Cougars, Utah).
Only California and Stanford came through for me…sniff.
So what would make any reader trust my predictions this year? Well, lets be honest, the Huskies should have been on the main stage and so too could have the Wildcats. As for my thoughts on UCLA and Oregon? Well, the Bruins will make up for it this year and if all goes well for the Ducks, they might squeak in as a 14-16 seed.
After putting out a pathetic showing as a conference last year, the PAC 12, like myself, is ready to make up for it this year, with a handful of top-tier freshmen, a number of solid experienced players and some reloaded rosters.
Dates To The Dance:
1. UCLA Bruins
The Bruins will quite possibly have two of the top freshmen in the country, Shabazz Mohammad and Kyle Anderson, in their lineup to start the season. Add in three other freshmen who can contribute right away and the Bruins could put out a modern day Fab Five.
Throw in the Wear twins and senior transfer Larry Drew III and the Bruins have the makings of a final four squad.
2. Arizona Wildcats
They were a bubble team last year, but this season, with a nice mix of veterans and freshmen who can play right away, the Wildcats are primed to punch a ticket to The Dance.
Look for senior Solomon Hill to lead the charge, while the freshmen trio of Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jarrett and Gabe York provide the team with a future inside/outside combo.
3. California Golden Bears
The only team to make it from the list last year—the Golden Bears—should have enough in them to make a return trip this coming spring.
The only significant loss to the Bears’ lineup is Jorge Gutierrez (and Emerson Murray for Vancouver hoopheads), which means that Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs will be back to try and make it past the First Four of the tournament schedule.
4. Stanford Cardinal
Capturing the NIT Championship last year was a step in the right direction for the Cardinal. With only Josh Owens leaving town, Johnny Dawkins brings back Chasson Randle and Aaron Rogers to carry the team.
Look for a breakout year from one of a trio of juniors—John Gage, Dwight Powell, Josh Huestis—to help get the Cardinal over the hump.
On The Bubble:
5. Colorado Buffaloes
Andre Robinson is a beast whether he is playing on the perimeter or in the paint. Add in super sophomore Spencer Dinwiddie and the Buffaloes could make another surprise trip to the Madness.
Taking the PAC 12 Tournament title last year, the defending conference champions will look to a strong freshman class to replace the loss of Carlon Brown and Austin Dufault’s combined 23 points per game.
6. Washington Huskies
The new look Huskies offense—one that will be more half court than high octane—will play a role in determining how the Huskies fair this year. What will play an even larger role is getting this blue collar group to buckle down and play some smash mouth defense.
Wall Flowers (NIT BOUND):
*Washington / Colorado will go to the NIT if their bubble is not burst*
7. Oregon Ducks
If Jabari Brown, Garrett Sim and Devoe Joseph all remained on campus (the former transferred to Missouri, the latter two graduated) and teamed up with EJ Singler and newcomers Dominic Artis and Ben Carter, the Ducks would be part of the first list.
Unfortunately it seems as though Dana Altman’s teams are always in transition and just a year away from being able to compete.
8. USC Trojans
The Trojans were a walking M.A.S.H unit last year with three starters suffering season ending injuries at some point during 2011-12. With a healthy lineup, USC has the ability to compete with the best the PAC 12 has to offer.
If they can fire on all cylinders this year and stay away from the trainers room, the Trojans could take a big step forward from last year’s disappointing season.
Back To The Drawing Board:
9. Oregon State Beavers
If the team once again finds themselves at the bottom of the PAC 12, chances are Craig Robinson might be looking for a new gig next year.
10. Arizona State Sun Devils
The Sun Devils could have one of the most exciting point guards in the PAC 12 in freshman Jahil Carson, who after redshirting last season is ready to take the court for more than just practice.
Unfortunately there isn’t much else that the Sun Devils have to offer this season.
11. Washington State Cougars
Let’s face it, if it weren’t for Brock Motum, the Cougars would be in more trouble than they already are.
Okay, that’s not completely fair to DaVonte Lacy, who averaged 8 points per game as a freshman last season. The problem is, after that, the Cougars are pretty raw. Senior guard Reggie Moore was dismissed earlier this month and highly touted recruit Que Johnson failed to qualify academically.
Brock Motum should find himself in the NBA next season, and the Cougars will probably find themselves higher on this list, not for lack of effort from the 6’10″ do-it-all forward.
12. Utah Utes
Quick, name at least one player on the Utes…thought so.
Chances are, Coach Larry Krystkowiak is in the same boat, as the second year coach tries to figure out 11 new faces and how to jell them together.
Not much is expected from the team this season and if there is carry over on the roster next year, it would be a step in the right direction.